While depression can sometimes surprise us, like a sudden fog rolling in seemingly out of nowhere, for those who are familiar with their personal early warning signs, it’s possible to see the first signs of mist creeping it. And it’s important to know these signs. If you see it coming, it’s easier to stop it, before the fog gets too thick and blocks your eyes.
Although everyone’s personal “red flags” are different, we wanted to how other people recognized their depression was coming back. So we asked The Mighty mental health community to share one “red flag” that let them know they were slipping back into depression. Maybe you’ll see yourself in some of these answers.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “For me, I start getting mad and irritated at literally everything. I don’t allow myself to accept the feeling of sadness or depression and so it comes off as anger. So if I’m angry for no reason and at everything for more than a day or two, I know I need to step back and refocus and take charge.” — Abbey A.
2. “I start to feel lonely. I’m lost for words even around those closest to me.” — Marty C.
3. “Wow, there are a lot of signs. I sleep a lot. I feel constantly drained of energy. I don’t eat as much as I used to. I go through mood swings and I become more withdrawn and won’t let people near me.” — Mizheekay H.
4. “When the bad thoughts come back. I start thinking more about how much easier it would be if I was no longer around, and it’s like my head automatically starts to create plans of suicide, even if I don’t go through with them.” — Megan E.
5. “Constantly feeling anxious and on the verge of crying for no discernible reason, fatigue, heavy limbs and a weird pressure in my chest. My depression goes hand in hand with my anxiety, so it’s always a hot mess when something goes awry.” — Vanessa A.
6. “Dirty dishes that sit until they smell. Usually I am a do-the-dishes-every-day type. The worse my depression, the longer I go between doing the dishes. When my depression is bad I just don’t even see the dishes.” — Martha W.
7. “I get irritated a lot easier, snap at the silliest of things. I’ll sleep as much as I can and I won’t ever leave my bedroom… Responsibilities go out the window and things just don’t get done, which in turn triggers my anxiety and then I feel guilt ridden and cycle repeats.” — Jasmine S.
8. “For me, I start taking less and less care of myself. I start talking less to people I talk all the time with. I eat less and less food. Getting up in the morning also gets a lot harder. Those are some red flags that indicate another depressive episode.” — Mike V.
9. “When I start to question my purpose in life and I am not sure I know the answer anymore. When it would be easier to stay in bed and avoid socializing because ‘they don’t need you anyway.’ And most of all, when I don’t feel good enough, worthy or feel a sense of happiness anymore.” — Lauren S.
10. “I sleep. All the time. If I’m not sleeping I’m lying awake in bed nearly catatonic for hours at a time. I shower and wash my hair less often, which is a big deal for me since I hate the feeling of not being clean. I just feel numb. I can’t cry, can’t feel anything but bleakness and confusion, anxiety and agitation. I forget things a lot and slur my speech… move more slowly… can’t concentrate on anything…” — Heather W.
11. “My bed is a lot harder to get out of in the morning, and it becomes easier to ignore doing everyday tasks. I like to keep a clean house, but my depression makes me procrastinate, to the point that I get overwhelmed. My hygiene routine often starts to take a hit, as well.” — Courtney W.
12. “For me, it manifests as pain. My body just aches, as if I have the flu. All the muscles start to tense and I can’t loosen them. Like a Charlie horse (cramp) but in my whole body. Depression will make me want to sleep, pain will keep me awake.” — Tanya C.
13. “My number one sign is the lack of focus and productivity at work. If I spend half the day trying to get to work, I know I’m in for a good bout. The related symptom is that I feel so low on energy that it seems like I haven’t eaten at all, which is never the case. Usually that’s the point when my entire body begins shutting down and it takes every bit of energy I have just take a single step.” — Allen M.
14. “For me, there were a lot. I stared sleeping less. I stopped singing and I stopped exercising. I stopped taking care of myself and it was hard getting up in the morning. I quickly lost interest in things like schooling, reading, writing and drawing. All of my thoughts came back and I always felt tired and saddened. I started thinking of how I’m useless and worthless.” — Chris M.
15. “Usually when it comes back the first thing I notice is that I am not feeling ‘it.’ I’m just not feeling the whole staying alive part if you know what I mean. You just feel off. As days pass you start to be sad for no reason, you cry for no reason, then a little task becomes too much to handle. That’s when you know it’s coming back.” — Devon B.
16. “I have no energy or motivation to do anything; don’t want to get up to make food, even if I’m hungry, so I eat junk, or I don’t even have energy to go shower even if I feel gross, etc. I just want to lay in bed all day long.”– Isabelle O.
17. “I feel tired all the time, and struggle to focus/concentrate to the point where I can not even watch an episode of my favorite show without doing something else (scrolling through Facebook, playing a game on my phone).” — Karlee F.
18. “Sleeping excessively is often the first sign that I am having a relapse. Very quickly excessive sleep breeds thoughts of worthlessness and self-criticism. That in turn makes me prone to isolate and self-harm, all the while my constant thoughts that disappearing from the world is the best choice become harder and harder to dismiss.” — Ericka M.
19. “When I start feeling disconnected in groups. Smiles, laughter and conversations are forced. A feeling of numbness takes over and I start finding distractions to avoid it. When I can’t seem to bother with cleaning the mess I’m making, the state of my room and otherwise. A little bit of self-harm. Yup, that’s depression for me.” — Sukriti T.
20. “A red flag for me is when I tell myself that I don’t deserve to go out today, because I already went out earlier that week. Or when I tell myself that I should just lay in bed because it’s not like anybody’s going to care if I’m there or not.” — Sofia S.
21. “I stop putting on makeup, start making excuses not to do things and start to wear my hair in only messy buns. I am not saying it is wrong not to wear makeup, however this is a sign that I am losing my energy and motivation.” — Hannah M.
22. “When I get hyper-cynical and start seeing things in a very negative way, I know my black curtain is not far away. I try to combat it, but sometimes the curtain weighs too heavily and I have to work through it.” — Mike P.
“22 ‘Red Flags’ That Might Mean You’re Slipping Back Into Depression” was originally published on The Mighty.
More from The Mighty:
If you or someone you know needs help, visit The Mighty suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741