Living with mental illness can mean a mix of good and bad days. On good days, you might feel light, clear, and more like yourself. But on bad days, the muffling fog of depression might return, causing your mood to spiral and leave you feeling slow, unmotivated, drained, and numb. While depression symptoms can ease in time, they can intensify without treatment. If you’ve recently thought, “my depression is getting worse,” below are some possible causes and signs that may confirm your suspicions.
Why Is My Depression Getting Worse?
“I feel like my mental health is getting worse.” If you’ve recently thought about this, there could be plenty of things that may have contributed to worsening symptoms.
While clinical depression can worsen over time, many people with major depressive disorder (MDD) may not notice a pattern in negative or depressive feelings linked to their disorder until the pattern has persisted for some time. At this point, it could be difficult to distinguish a bad day from worsening symptoms.
Common symptoms of depression include sadness, feelings of emptiness and hopelessness, irritability, aggression, headaches, digestive issues, and others. When these symptoms occur in pieces, such as frequent headaches, it can be easy to shrug them off.
With this in mind, there could be numerous reasons why you feel like “my depression is getting worse.” Common reasons why your depression is getting worse include:
- Stress: Stress can contribute to mental and physical distress. This can be considered an overarching cause of worsening depression that could stem from individual stressors. Stress is our reaction to being under pressure. While some react well, those with mental health disorders like depression may revert to their symptoms and certain behaviors to cope.
- Loss of a loved one: Understandably, grief is another leading cause of worsening mental illness. Grief can contribute to both temporary and chronic depression in those with no history of mental illness, so you can only imagine how strongly it affects those with depression.
- Relationship problems: Another stress-related factor that could contribute to worsening depression symptoms is relationship problems. Whether it’s a divorce, a breakup, or a bad argument, going through rough patches with people who naturally influence our mood can contribute to depressive symptoms.
- Medication side effects: Especially if you’re in between medications and trying to find one that works for your symptoms, certain medications can produce side effects that may worsen your symptoms. If you suspect any link between your medication and worsening symptoms, talk to your doctor right away to see if the dose or medication can be adjusted.
- Substance use: Alcohol and other substances can also worsen depression. If you drink lightly, alcohol impacts the brain’s chemical structure, which can interfere with your brain’s ability to cope with any chemical imbalances that are linked to depression. Persistent or chronic substance abuse can greatly impact both your mental and physical health, as well. If you’re struggling with drug use, our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab offers various services that can help you recover.
Signs Your Depression Is Getting Worse
Some people experience symptoms of depression in waves or intermittent episodes. This means symptoms could suddenly reappear or intensify following days or even weeks of relief. In other words, a fluctuation in depressive symptoms is sometimes just the nature of the disorder – but that doesn’t mean it’s permanent or untreatable.
Additionally, to better prevent and cope with these fluctuations in mood, it’s important to take a close look at your habits. Even the smallest life changes can make a huge impact on our mental health. Below are some signs depression is getting worse and requires more care that you should look out for:
- Inactivity and/or lack of motivation: An essential criterion of depression is a period of at least two weeks in which the individual experiences either a depressed mood or a lack of pleasure in nearly all activities. This lack of pleasure can make it difficult for the person to find the motivation to do anything. As a result, the person’s job performance, school performance, relationships, and other important areas of their functioning can be impacted.
- Poor sleep habits: Sleep plays a huge factor in sustaining a generally positive mood and energy, both of which are crucial for coping with depression. Consequently, sleep disturbances like insomnia or sleeping too much can complicate matters and trigger depression symptoms. Good habits to set include keeping sleep and wake times consistent, shutting off all electronics half an hour before bed, and removing all screens from the bedroom.
- Social isolation: Another sign that depression has returned is isolation from people or loved ones. It’s normal to turn inward when life feels overwhelming. People with depression often feel embarrassed and unwilling to reach out for social support when their depression is so severe that getting out of bed is the worst of chores. However, social support is crucial for recovery, so it’s important to remain open and connected with loved ones, especially when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom.
- Changes in eating habits: The food we eat can also impact our mood. According to a study in The American Journal of Psychiatry, women who ate diets high in processed foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer showed higher rates of depression and anxiety.1 It’s common for people to reach for comfort foods when struggling with emotions, and one of the symptoms of depression includes changes in eating habits. This may include eating more or eating less, which can lead to fluctuations in weight, as well. If you have depression and are going through periods where you want to eat too much or too little, your disorder might be getting worse.
My Depression Is Getting Worse: What to Do
While there are plenty of tips out there for managing depression, the best way to cope with symptoms and recover from a period of severe depression is with treatment. Whether you’ve never received mental health care before or have hit a rough patch in your recovery, our Massachusetts treatment center can help.
We offer residential mental health care that allows patients to live at the facility while they work daily with our therapists. During private and group therapy sessions, clients will have the opportunity to discuss their experiences with mental illness and develop healthy coping habits they can take with them outside of rehab.
- American Journal of Psychiatry – Association of Western and Traditional Diets With Depression and Anxiety in Women