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Depression: What Does It Look Like?

Let’s start with what depression is. The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression as “a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.” Depression affects all people, regardless of who they are or what they do.

Depression symptoms may look like:

  • Feeling unmotivated

  • Negative thinking

  • Trouble eating or sleeping (too much or too little)

  • Decline in self-care

  • Neglect of daily routines

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Feelings of helplessness

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is more common than many think. Some people are just able to hide it better than others. In 2020, it was recorded that an estimated 14.8 million U.S adults aged 18 years or older had at least one depressive episode with severe impairment. Not all depression looks like what you may think. It is possible to be depressed and still be “functioning”. Someone with functional depression may experience some of the symptoms above, but is still able to complete daily obligations. They may not “look like” they are depressed in the way you might think, but it is as real as any depression.

Other than clinical treatments, here are some healthy lifestyle habits that can help you cope with depression:

  • Eat healthy foods and drinks: What you put into your body affects your mood. Not only should you focus on putting enough into your body, but you should also focus on putting a variety of nutrients in your body. Cutting out unhealthy foods and drinks will show a large impact on your mental state. 

  • Set goals you CAN achieve: Instead of saying you’re going to clean the whole house or apartment tomorrow, say you will clean one room a day. Instead of saying you’re going to run a marathon, start with taking daily walks. Creating these smaller goals ensures that you will more easily be able to meet them, instead of coming down on yourself because you can’t achieve that marathon right away. Celebrate those small wins! These celebrations motivate you to continue this healthy habit. 

  • Connect with others: Having meaningful connections with others benefits your mind and body, which depression significantly impacts. These connections could be bonding with a pet, having passing conversations with neighbors, meeting up with family, and having a scheduled lunch with friends.

  • Create a routine: When you create a daily routine, it helps you know what’s next and what will be coming in the future. Having these repeated routines can help you curb those depression thoughts a little.

  • Move your body: Start small. Walking around your house as you get things done, stand as you work, take a walk around the block. The first thought is that you have to go to the gym, but that’s not the case. Start with moving your body in a way of your choosing for a few minutes a day, and work your way up. There is no right choice. If you don’t like to run, don’t run. Find a movement activity that you enjoy, so that you are more motivated to continue that habit. 

National Institute of Mental Health

American Psychiatric Association