What are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression?
Do I have Depression?
Depression can manifest in your life in many forms. While some may struggle significantly with the self doubt and negative self talk, others may not experience this at all, but will wonder about why their fatigue has gotten so bad. Some sleep excessively, while others don’t sleep at all. One thing that I have noticed is pretty central to everyone struggling with depression, however, is a general lack of motivation to keep going, and an inability to enjoy things that you once did enjoy. No, these are not realities of adulting or getting older- grown up life does not have to be miserable, and joys should still be contacted.
Here is a list of signs and symptoms common to depression:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, and/or unworthiness
- Feeling apathetic about things that you once cared about
- Loss of pleasure in things that you once enjoyed
- Low sex drive
- Negative thoughts and outlook
- Procrastination, inability to follow through with plans
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Overeating, eating for pleasure, weight gain
- Overwhelming fatigue, decreased energy, oversleeping
- Restlessness and insomnia
- Suicidal thoughts, apathy about your own life
The common response to symptoms of depression is giving up and withdrawing. Expending energy is very difficult and taking action feels heavy and worthless. These responses are what makes depression so dangerous, as sufferers identify with their depression and don’t see any way out as a part of the disorder. It is especially important that those struggling with depression learn that the feelings that they are experiencing are not a part of their core self, and that effective help can be found to bring them back to themselves.
How You Can Help Someone with Depression
Many of us are used to seeing pleas on social media to seek help if you are experiencing depression, but the reality is that the non sufferers should be the ones seeking out those that may have depression. If you suspect that someone close to you may be experiencing depression, don’t be afraid to check in and ask them some pointed questions about how they are feeling and what they are up to. Helping them to find resources shouldn’t be hard to do.
How Can ACT Help me Manage Depression?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) treats depression first by helping to find that separation between the self (your identity) and the symptoms of the depression. Once this happens, you are able to reorient yourself to the things that matter to you in your life, and get back in touch with the goals that you had always been working towards. From here, interventions will likely center around developing compassion for yourself and building up your values (the things that you care about the most).
ACT does a lot of work with curious observation and self-as-context, which employs a lot of “fun” strategies to help you defuse and unhook from the heavy symptoms that you have been dealing with, and see yourself and your life from new perspectives that will help give you a boost to take actions that you want for yourself and make some important changes even with the heaviness and self doubt that is present. While ACT does not guarantee that it will get rid of your symptoms of depression, as long as you follow through with all of the practice you are likely to find yourself engaging in a life that you feel good about again, and once you are there, these difficult symptoms will likely fall away on their own. The point here is to target getting yourself back to where you want to be, rather than focusing on the symptoms of depression that are weighing you down.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
Do I Have Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, like depression, is a disorder of the mood. However, unlike depression, it often comes with cycles of what is called “mania” which is like the opposite of depression. People who are struggling with bipolar disorder deal with a lot of instability in their life, because they will shift from periods of time of high energy and excessive productivity, to periods of extreme lethargy and lack of motivation to do anything. This can take on many forms, and with there being two ‘levels’ of bipolar disorder, sometimes these changes can be very subtle and difficult to detect, and the cycling periods can vary from weeks to months.
Often, the most telling sign of bipolar disorder being present is if there are periods of mania.
Some signs and symptoms of mania include:
- Not sleeping for several days in a row
- Functioning on minimal sleep for several days or weeks
- Racing thoughts
- Starting multiple projects at once
- Feeling that you are capable of anything
- Excessive optimism
- Excessive spending, maxing out credit cards
- Excessive exercise
- Rapid speech
- Increased sex drive
- Strong and rapidly changing emotions
If you find yourself experiencing the above signs and symptoms between periods of having low energy and lacking motivation, you may have Bipolar Disorder.
Before jumping to conclusions here, it is important to keep in mind that Bipolar Disorder is not a diagnosis of doom. Bipolar disorder often gets a bad rap in the media, but it is actually something that is very manageable provided that you are motivated to keep your life in a stable place. Read on to find out how ACT can help you manage Bipolar Disorder.
How Can ACT Help me Manage Bipolar Disorder?
The great thing about ACT is that there is an emphasis on clarifying your sense of self and identifying your core values that bring you a sense of fulfillment and meaning in your life. This identity and brief list of concrete values can act as a compass as you go through therapy and your life. Your "values compass" helps you keep a good measure of yourself and your emotional health so that you can be aware of any shifts in energy levels, and it helps you to make decisions independent of the thoughts and feelings that come and go in your inner experience. In ACT, not only will your therapist help you to identify these important values, but your therapist will also help you to make concrete action plans and specify committed actions for you to take in the face of confusing emotional states.
As described above with how ACT helps those with depression, the defusing and unhooking strategies used to help you separate from your strong emotions and energy levels are also super helpful in the context of Bipolar Disorder. Self compassion will help you to forgive yourself and get back on track sooner when you have a slip up, and self-as-context (paired with your values) will help you take on perspectives that will help you make decisions in critical, emotional moments. Just as described with anxiety and depression, the focus is always on the preferred lifestyle and life goals that you are working toward rather than on controlling or getting rid of the problematic symptoms. Once you get yourself to a place of fulfillment and meaning, the symptoms are no longer quite as threatening and aversive as they were when they were the ones in control.
Is Online Therapy Appropriate for Treating Mood Disorders?
There are several unique benefits to choosing online therapy for treatment of depression or bipolar disorder. When therapy is online based, it opens you up to being able to attend therapy from anywhere. Especially when you are struggling with things like lack of motivation and low energy levels, going to therapy without a commute and without having to extensively prepare will make it much more likely for you to follow through with your goal of attending therapy. Also, when you attend therapy from a comfortable place like your home, you will be more likely to open up more easily to your therapist, and therefore benefit more from your therapy session. Being able to practice emotional management techniques from settings like your home or workplace will better help you to remember what you learn since it is happening from a context you are familiar with, and you will be more likely to use what you learn between sessions.
There are some situations in which online therapy is not appropriate for treating mood disorders. In any case that a person is actively thinking about or planning suicide, or in a state of crisis, online therapy is not appropriate. In this situation contacting local crisis resources is the best option.