Nothing about depression is easy. But the way it affects a person’s daily life is arguably the most difficult part of the disorder.
Approximately 300 million people globally are affected by depression, according to the World Health Organization. Not only does it create emotional health issues, like excessive rumination and lack of motivation, but it also causes physical health problems, like headaches and trouble eating. It can also cause fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating.
The reality is that these symptoms all have a significant effect on routines, from running errands to social situations to even just going to sleep. As with any medical issue, the more knowledge you’re armed with, the better. That’s why we rounded up just some of the ways depression influences a person’s day-to-day life.
Below are a few ways people with the disorder interact differently with the world compared to their peers:
People with depression often ignore routine appointments.
For most, haircuts or dermatologist visits are expected blips on the calendar. However, depression can make these events feel like monumental tasks.
A case in point is a heartbreaking account from Kate Langman, a Wisconsin-based hairstylist. Her Facebook post (featured above) went viral after she shared the story of a client with depression who came into the salon.
“She couldn’t get out of her bed for 6 months. Which meant she didn’t wash her hair or brush it,” Langman wrote.
Going to a simple, menial appointment is often one of the biggest victories.
They might snooze more than most.
Depression often leads to increased fatigue and irregular sleep patterns. This means that those living with the disorder may sleep more than usual or even experience insomnia.
This might not sound so bad in theory: Naps are awesome, right? But as writer Cory Steig put it in a Refinery29 post, napping when dealing with depression is more draining than anything:
[Y]ou know you’re probably not going to wake up refreshed and energized enough to take on the task you’re supposed to be doing instead of taking a nap.
They might leave work to-do lists unfinished.
The mental health disorder can take a toll on a person’s work performance. Symptoms like a lack of motivation or energy can prevent an individual with the condition from accomplishing tasks.
Or, the illness can keep people out of the office altogether: Employees with the condition miss approximately four workdays every three months due to its effects, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Serious mental illness costs the country more than $190 billion in lost earnings every year.
People living with depression may avoid fun activities.
Depression can cause a lack of interest in thing people once found pleasurable. That could mean going to parties, participating in sports or even engaging in sex is no longer the norm.
“Depression makes your life dramatically different,” Dr. John Greden, a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Neuroscience Institute, previously told HuffPost.
Depression makes them see things through a glass half empty.
The condition often makes the person living with it see everything from a pessimistic perspective.
“Depression is a negative view of self, of the world and of the future,” Greden said. “Everything is sort of being seen through dark-colored glasses ... It’s pretty common, when people are depressed, for them to think that no one understands them ― and that’s a really tough place to be.”
People with depression have brains that are more prone to stress.
While some cases of depression can be acute and circumstantial (i.e. getting laid off of a job or going through a trauma), others can be more biological in nature. Research suggests depression can be influenced by environmental and genetic factors. A 2014 study even found that depression might make that person’s brain more susceptible to psychological stress.
In other words, the condition isn’t just something they “made up” or can “get over” so quickly. It’s a physiological issue that requires care.
Depression makes them want to push others away.
A common side effect of depression is changes to relationships. People living with the disorder may start to withdraw from their friends and family, and the mood symptoms may cause them to become irritable or angry.
That being said, a little encouragement can go a long way. Reader Avarie Downs, who identifies as having high-functioning depression, points out that even just an affectionate gesture can make a huge difference:
I wish he knew how overwhelming being sad during a depressive state is ... sometimes it would be really nice to get a hug, instead of just the cold shoulder and being ignored because it is difficult to understand. Support is worth more than words could ever say.
Experts also recommend letting people with depression know that they’re not alone. Offering to listen to them talk about their experience or accompanying them to therapy can also help.
People with depression may need to see doctors more regularly.
Depression not only needs to be treated by a professional, but it also could put the person at a greater risk for other illnesses. So seeing doctors, between primary care physicians or mental health workers, on a more regular basis is so key when it comes to managing the condition.
“Depression is a common problem,” Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, previously told HuffPost. “There shouldn’t be shame in seeking help for that. People wouldn’t feel shamed if they got help for a broken arm. Depression is much like that. It’s treatable and you should tend to it.”
Ultimately, depression ― just like any other medical illness ― alters a person’s daily existence. And the more people keep that in mind, the less stigma and more understanding there will be about what it means to live with the disorder.