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It’s usually obvious to us when we need to visit a medical professional. A cold. An ache. A weird clicking in your left knee when you run further than a couple of miles. (Even though you purposely bought shoes for flat-footed runners.)
Any of these things can lead you to pick up a phone to make an appointment with your medical provider. What can be less clear is when you should seek treatment for things like depression or anxiety.
To be sure, many mental health diagnoses have clear symptoms. Many of them also have subtle symptoms that emerge over time. These symptoms can be subtle enough that folks live with them for long periods as they begin to feel like the new “normal” for people. Often these subtle symptoms wreck the quality of life and relationships along the way.
This can be further complicated by culture and society.
How Culture impacts the treatment of Depression or Anxiety?
Consider for a moment: What are the cultural messages you’ve received about mental health or stress? About emotions? About loss or pain?
Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of men in particular who’ve internalized messages that ignoring their feelings or suffering in silence is a necessary condition to be a man. (It’s probably why cis men as a group don’t live as long as others.) I’ve also worked with tons of graduate students and postdocs who view their level of stress or distress as a badge of honor rather than the warning sign that it is.
With all this in mind, let’s talk about some subtler signs that you should seek treatment. As usual, we’ll debunk some problematic cultural messages along the way.
When should you seek treatment for Depression?
You’re reading articles about whether or not to seek treatment for depression:
A good rule about mental health: if you’re engaged in an internal dialogue about whether or not you need help or if your symptoms are “bad enough” to seek help, they probably are.
Despite cultural messages about how “bad” something has to be before you can seek help, there is no threshold you need to meet before making an appointment with a therapist. There doesn’t need to be an identifiable stressor or incident either. Depression is often the result of numerous and subtle elements in your life.
You’re experiencing emotions that don’t fit their context or no emotions at all:
This comes in many forms, and for some people, it may not look like stereotypical depictions of depression in the media. For example, many people become more irritable and angry when they are depressed. Looking at you again, men. (Though this happens across genders.) If you find yourself feeling sad at seemingly random moments, or if you feel disconnected or like your emotions are muted during experiences that used to bring you pleasure, these can be strong indicators of depression.
Everything feels like a sacrifice:
This subtle sign goes beyond feeling tired or annoyed on a given day when an additional task or family emergency lands in your lap. When a person is depressed even simple tasks like showering, going to the store, or getting out of bed can feel like they take an incredible amount of energy. Furthermore, things that you used to enjoy, like meeting up with friends may now feel daunting or distressing.
You’re just trying to get to the end of each day:
This manifests in a few ways. Physically, this may feel like an ongoing lack of energy or motivation. Emotionally, this may take the form of feeling like things have lost meaning. Whether that’s work, friendships, relationships, or even just the future in general, depression can leave you feeling like nothing truly matters anymore. This goes far beyond pessimism (or pragmatism as I like to think of it) where you are preparing yourself for the worst. Preparing for the worst still implies that you care to some level. If you find it increasingly hard to care, this is the hallmark of depression.
To be sure, these are not the only subtle signs of depression. A last note though. Plenty of people experience some or all of these things but don’t seek help because they are still managing to function in some domains of their lives, usually work or school. I strongly encourage folks to avoid using productivity as a litmus test for whether or not they need to seek help.
Treatment for Depression in Baltimore, MD
Have you been experiencing signs of depression? Are you trying to help someone who is struggling? Do you wonder if treatment for depression might be a good idea?
Sometimes the biggest barrier to seeking help is that first phone call. So, feel free to reach out to us by message, email, contact form, or in any way that’s best for you. There is no right way to start this process.