Can You be Depressed and Not Know It?

Can You be Depressed and Not Know It?

Author: GIA Miami
Published: June 16, 2022

It is entirely possible to be depressed and not realize it. Depression symptoms can 'creep up' slowly and develop gradually over time so even if you know the symptoms of depression, and recognize them in others, you take a while to realize your own depression symptoms.

It is also possible that social or internalized stigma causes you to subconsciously ignore the warning signs of depression. There is no shame in struggling with your mental health and needing help to overcome depressive symptoms. Some may feel ashamed or confused, especially if there is no clear reason that you are experiencing depression such as grief or loss. It is a common misconception that depression symptoms only arise as a result of a sad or distressing event or situation. There may be no obvious reason for you to feel depressed, but this does not make your symptoms any less valid.

Being aware of the signs of depression and knowing when to seek treatment can help you avoid these symptoms of depression negatively impacting your life long-term if left untreated.

What Causes Depression?

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. It's often said that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, but it is more complex than that. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of biological, genetic, environmental, and psychological factors and not simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals.

There is a range of many possible causes of depression, and it is thought that several of these causes or forces interact to bring on depression. It is one of the most common mental health conditions in the US, with approximately one in five (18.5%) adults having experienced any symptoms of depression in the past two weeks.

Signs of Depression

It is not as well known that there are physical symptoms of depression in addition to psychological symptoms. If you have experienced several of these symptoms for over two weeks, you should speak to a mental health professional.

  • Anger and irritability
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Consistent low mood
  • Changes in appetite or weight (lack of appetite/weight loss or increased appetite/weight gain)
  • Not having as much energy or experiencing fatigue
  • Feelings of sadness, hollowness, or emptiness
  • Low self-esteem, feeling worthless, hopeless, or excessively guilty
  • Lost interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Dwelling on past mistakes
  • New body or muscle aches and pains with no clear physical injury
  • Problems with thinking, memory, concentration, and decision making
  • Disruption or change in sleep patterns (sleep problems like insomnia or excessive sleeping)
  • Slowed thought, speech, or physical movements
  • Thoughts of death and suicide

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you should speak to a doctor as soon as possible, or call the national suicide prevention lifeline. If you are worried that a person you know may be attempting suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number.

Reasons You May Not Realize You Are Depressed

It is not uncommon for people with depression to not realize that they are depressed. Even mental health professionals can miss the signs.

Mental Health Issues Develop Slowly

Mental health conditions, including depression, can progress slowly without a person realizing it. Not recognizing that you are depressed does not necessarily mean you have poor self-awareness. Many people experience mood changes as the seasons change or as they experience hormonal changes.

Not Everyone Experiences the Same Symptoms

As with many mood disorders, what may seem like a clear sign of depression in one person is not present in another.

For example, some people with depression may have less energy and report having a negative view of the world. Another person may have neither of these common symptoms and instead be constantly busy, experiencing stress, and overall health problems such as decreased immune system function and mood swings.

While there may be telltale symptoms of depression, it can look completely different for two people.

Co-occurring Mental Illness

People who are depressed may not initially recognize it because they assume their symptoms are a result of another mental health condition they have already been diagnosed with, such as anxiety. There is an overlap in symptoms of many common mental conditions, such as low energy, low self-esteem, and sleep problems. You may be depressed and not know because you assume symptoms are a result of another condition.

This is also common in physical symptoms. Many people with depression don't realize that physical pain such as muscle aches and headaches or chronic pain such as chest or back pain is related to depression. They will spend a long time searching for the cause of such issues before identifying underlying depression.

Life Events

Symptoms may develop at the same time as lifestyle changes or big life-changing events like a job loss or the death of a loved one. While it is normal to feel sad, stressed, and angry at these times, feeling sad for an extended amount of time to the point that it causes low self-esteem and a negative view of the world is a warning sign that you may have depression.

Seasonal shifts and dramatic or traumatic life events can affect brain chemicals, and cause an insidious onset where depression symptoms appear gradually.

People quite often assume that a sign of depression is due to other factors in their life and don't consider that it could be depression. For example, decreased appetite and weight loss are often attributed to stress.

It is important to be aware of the less common symptoms of this treatable illness, though depression when left untreated can lead to major depressive disorder.

How to Treat Depression

There are a number of evidence-based treatments that a depressed person may wish to try. Strong research evidence suggests that talk therapies show success in treating depression including major depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular has a major effect on depression symptoms. There are also antidepressant medications available, which many take in combination with therapy.

There are a number of different treatment options available for depression. Your specific treatment plan will depend on your diagnosis and the severity of your symptoms.

Medications

Once a person is given a diagnosis of depression and other conditions have been ruled out, a doctor may prescribe antidepressant medication. There are several different types of antidepressant medications that have shown effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of depression, including:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Atypical antidepressants
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medication, although serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and atypical antidepressants are also quite common. If you are not sure why you are being prescribed a certain form of medication, always ask your doctor for more information.

Counseling or Psychotherapy

Your doctor may put you on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or other qualified mental health professional specializing in mental health conditions such as depression.

Individual therapy

Individual therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can provide a safe and supportive environment for you to identify what may be causing or contributing to your depression. It is an effective way of identifying unhelpful and harmful thoughts and behaviors. In CBT, you will work with a mental health professional and learn to manage and deal with problems. They will show you how to change negative behavior patterns by changing the way you think and respond.

Group therapy

This can help you see that you are not alone and others are experiencing a similar thing. This can help people feel less alone and view it as normal to feel isolated or different when you're depressed.

The best method for treatment for depression generally depends on the cause of the condition. Complex, stressful life events or trauma generally require therapy, whereas depression caused by hormonal or chemical changes may be better treated with medication.

Contact Us

At GIA Miami, we understand how difficult it can be to live with depression. We offer the most advanced and up-to-date, evidence-based treatment approaches tailored to suit your needs. Whether depression has crept up on you slowly or suddenly appeared, we are here to help you through it. Our treatment facilities provide a safe place to fully recover and start living your best life.

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