Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels
by Andrea M. Darcy
You are ‘fine’. True, you have stopped caring about things, the future seems hazy, and you probably have mild depression. But it’s no big deal. Or… is it?
What is mild depression?
Mild depression means you have the signs of depression, but still manage to keep up your daily routine, for the most part.
So mild depression symptoms mean you can still experience things like:
The physical symptoms of mild depression
Interestingly, research has also found that mild depression can manifest as physical symptoms more than other forms of depression. Meaning those with mild depression are more likely to seek medical help than psychological support. And unless their GP is trained in mental health, their real issue might be overlooked.
A paper on the clinical diagnosis of mild depression connects mild depression most of all to insomnia, and then to:
- fatigue and dizziness
- a heavy feeling head and headaches
- stomach and lower back pain
- stiffness in the shoulders
- a loss of appetite or weight loss
Why mild depression can end up a bigger problem than severe depression
Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels
Whereas severe depression would see you hardly leaving the house, and moderate depression would be bad enough those around you were very aware you weren’t okay?
With mild depression you are ‘coping’, and people might just think you just aren’t yourself. But that you’ll manage.
And therein lies the real danger. The problem with mild depression is that we can get away with it to the extent that it can be a far more isolating experience than it’s apparently more serious siblings.
And that means we are far less likely to get support, both from loved ones or from a professional.
Persistent depressive disorder
Sometimes mild depression can go on not just for months, for years, or even decades. Bit by bit we stop trying in life, or we make increasingly negative or even dangerous decisions.
Note that if mild depression goes on for over two years, you can be diagnosed with ‘dysthymia’, or ‘persistent depressive disorder’.
The signs of mild depression ruining your life
Signs that mild depression is decimating your life can mean that you:
Bad decisions roll into stagnancy and we live a numb, checked out half life, and convince ourselves that is all there is for someone like us. We get so used to mild depression we no longer remember the difference.
But maybe I am just sad
Sadness and depression can have similar symptoms, yes. But depression is different because it:
- goes on longer (six weeks or more)
- often has no direct cause, whereas we know why we are sad
- comes with negative self-talk, where we are convinced we are useless
- and hopelessness over just overwhelm.
But I’ll snap out of it eventually
When we have mild depression, like with other forms of depression, everything takes more effort to accomplish. So it is all too easy to just go into denial and tell ourselves that one day we’ll snap out of it.
Some people are lucky and do. But it’s not worth taking that risk, not least because one episode of depression makes you more likely to have another in the future.
The research around the recurrence of depression is outdated, involves many social and economic variables, and focuses mostly on major depression. But the general statistic used here is that once you have one episode of depression, you have a 50% chance of having another.
So what do I do if I think I have mild depression?
So what should you do if you think you have mild depression?
1. Make it concrete.
Again, denial can keep us endlessly trapped in walking depression. So it is useful to get your issue out there so you can’t fall backwards into avoidance, but have to face it. Write the words out on paper. And then reach out to someone you trust and let them know you think you are depressed. If you have nobody to tell, then consider chatting with others in the privacy of a forum, or calling a free, confidential help line.
2. Accept that progress is not going to be comfortable.
Depression can become a comfort zone. It can end up, despite all the destruction it is causing in your life, feeling safe.
Happiness or effort, on the other hand, can feel not only scary but really uncomfortable, to the point you physically feel itchy or strange.
Your depressed brain is actually trying to help you from what it perceives as danger (big bad life), so it’s shutting down to conserve energy. Going against this primal instinct will not feel comfortable. The sooner you accept that, the less likely you are to panic and go back to old ways when you try to step forward and make changes.
3. And then do one uncomfortable thing daily.
It’s important you write down each thing you do daily or it will be too easy to not bother. The goal is one different uncomfortable thing daily no matter how small. Actually getting up when the alarm goes instead of hitting snooze. Doing your hair nicely instead of the usual sloppy ponytail. Eating a healthy breakfast instead of the sugary pastry you use to numb yourself out. Walking around the block at lunch instead of just staying at your desk. Having one glass of wine instead of three before bed. Or even trying a sober night.
4. Educate yourself about mild depression.
It can help to learn more about depression. What is it doing to your brain and body? How many other people are actually going through it to? What are your options? What tools can help? Are things like journalling, gratitude, diet changes, exercise, and mediation worth trying?
5. Seek support.
Mild depression thrives on secrecy and on isolation. It is like our secret troll in the closet we spend all our time hiding at home feeding.
The very best way to end the cycle is to get support. It can start with the support of trusted friends and family members. But of course they are invested in your happiness, and this can feel stressful.
A counsellor or psychotherapist, on the other hand, is unbiased. Their only goal is to help. They create a safe, confidential space to be very honest about what you are experiencing, a sounding board to start to understand any hidden roots to your low moods, and a support and accountability system to help you in moving forward.
Time to stop living a numbed out life and start feeling alive again? We offer a team of highly regarded talk therapists in Central London. Or use our booking site to find registered therapists UK-wide as well as online counselling you can book from overseas.
Andrea M. Darcy is a health and wellbeing expert and writer, who also runs a consultancy helping people find the right therapy and therapist for them. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy