The COVID pandemic has taken a drastic toll on public mental health, leaving millions wondering whether their negative emotions are just temporary symptoms or something more serious, like clinical depression. Figuring out the difference can be subtle, so let’s go over some of the tell-tale signs of COVID-related depression vs. clinical depression.
What are the symptoms of COVID-related depression?
The first thing to know about COVID-related depression is that it’s different from clinical depression. The symptoms of COVID-related depression include:
* decreased interest in the present
* increased feelings of isolation and loneliness
* feelings of hopelessness
* food cravings
* increased sleep disturbance
What are the symptoms of clinical depression?
The symptoms of clinical depression are one of the most widely recognized mental health conditions, but the line between clinical depression and COVID-related depression can be tricky to discern.
Here’s a list of the most common symptoms and conditions that often lead to a diagnosis of clinical depression:
* Anhedonia or lack of interest in life
* Increased sleep disturbances
* Decreased appetite
* Weight loss
* Poor concentration
* Excessive sadness
* Decreased libido
* Thoughts of suicide or harming yourself
Why does the COVID pandemic cause depression?
Feeling “sad and blue:” The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic instability have been difficult for people to explain to themselves or to anyone else. For some, it feels like everything is falling apart. The economic instability has sparked anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. This sense of desperation can precipitate a rapid plummeting in mood and can lead to the development of clinical depression.
Feeling low motivation: Someone who feels that everything is falling apart may experience a low level of motivation that can stop them from completing even the simplest of tasks. This can lead to significant frustration, which can exacerbate the symptoms of depression.
Feeling flat or “reduced” emotions: Those who feel that nothing has changed or that things are falling apart are in for a rude awakening. As these feelings of fragmentation and loss begin to emerge, it can be challenging for them to step back and breathe. This can lead to significant depressed feelings of dissatisfaction and loss, which are very common signs of clinical depression.
Excessive weight loss: Emotional plunge can lead to a dip in energy levels, which can trigger hunger. This can be the perfect storm for someone who is struggling with a loss of appetite. They may notice they are losing the weight quickly and are put off by feeling like they are starving. It may be easier to overindulge at the end of the day, which leads to a vicious cycle of weight loss and new bouts of depression and lack of energy.
Feeling isolated: The connection with other people can become diminished, making it hard for someone to feel like they are being heard or seen.
Causes of clinical depression are typically more nuanced than symptoms they present. Not every person who experiences the symptoms of depression will experience clinical depression, and not every person who experiences clinical depression will experience all symptoms of depression.
How can I tell if I’m suffering from COVID-related depression?
Normally, if you’re having symptoms of depression, you will experience them again and again. But when you try to remember all of the symptoms and all the experiences you’ve been through, and you compare them to the current situation, you might start to realize they are not as bizarre and extreme as they appeared before. This reminds us that the exception that proves the rule can be the very definition of a rule: Anything can happen, even if your symptoms get worse when you’re in a very different situation.
People who are struggling with COVID-related depression can do what they normally do – they can just try to go through these experiences and try to understand the similarities to what they’ve been through. It’s important to remember that we are all in this together, and we should all take the steps we need to to feel better. Taking care of yourself is important. When we fear that our emotions are just temporary symptoms, or that they aren’t real life or that they will just get better on their own, we can fall into a cycle of depression.
The good news is that it’s never too late to feel and think better. It’s never too late to take action to improve your mental health, and to get the emotions out in the open and stop berating yourself to the point of suicide.