How to recognise the dark cloud

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The dark cloud. The black dog. Clinical depression. Major depressive disorder. Depression; or whatever you like to call it affects 1 in 4 Australians in any one calendar year. Chances are you know someone who has been affected, either through your workplace or friends and family. You may have visited websites like Beyond Blue, SANE, headspace or seen the posters on the back doors of public toilets. But do you know what to look for in the early days when the cloud might be descending?

Typically, society thinks of depression as not being able to get out of bed, crying all the time and feeling hopeless. For some, this is the reality of their depression. However, it’s important to note that there is not a one-size-fits-all symptom list for depression. The DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness Edition V) has certain criteria that needs to be met and symptoms that need to be present, for a diagnosis of depression to be made. But symptoms will look different in each person, we are all individuals – our depression is also individual to us.

Even though how the symptoms present may be different, there are some common themes. Losing enjoyment in the things you used to find enjoyment in – may be one of the first things yourself or others around you notice. Hobbies, exercise, cooking, being social, music – whatever it is for you, if your passions start to fall away it might be time take note.

If you have a persistent depressed mood for most of the day, this can also be an early sign that things aren’t going well. No one feels 10/10 all day, every day; fluctuations in mood are completely normal. It can become a problem when your mood is consistently low, and you aren’t able to feel as happy as you used to.

Things like changes to appetite and sleeping patterns are also indicators you might need to see a health professional.  For some people eating too much or sleeping too much, are early symptoms of depression, whilst it’s the opposite for others. Because we don’t know exactly what causes depression, we don’t know why the symptoms manifest differently in everyone.

Websites like Beyond Blue have online questionnaires you can complete to see if you are experiencing symptoms however if you ever have any doubts or questions – you can always visit your GP. If your symptoms last for more than two weeks and are impacting on your relationships, work or daily functioning – the recommendation is to see a health professional. I have only mentioned a few of the symptoms of depression (there are many more) but you know yourself best. If you think the dark cloud is descending – seek help – seek support. The earlier you address any issue, the better.

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