Okay, let’s just try to clarify a few points in an otherwise murky world known as “Depression”. Many people have some vague idea of what depression is, what it consists of, what the symptoms are, etc, etc, etc. I’m not going to sit here and say they’re all wrong; that would be rather blinkered of me to do so, since for someone who suffers from depression, their symptoms and experiences may be vastly different to my own. However, I’ll try to give a list of “symptoms and side effects” from my own experience
“Symptoms and side effects?” Let me explain, or try to put it into perspective. One common symptom of depression is the overwhelming lethargy that hits you. I class this as a “symptom” because the only direct cause (where depression is concerned) is the depression itself (although I admit there may be other contributing factors involved, but more on that later, and I still believe the depression itself is the main cause). On the other hand, the feeling of “not wanting to get up in the morning - any morning” is a side effect, since it is generally caused by one or more symptoms of depression, for example the lethargic feeling above.
To put it a slightly different way, a general effect is a symptom, a specific effect will usually be a side effect due to it being directly linked to or caused by a general effect.
Of course, there are exceptions to this, for example a loss (complete or partial) of libido or sex drive. On the one hand, from personal experience, total loss of libido was accompanied by a total lack of interest in sex with no specific cause (or target - it wasn’t just that I wasn’t interested in sex with my partner, but that no other external source could spark that interest either). In other words, it was (and still is, during my ”low” phases) more of a general effect and thus a symptom rather than a side effect. Then again, depression can cause (or be caused by) self loathing (making it both a cause and symptom of depression - confusing eh?), which in turn can lead to a loss of sex drive since that person equates his/her self image with not being wanted or attractive to the other sex, and after a while loses what libido they had through lack of opportunity (in a wild twist of fate (not), if you don’t feel attractive, you usually spiral down the bad personal hygiene/unwashed clothes/not going out route, and as a consequence never meet anyone that might want to “spend the night”). Making it a side effect and not a symptom in this case.
The list that follows is not intended to be a “Tick five boxes and you need to see a doctor” list - everyone will be able to equate a large proportion of the symptoms and effects with certain periods of time in their lives. And if you do mentally check off over half as occurring simultaneously (which would be the closest to said “Tick five boxes...” list), the chances are you already know that you suffer and are in the process of doing something about it. Minor caveat - if you are reading this with someone else in mind, and they aren’t doing something about their depression already, feel free to point them at this page - it might be the kick they need to do something about it. But DON’T treat this as a self diagnosis tool, because it isn’t.
And now for the list. Like I said, it’ll include both symptoms and side effects. If I can, I’ll try to class each one as I come to it (and perhaps in the future I’ll redo the list in order...). The list will NOT be 100% comprehensive - there will be both symptoms and side effects I miss, since I’m drawing on my own experience here. I also accept that many of the items on the list can (and are) often symptoms of other conditions. If you feel I need to add something to the list, please use the contact button on the menu on the left to let me know!
- Overwhelming lethargy - (Symptom)
- No energy, sense of “not wanting to get out of bed”, no desire to partake in day to day activities (Side effects of lethargy)
- Suicidal thoughts/impulses - (Usually symptom, can be side effect, various possible causes)
- Decrease in personal hygiene standards - (Generally accepted as a symptom)
- Inability to notice surroundings (withdrawing into oneself) and/or lack of interest in surroundings - (Generally symptom, potentially linked to inability to concentrate as side effect)
- Inability to concentrate - (Symptom, often linked with inability to notice surroundings)
- Disrupted sleep patterns (examples: insomnia, find it hard to either get to sleep or wake up or even both) - (Common symptom, occasional side effect)
- Loss of libido or sex drive - (Usually a symptom, can be a side effect (as per example above, or linked to lethargic feelings))
- Reduced social and/or familial activity (infrequently or no longer going out with family or friends) - (Usually side effect rather than symptom, can be caused by any of the above symptoms)
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable hobbies - (Symptom, often linked to inability to concentrate)
- Self loathing - (Usually classed as a symptom, has potential to be revealed/exacerbated by other symptoms, can sometimes be used as a hook to help therapists guide you through recovery, unlike most symptoms above)
- Memory Loss - (Symptom, will definitely be expanded on later - irony here, I almost forgot to include it...)
Personally I have experienced all the above to one degree or another, although in my case the “self loathing” symptom didn’t lead anywhere through therapy (more on that later). I’m fairly confident in saying that there are others I have had, but right now I cannot remember them; I’ll add them as and when they come to me (should there be any “request” adds , I’ll flag them as being donated/requested by other people - let me know if you want credit ;-) and if I haven’t personally experienced them myself I’ll flag them somehow... perhaps in red... hmm... something more to consider)
Okay, this section was a little hard going. Hope it made sense - please do let me know if it didn’t. I will point out at this juncture that the classifications above are my own, and not something I grabbed from a book (which is why I shall distinguish between those I add myself and any requests). Thanks for staying with me so far, and I’ll try to make the next part of my mind a more “easy listening” option.