You're not sad or overwhelmed, but maybe stuff has nonetheless gotten to you. Here are overlooked signals that you might need a little support to get back to feeling better, happier and more yourself.
By Jessica Migala
The term "depressed" makes most of us think of someone who is low. Lagging in energy. Sleeping a lot. Generally feeling "blah." "There are actually two different types of depression," says Julie Holland, MD, the author of Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You're Taking, the Sleep You're Missing, the Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy. The second, less well-known type, is feeling agitated and uptight. "You don't sleep well, you're pacing a lot, you're fidgety." That's why, Holland says, depression experts tell patients to watch out for changes in sleep and energy patterns, not just if you're feeling blue and dragging.
You're inexplicably achy.
Keeping emotions bottled up means they erupt somewhere -- sometimes as bursts of anger, but other times manifesting as physical symptoms like headaches, chronic pain and stomach aches, says Adria Pearson, PhD, a faculty member at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Depression Center. But that doesn't mean it’s "all in your head." These aches and pains are real. In fact, 40 percent of migraine sufferers also have depression, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. "Depression can make pain worse, and pain can make depression worse," Pearson says. For that reason, it can often be difficult for even doctors to determine the root problem. Your doctor can help rule out any underlying medical condition in an effort to determine what's really going on.
You're suddenly a slowpoke.
Easy things are taking you longer than usual to wade through at the office, but there's no discernable reason for that (or so you think). Research shows that depressed workers don't perform as well on the job. "Pay attention if work tasks are difficult to remember and follow through with or if you notice you can't seem to think as quickly as you used to, or you can no longer come up with ideas," says Pearson, who also notes that depressed patients become not just plodding in their thinking but also in their movements. "Depression is literally the slowing down of your system. Your body becomes depressed and your psychomotor skills slow down," she says. A 2013 study in PLOS ONE looked at 4,500 people ages 60 and older and found that a tortoise-like pace was associated with depressive symptoms. The researchers suggest that depression puts you at a higher risk for physical disabilities as you age, which is one reason why the sooner you seek help, the better.
You're ticked off.
You got a full night's sleep, you're not PMS'ing, your boss isn't being worse than usual, and yet you're annoyed at everybody and can't figure out why. Here's one potential reason: In a 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry, more than half of people who experienced depressive episodes reported irritability and anger, and those symptoms were indicative of more-severe and longer-term depression. The patients reported anger ranging from being "somewhat argumentative" to "often loses temper" and "throws things."
Your cravings are out of control.
Feeling moody before your period and having carb cravings? Totally normal a few days out of the month. What's not normal is if you have carby, sugary cravings most days of the month. In a 2010 study, people who were possibly depressed ate 8.4 servings of chocolate per month, compared with healthy individuals who ate 5.4 servings per month. "There's a natural carb craving that happens both when you have your period and when you're depressed," Holland says. Your brain is searching for a pick-me-up from serotonin—it temporarily makes you feel that everything is good. "Carbs provide an insulin spike that drives the raw materials your body needs to make serotonin across the blood-brain barrier," she says. Hence, the chocolate craziness.