Most of us are aware of the telltale signs of depression – loss of interest, low mood, lack of motivation, over or under-sleeping. However, there are more insidious symptoms of depression that often go unnoticed. These “unusual” symptoms are actually quite common, and can often delay an important diagnosis—especially in the elderly.
“Sometimes it’s hard to diagnose depression in older adults because they don’t come in and say, ‘I’m depressed.’ They’re more likely to present with physical symptoms that they don’t connect with what they’re feeling…pain, memory problems, poor sleep, a change in appetite,” says Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (1). This is more common in older adults, but also can manifest itself in children and teens.
Below are potential signs of depression that are important not to overlook:
Aches and pains that won’t go away
Many people with depression often present with somatic complaints. This may include stomachaches, frequent headaches, or body aches that have no apparent cause and seem to stick around. This is seen in all ages, from children to the elderly.
Memory loss and difficulty concentrating
Depression has been linked to memory problems, such as forgetfulness or confusion. It can also make it difficult to focus on work or other tasks, make decisions, or think clearly. Stress and anxiety can also lead to poor memory (2).
Appetite and/or weight changes
Changes in eating habits or appetite without an apparent cause can be a sign of depression. For example, eating too little due to loss of interest/low mood, or eating more than usual in an attempt to find comfort.
Increased alcohol or drug use
Substance use is often correlated to attempts to self-soothe. An increase in use may be indicative of changes in your mood. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that in the United States, around 1 in 5 people with anxiety or a mood disorder such as depression also have an alcohol or substance use disorder (3).
Decreased libido/sex drive
Changes in sex drive can be a key indicator for diagnosing depressive episodes. This may be due to a loss of interest in enjoyable activities, low self-esteem, or fatigue, which are all themselves important indicators of depression.
If you or someone you know has experienced any of those symptoms or other signs of depression, it is important to get help. When left untreated, depression will likely get worse. You can see your primary care doctor or a mental health professional in order to get a diagnosis and treatment. Depression does not discriminate, and being proactive in maintaining and improving your mental health is key in taking care of your overall well-being.
Our licensed clinicians at Calm Mind Counseling Center are qualified in diagnosing and treating depression and mood disorders. Do not hesitate to reach out for help. Contact us through our website, or call us at (773)234-0423.
2. Scaccia, A. Can Depression Cause Memory Loss?
3. Leonard, J. Recognizing the Hidden Signs of Depression