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Mental Health Awareness: 5 Subtle Signs of Depression

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woman looking pensive - Mental Health Awareness

For those who do not know, May is mental health awareness month. As the last day of mental health awareness month, Encore Outpatient Services would like to kindly suggest that even beyond the month of May, we should all be cognizant of how mental health issues can affect us, the communities we are a part of, and the country as well.

While some may believe this monthly observance to be relatively new, mental health awareness month was actually recognized in 1949 and founded by National Association for Mental Health—Mental Health America now. The many efforts of healthcare professionals and non-profits alike have done much to change public opinion about mental health as well as create many programs to help people suffering.

It can be argued that awareness of mental health issues have reached a peak in 2022. Now, more than ever, people are struggling with mental illness. Rates of depression and anxiety have been increasing greatly in the past 20 years, especially for adolescents and teens. From 2005 to 2015, depression rose 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent with the greatest rise occurring with those ages 12 to 17, increasing from 8.7 percent to 12.7 percent in those same years.

According to the ADAA (Anxiety & Depression Association of America), major depressive disorder is one of the leading causes of disability in Americans for ages 15 to 44. MDD impacts more than 16.1 million American adults a year.

Seeking out treatment is crucial. In addition to that, it is equally as important for there to be continued discourse on mental health to normalize the treatment of it. However, before someone can be treated, they must first be aware that there’s a problem. One of the desired outcomes of Mental Health Awareness month is to get people used to identifying conditions such as depression within themselves or their friends and family. Look to these 5 subtle signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing a depressive episode or form of depression.

1 – Your Appetite Has Increased or Decreased

One may believe that appetite changes are normal, but they are in fact a potential indicator for many different conditions. The body typically loves to maintain a certain range of weight and other elements of physiological stability through a process called homeostasis. Studies suggest that depression impacts neurocircuitry in a manner that can express itself through major shifts in appetite both decreasing or increasing. In other words, depressive moods can inhibit a person’s appetite while another may subconsciously begin to use food as a coping mechanism

2 – Good Sleep Evades You

Society has finally begun to shed harmful beliefs about sleep. Long gone are the days where sleeping 8 hours was akin to slacking. Now, we recognize sleep for being a critical process and junction for a myriad of functions in the body—including our physical and mental health.

For the relationship between sleep and mental health, The CDC found that “inadequate sleep was associated with significantly increased odds of frequent mental distress”. Individuals who are experiencing depression may have difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep, which further contributes to their depressive mental state.

3 – Crying Unexpectedly or for No Reason

In 1897, now famed Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud developed his theory of the unconscious mind. While many of Freud’s theories have since been debunked, the theory and concept of a conscious and subconscious mind has persisted. There are times in every person’s life where their conscious emotional experience does not match what they truly are feeling internally. The popularity of CBT—cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness meditation, and other modalities have grown in part due to their ability to help people achieve greater awareness of themselves.

When a person is depressed, they may feel okay on the surface or in the moment, but later find themselves crying in reaction to a minor event or even in response to nothing at all. If you find yourself crying unexpectedly or out of the blue, it can be a sign that there are things you are experiencing internally that you are suppressing or distracting yourself from.

Interestingly, much like with appetite, emotional activation varies greatly among people and there are individuals who when depressed do not cry often or at all.

4 – Feelings of Hopelessness or Pessimism

Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism are another way of saying that a person is lacking optimism. Not everyone is cheerful and optimistic, but when feelings of hopelessness are persistent and have become embedded in every day thinking, it can be a sign of depression. In particular, an overwhelming sense of hopelessness is strongly correlated with suicidality, and should be a growing indicator that help should be sought out.

5 – Increased Frequency of Alcohol Use

While any increase in substance use can be alarming, alcohol in particular, occupies a grey zone in the general public’s mind. Due to the legality and widespread availability and consumption of alcohol, increased consumption can sneak up on people. Social drinking; happy hours, parties, holidays, all present opportunities for casual drinking that can quickly approach dependency levels.

A systematic review by Lynn et al. found that alcohol problems were more common in those with depression than in the general population and that such issues were associated with adverse clinical and healthcare outcomes.

Much of the literature for this topic focuses on those in inpatient settings that have either an alcohol use disorder, depression, or both—what’s known as a dual diagnosis. However, it is important to know that alcoholism and alcohol use disorders can be gradually developed. What starts out as a mild increase in drinking can turn into dependency without the person having awareness of it.

Encore Outpatient Services provides addiction treatment in Arlington, VA. Our team of dedicated program and clinical specialists have extensive experience dealing with anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and other common comorbid conditions with substance use disorders.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and admissions.

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