You don’t have to be suffering from clinical depression to experience a depressive episode. If you have been going through unsettling emotional lows, then this article is just right for you.

Here are 9 signs of an impending depressive episode and tips on how to deal with it.

What is a depressive episode?

A major depressive episode is a duration in which a person suffers from a depressed mood or a deep unwavering sadness. It is most often characterized by feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, worthlessness, guilt, and irritability. It may also affect your decision making power and cause problems concentrating.

A depressive episode could span a few hours or could be the cause of consistent misery for up to two weeks. A recent study shows that 16.2 million people in the United States alone have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.

How to spot an impending depressive episode

Feeling down once in a while is not necessarily a sign of depression or even an oncoming depressive episode. Feeling blue on occasion is a part and parcel of everyone’s life and something we cannot hope to eliminate completely.

So how do you discern between an oncoming depressive episode and general sentiments of anxiety and/or sadness? Here are some signs to look out for:

  1. A profound sense of sadness

A feeling of hopelessness and depression that is persistent and intense.

  1. Feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt

It is common to feel insignificant or shameful at the onset of an episode.

  1. Heightened anxiety

You may endure acute panic and have feelings of impending doom, heart palpitations, or shortness of breath.

  1. Loss of interest

A substantial loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. Performing daily activities like chores or even hobbies might seem like a burden.

  1. Fatigue

Feeling exhausted and weary, along with slowness in movements and thinking. This is the kind of loss of energy that cannot be amounted to lack of good quality sleep.

  1. Drastic changes in eating habits

You might lose your appetite or crave sugar and carb-heavy foods. Overeating can additionally cause blood sugar dips and spikes that end up making you feel worse.

  1. Disturbed sleep patterns

Either excessive sleep or trouble sleeping and insomnia. If your thoughts are keeping you up, or you have difficulty getting out of bed, a depressive episode may be lurking around the corner.

  1. Self-harming or suicidal thoughts

In severe cases, sufferers harbor thoughts of suicide attempts or self-injury. If you find yourself contemplating suicide or self-harm, please seek help immediately.

  1. Urge for substance abuse

An impending depressive episode may lower your inhibitions towards alcohol or drugs. Choosing to indulge might make you feel better in the moment, but is an awful coping mechanism in the long run. Alcohol is known to be a depressant and can even worsen your depression.

If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms over extended periods of time, see a therapist, psychiatrist or your primary care doctor for an evaluation.

If you are currently on medication and have been having these episodes frequently, see your psychiatrist as you may need to modify the medication or take a different approach.

What causes these episodes?

Depressive episodes don’t always need a trigger. Overwhelming feelings of sadness can spring up without any troublesome event or warning.

Yet, certain circumstances such as stress at work or home, financial problems, loneliness, or death of a loved one are known to set off a depressive episode.

The outbreak of such an episode could also be because of a chronic illness. Factors such as hormones, genetics, or brain chemistry might very well be responsible too.

According to research, there is no single reason behind these episodes or depression in general. The aspects of our life that we can control – physical health and attitude – can help manage these symptoms in the long run.

How to deal with a depressive episode

Depression, for you, might arrive like a violent storm or a creeping mist. If you are under the effect of an episode, these tips will certainly help you take control of your thoughts and get your spirits back up.

  1. Stay calm and relax your body

Identifying the onset of a depressive episode can be frightening. Feeling anxious and panicked is a natural reaction, but this response can worsen other symptoms.

Instead, find an anchor such as your breath or the sensation in your hands to keep you connected with the physical world around you. Bringing your body to a place of natural stillness will help promote a sense of calm.

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