Karen Hoving, Ph.D.
Karen Hoving, Ph.D.
When people call me, often they download what is going on in their lives which is followed by, “I just don’t know if this is normal- to feel blue, or am I depressed?” The DSM-V has an extensive list of the clinical symptoms of Depression, depending on the type of depression. But here are 6 quick symptoms that if you are struggling with them you may want to give a therapist or your Internist or GP a call.
1.CHANGES IN SLEEP
Almost everyone that comes in with depression will report that they either want to sleep 24/7 or they have suddenly found that they are unable to sleep at night. Often they wake up often, when they didn’t used to. Depression almost always messes up your sleep schedule. Some people feel that they want to curl up on the couch with a blanket and pillow and watch movies while napping all day. Others report that they can’t fall asleep at night, even if they aren’t sleeping all day. Sometimes they can fall asleep only to wake up a few hours later and can’t get back to sleep so it’s 3 am and they are cruising the internet (just curious, what time is it now, while you are reading this?) or finding the latest dumps on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
2. EVEN MY HAIR HURTS!
Another symptom that has only recently been acknowledged by drug companies and many psychotherapists is pain. Many individuals suddenly develop physical pain in their muscles, back, headaches and other areas of their bodies. This is why you may have seen the commercials for CYMBALTA on the television. Cymbalta is on of the key antidepressants that helps with not only depression but the physical pain that goes along with depression.
It has been discovered clinically that depression exacerbates pain- so if you are struggling already with a chronic illness like Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, MS and any other pain causing chronic illnesses that you start to feel very depressed. Years ago we thought that the patients were just depressed because they had a chronic illness, but we’ve now determined that sometimes the physical pain can increase one’s depression. Which makes sense to me, a sufferer of many autoimmune diseases. I was told to go on antidepressants because I was sad about my life changes from illness. I was convinced something else was awry. It seemed as though the sicker I got, the more intense my pain got and the more intense my depression became.
So, the bottom line is both pain exacerbates depression AND depression exacerbates pain. So, if you don’t have a chronic illness and suddenly can’t get off the couch because you are in agony, it isn’t “all in your head.” See your doctor to rule out a medical condition then if all is well, find a Psychotherapist to sort out what is going on to make you feel sad, which may be increasing your pain.
3. I AM NOT PMS-ing!!!
Angry much? Has your partner started asking you every other day if it was “your time of the month?” Often depression can cause sudden anger and irritability outbursts. Have you started losing your temper faster than normal? Have you been accused of throwing potted plants about and have no memory of your apartment being a plant hospice? If your spouse is having sudden fits of anger or experiencing more temper tantrums than your 2 year old, it may be time to take courage in hand and drag them to the doctor. Often it’s good to go with them because many patient’s tend to minimize what’s going on emotionally. Often this is because there is still stigma about “mental illness.” The problem with minimizing how your feel to your doctor is s/he will minimize how s/he treats you. I’ve seen many a patient finally end up in my office so depressed they can barely function despite being on antidepressants for 6 months. A lot of the problem was that when they first saw their Dr Feel-Good GP they minimized their feelings saying “oh, I’m just a bit blue.” “A bit blue” means your doctor will probably not give you the name of a good therapist and will write you a script for an old and very mild antidepressant. Now many people are afraid of antidepressants because they think they will be on it for life. NOT SO! Their are newer stronger and faster acting drugs out, but they aren’t for people that are “just a tad blue.” So, if life sucks TELL SOMEONE THE TRUTH!
And research has shown, going to an MD for a pill isn’t as effective as seeing a therapist in addition to taking medication. A therapist can not only help you feel your feelings, but work with you with many different exercises to help you get your spring back in your step, and sort out why you are feeling depressed. Then, you feel better, you can titrate off the meds and off the therapist.
Nothing is forever if you take the first step!
Ok, this one seems really obvious. If you are crying or feeling really sad from a break up, losing a job, or even having your kids leave the nest, don’t assume that it is temporary if you have felt tearful and sad for six months! Especially if you are having suicidal ideation (ie: meaning thinking of ways to kill yourself, coming up with a plan, hoarding pills, sharp objects or bullets!).
5. NOT TONIGHT I STILL HAVE A HEADACHE
Have you noticed you or your partner is no longer interested in sex? Nothing dramatic has changed, except someone’s desire. This is a BIG sign that depression has walked into the bedroom. Well, usually it has smashed down the door and moved into the big king sized bed. But it’s so interesting how we go into denial about it. “Oh, he’s just feeling so much stress at work” “I just am so tired taking care of the kids and work I have no desire any more, but I hear that is natural.” I can guarantee when you were younger and happier you could work a 12 hour day, go to dinner, have cocktails and spend 2 hours keeping the neighbors awake. Yes, life does make you tired and when you hit the bed you aren’t interested in anything but sleep. But remember the average is 3 times a week. And many of those people have kiddoes, jobs, and are running carpool, and trying to find time to put in a quickie.
So, if you or your partner are suddenly reporting more “headaches” at night than ever before, again, check it out with your doctor to make sure there isn’t something physically wrong with your plumbing, then be honest about what is going on with your relationship, your job, the kids, your life! And find someone to talk to about it. Often it’s easier for some people to speak with a same gender therapist- but that is a personal decision. Some men don’t want to tell other men that they are having problems in “that area” because they feel that they aren’t manly enough, so fine a female therapist. She isn’t going to think badly of you- s/he will help you sort out what is going on.
Sexual issues can also signal PTSD recall. Often women or men that were molested as children start having flashbacks when certain sexual events occur and it throws them back into the past. So instead of talking about it they avoid sex completely, which can threaten your relationships. Find someone that specializes in PTSD and DEPRESSION and start working on these issues. Remember, the hard part was going through it, you have already survived that. Now the healing begins- which often isn’t a picnic, but in the end you will feel so much better than you do now!
6. I’VE ALWAYS EATEN ALL THIS CHOCOLATE! LEAVE ME ALONE!
Any eating changes? Craving carbohydrates? Sugar? Carbs and chocolate can cause your insulin to spike which is kind of like giving those brain cells a big dose of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter solution). It’s better on your waste line to take an antidepressant or talk your pain though, instead of stuffing it down with food. The last thing you need is to feel fat and depressed! And that will definitely not help you in the bedroom!
Now some people find that their appetite decreases dramatically instead of increases. So I always suggest if their are ANY changes in appetite, this is a signal that something is amiss. So, weight gain or loss- both are a sign that the black dog has moved in and you missed the symptoms- or perhaps you saw them but ignored them.
Remember as they say, Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. The sooner you make a call and find someone to help the sooner you will be sleeping better, eating healthier, stop screaming, crying, and have more interest in the person you are sleeping with!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr Karen Hoving has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. She specializes in Depression, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with predominately women. She works south of Denver in Aurora, CO and has been in practice since 1990. In the 1980’s she had a full time Hypnotherapy Practice in Ohio. Contact her at 720.878.8891 or at firstname.lastname@example.org