Television shows and movies often portray depression and anxiety in ways that may not exactly match up to real life. It makes sense, it’s “better TV” to see the extreme symptoms of these conditions. You get more of an impact, more emotion – more viewers and better ratings.
But real life doesn’t live on the extremes. More viewers and better ratings mean nothing. We are all just trying to live our best life, be happy, and leave the world a little better than we found it.
And things are a lot more subtle, especially depression and anxiety symptoms.
They can be so subtle that you might miss them if you don’t know what to look for.
It’s the little things.
It’s easy to explain away many of the early signs of depression and anxiety.
“I’m just tired.”
“I’ve had a long day.”
“I am under a lot of stress and feeling a little emotional.”
“I always get a little blue around the holidays.”
And “I’m fine” becomes your mantra. It is your go-to response when family and friends express concern or ask how you are.
But under the layers of stuff we put on ourselves to be able to interact in the world, tucked way in a corner of our psyche is a nagging feeling that you’re not fine. Something is off.
Still, it’s easier to push it back, ignore it, and keep pretending than it is to turn the light on.
The little things tend to become big things when we try to ignore them.
Changes in the things you do.
Have you ever stopped, looked around, and realized that you were no longer doing something that you used to do? Maybe there is something you do now, and you never did before. Changes in your behaviors and habits can be very telling.
Changes in habits – These can be little things like sleeping in more often or drinking more than usual. Pay attention to the things you do every day and look for telling variances.
Appetite – Depression and anxiety can cause your appetite to increase or decrease so any significant, prolonged changes there should be examined.
Sleep – Everyone has trouble with sleep at some point but if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep all the time then it’s time to have a conversation with your doctor.
Isolation – There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be alone sometimes, and some people are introverts. Socializing is exhausting to them. But if you once enjoyed going out with friends or visiting family and now it just seems like too much trouble, it could be a sign of depression.
Changes in the way you think.
Our thoughts, that internal dialogue we run with ourselves, affect our attitudes and behaviors. When those thoughts turn to something darker and stop being productive, when they stop supporting a healthy mindset for a happy life, it’s time to take action.
Difficulty focusing – If you have trouble tracking conversations or reading a book and retaining the information – especially if you have not had that trouble in the past – it could be a sign of anxiety and depression.
Difficulty making decisions – This could be a byproduct of an inability to focus or you could worry that no matter what decision you make it will be wrong. Either way, it could be a sign.
Mood swings – This is a classic symptom of depression and anxiety. Irritability, impatience, emotional highs and lows, or being overly self-critical are not healthy. See a doctor.
Worry – This could be worrying about something that happened in the past or worrying that something is going to happen. When you can’t seem to turn off that switch, especially if it is impacting your life in other areas like sleep and interacting with family and friends, then you need to seek medical help.
Obsessive thoughts – Similar to worry, but more intense. Are there thoughts that you just can’t get out of your head? Are there things that you can’t let go of? If you have certain thoughts that are with you all the time, that you are ruminating on, depression and anxiety could be the reason.
Thinking things would be better if you weren’t here –This is a lie, HEAR THIS! YOU are intentional. YOU are beautiful. YOU are special. YOU belong. The world is a much more beautiful, wonderful place with you in it. If you are having those thoughts, please talk to someone. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Changes in the way you feel.
Subtle changes in the way you feel can slip by you and you may barely notice. Pay attention to any subtle changes and examine them to see if something more is going on.
Apathy – Losing interest in things or activities that you once enjoyed is a hallmark sign of depression.
Fatigue – Being tired at the end of a long day is normal. Feeling sleepy if you had a disruptive night, also normal. But feeling tired all the time is not normal and is often a sign that something isn’t right, including depression and anxiety.
Hopelessness – Bad things happen to people but feeling that everything is always bad, and it will never be better is not only untrue, but it is also unhealthy. It is also a common symptom of depression and anxiety.
Helplessness – Feeling that there is nothing you or anyone else can do to change your circumstances or make your life better is another common sign. So is feeling like you are powerless.
Fear – Most people experience fear in appropriate circumstances, but when fear takes over your life and begins to dictate everything you do then it is a problem. Carefully examine why you do or don’t do certain things and why you do what you do.
Changes in your body.
Many people don’t realize that there are physiological reactions to depression and anxiety.
Tremors – Shaking of the hands or legs as well as an all-over jittery feeling without the use of caffeine or any other stimulant can be a sign of anxiety and even depression.
Heart palpitations – This is a classic reaction to anxiety. You feel like your heart is going to beat out of your chest or like it is “skipping a beat.” However, don’t just chalk it up to anxiety. If you are having any unusual heart symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Pain in the chest – Again, this is a common response to anxiety and depression, but it can also be a sign of a more serious health problem. Seek medical attention.
Aching in muscles and joints – There are a lot of reasons that your muscles can ache due to anxiety and depression, such as depression fatigue, hormonal changes (increase in cortisol), and unconsciously tensing muscles when you are anxious.
Headaches – Headaches and migraines are common symptoms of anxiety and depression but if you are having them frequently, three or four times a week, you need to see a doctor to make sure there isn’t something else going on.
Panic attacks – Panic attacks can make you feel like you are dying. You may feel terrified, short of breath, rapid heartbeat, overheated, and like you are coming apart. Stop, breathe deeply, and focus your thoughts on your breath going in and out.
Nausea, diarrhea, or constipation – Gastrointestinal issues are common symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Very dry skin on the hands and feet and cold extremities – When you are anxious or your brain perceives your body to be in crisis, it goes into a response mode often referred to as “fight or flight.” Several physiological changes take place as your brain begins to take measures to preserve life. One is increasing the blood supply to the vital organs. This means that the circulation in your hands and feet lessens as the blood is routed to the organs. This is why people who deal with chronic stress, anxiety, and depression usually have cold hands and feet as well as dry skin on the hands and feet.
At Sandstone Health we help patients manage many of the symptoms of anxiety and depression with our neurofeedback treatment. Make your appointment today.
*Sandstone Center for Neurofeedback does not diagnose medical conditions. Sandstone Center for Neurofeedback is a nonmedical, medication-free program for children and adults who struggle.