Living with depression can give us a whole range of symptoms. Some are quite well known, such as low mood, sleep difficulties, and limited energy. Other symptoms are less well-known, or less talked about.
Our depression may bring symptoms that we find embarrassing. Because of the silence around them, we might feel as though we’re the only people in the world to experience them. However the truth is many of us share the same symptoms – we just don’t talk about them.
Drawing on the lived experience of our community, we’ve identified 13 less-talked about symptoms of depression.
1. CRYING OVER NOTHING
We can cry over things that appear like nothing. It can be something as small as not being able to match up all the socks in our load of washing. We can feel permanently tearful. Absolutely anything can set us off.
2. FEELING ‘NOT THERE’
Sometimes we find ourselves losing time. We realise we have been staring into space for minutes or hours on end. Sometimes we feel detached from our environment. At times it can feel like there is a space, or an invisible wall between us and other people.
We forget where we left our keys, what time an appointment was, that we were supposed to pick the dog up from the vet. We have to write everything down. If it’s not written down, we will forget it (and sometimes we forget it even if it is written down).
We feel guilty for letting our family and friends down, for using up professionals time, for just not being enough. Guilt gets us about pretty much everything and it can completely swallow us up.
We spend so much time trying to cope, that if anything goes a little bit wrong, or alters our plans, it can make us snap. We feel irritable and little things that happen, that wouldn’t normally wind us up, can tip us over the edge.
6. INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS
We can be trying to go about our day when intrusive thoughts make an unwelcome appearance. Sometimes we can be cooking tea, and thoughts will appear with different ways we should hurt ourselves. We can walk down the street and intrusive thoughts will pop up, telling us to harm ourselves. They can seem to enter our brains with little or no warning and they can be completely overwhelming.
7. LIMBS MADE OF LEAD
It can feel as though our limbs are made of lead. We make a cup of tea, but lifting it to our lips feels impossible – our arms are too heavy. We want to walk to the shop over the road, but too heavy to move. Doing anything at all feels like wading against a strong current with rocks weighing us down.
8. LOSING OUR LIBIDO
Depression can cause us to lose our libido. Sometimes the medication we take for our depression can also cause loss of libido, or can make it worse.
9. PERSONAL HYGIENE
We often struggle with personal hygiene. We don’t care about ourselves enough to keep up with it. Because we’re low on energy, we don’t do it unless we prioritise it. We stop cleaning our teeth as often as we should, if at all. We stop washing our hair – we stop washing full stop. Hairbrushes go out of the window, as do visits to the hairdressers. Our PJs stay on for days on end. We don’t shave. We become embarrassed by the way we smell, the knots on our hair and the dirtiness of our hands. However uncomfortable and embarrassed we feel about it, we still struggle to motivate ourselves to fix it.
10. PROBLEMS WITH FOOD AND DRINK
Depression can destroy our appetite which can cause us to lose weight. It can also cause us to comfort eat, or to try and eat away the empty feelings which can cause us to gain a lot of weight. We sometimes rely on takeaways and ready meals because we don’t have the energy, motivation, or brain space to cook. That can lead to an unbalanced diet. Many of us struggle to drink enough which can result in headaches, tiredness, and feeling sick. We can also experience digestive problems such as acid reflux.
11. STRUGGLING TO LOOK AFTER THE HOUSE
General household tasks can feel like insurmountable obstacles. We end up leaving our sheets for months on end. Brushing the crumbs from the table to the floor instead of getting a cloth out. Resorting to crockery we haven’t seen in ten years instead of washing up (or giving up on crockery entirely and eating out of the packet). We don’t invite people over because we’re embarrassed by the mess we live in. Our houses stop feeling like homes but we don’t have the energy to fix it.
12. TOILETING TROUBLES
Depression can cause our bowels to do different things. It can lead to wind problems which can be incredibly uncomfortable. It can cause our bowels to work too well or not well enough. Sometimes it can affect how well we are able to wee. Depression doesn’t just affect our mind, it affects our bodies, too.
13. USING NEGATIVE COPING MECHANISMS
Sometimes we self-harm4. Some of us use alcohol to cope with our feelings. Others will use cigarettes or non-prescription drugs. Some people might use different behaviours around food. Others may develop problems around shopping, or gambling, or sex. Resorting to these behaviours can feel shameful. It can make us feel hopeless, but we are not alone.
If any symptoms of our depression are interfering with our lives, we may want to talk about them with our GP or a medical professional. If we are in crisis then we need to contact a crisis support service.
We don’t need to be ashamed. Though we might feel embarrassed by our symptoms, we’re by no means the only one who live with them. And we don’t have to cope with depression alone.