Signs of Depression?

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Reader’s Question

I’m 24 years old, and I would like to be one of those people who are excited about their life or life in general. I personally find it very hard to look forward to anything. I can’t find any meaning in life. I don’t get it…I’m not suicidal or anywhere near that, it’s just how I perceive life I suppose. I’d really like to change, but I don’t know how.

I get out of bed, go to work, and try to be happy and laugh, but it really bothers me that I don’t have a zest for life. I don’t have a passion for anything. I can’t find a meaning in this life here; everything seems so unnecessary, fake, unimportant. I’m truly lost.

Is it normal to feel this way? I know I have a lot of self-esteem issues; could that be part of the problem?

Psychologist’s Reply

Many people have a difficult time knowing when they are “clinically depressed.” People often have very different definitions for what they consider depression. According to the DSM-IV clinical depression consists of a constellations of symptoms including:

  • sad mood,
  • difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping,
  • a lack of interest in things that used to be enjoyable,
  • feelings of guilt (when the person doesn’t necessarily need to feel guilty),
  • decreased energy levels,
  • problems with concentration or focus,
  • a change in appetite (either decreased interest in food or excessive eating),
  • slowed body movements
  • and thoughts of suicide or death.

There is another form of depression that is listed in the DSM-IV called Dysthymia. This refers to a low grade, long lasting (a year or two) sadness that is present almost everyday. Individuals with both Major Depression and Dysthymia tend to have low self-esteem.

There are other symptoms that people with depression tend to demonstrate in addition to these. People who are depressed tend to have a negative view of themselves, the world in general and their future. Their negative thinking tends to cloud their entire world, so that life can feel futile and meaningless. You describe feelings of anhedonia. This is a term that is used to describe a lack of pleasure in life. It means that a person does not take pleasure in the things they used to enjoy and feels a general sense of joylessness.

The best way to determine a course of action if you are feeling down and lost is to meet with a therapist to figure out what your diagnosis is and how best to treat it. Depression is treatable for many people, and different medications and therapies have been found to be quite effective. You may find that it is possible to make changes and to live a more fulfilling life with the help of a qualified professional.

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