Depression getting worse: How to tell and find support – Medical News Today

A person’s behavior may change if depression worsens. They may have less motivation to engage in activities. Worsening depression may also affect sleeping and eating habits.
Symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe.
A person with depression may feel as though their symptoms are getting worse. It is important that people who feel this way speak with a healthcare or mental health professional.
This article looks at signs that depression may be worsening and factors that can impact depression. It also provides tips about what to do if the condition gets worse and where to find help.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) lists the current criteria mental health professionals use to diagnose depression.
However, a 2018 study suggests there is a lack of research into the relationship between these criteria and depression severity. The study also indicates that some depression symptoms may be more significant or prevalent as depression worsens.
Signs depression may be becoming more severe include the following:
One of the symptoms of depression is spending more time alone. As the condition worsens, people may withdraw further from friends or family, becoming more isolated or detached.
Studies indicate that a loss of interest or pleasure in activities they typically enjoy distinguishes people with severe depression from those with moderate depression.
People may find that activities or hobbies that previously sparked their interest or provided pleasure no longer appeal to them. They may also lose motivation to engage in experiences they used to enjoy.
Symptoms of depression can include issues with sleep and eating habits. A person may have more difficulty sleeping, or they may wake up earlier in the morning. Individuals may also spend more time sleeping than usual or sleep in the daytime.
Some may find that their appetite changes, meaning they have less interest in food than usual or overeat.
Research suggests that as depression worsens, a person may experience a more depressed mood and feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt. Additionally, depression may worsen in times of particular stress, such as when a person experiences:
Emotional distress may manifest in several behaviors that are symptomatic of depression. People may:
Suicidal thoughts and feelings also distinguish severe depression from moderate depression. It is important for anyone who experiences these thoughts and feelings to contact a healthcare or mental health professional right away. Help and support is available.
Read about common symptoms of depression.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Find more links and local resources.
Various factors can lead to an increase in the severity of depression symptoms. These include stress, inactivity, and rumination, among others.
Studies explain that rumination and repetitive negative thinking (RNT) are related to depression and other mental health conditions.
Researchers suggest RNT is essentially a natural process to alert us to not achieving our goals and to motivate us to engage in action. However, excessive RNT in the context of mental health conditions has lost this function.
Read more about rumination.
Stress and stressful life events may trigger depression or worsen symptoms in some people. Examples of factors that may impact depression include:
Experts suggest that regular exercise can lower the risk of depression and help improve some symptoms of the condition.
However, because depression causes fatigue and a lack of energy, people with these symptoms may find it challenging to engage in physical activity and become more inactive as the condition worsens.
Learn more about exercise and depression.
A 2021 study indicates that one-third of adults in the United States report getting less sleep than recommended, and approximately 20% live with a mental health condition. It also suggests an association between inadequate sleep and a significantly increased risk of frequent mental distress.
The Office on Women’s Health notes that 43% of adults with depression have obesity, affecting more females than males.
People with depression may have more difficulty eating a healthy diet due to experiencing a lack of energy for cooking or an inclination to eat less healthy foods during periods of low mood, which some may call “comfort eating.”
Weight loss can also be a sign of depression, as many people experiencing the condition find they have a lack of appetite.
Read about diet and depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), feelings of loneliness or isolation are a risk factor for mental health conditions, such as depression.
The CDC also advises that the following situations can lead a person to see fewer people socially and become more isolated, potentially impacting their mental health:
Read about isolation and mental health.
Generally, a healthcare or mental health professional will work with an individual to develop a treatment plan for depression. This often includes medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
Sometimes, a treatment plan may not be as effective as expected. A person may need to try various medications or therapies before finding the most effective treatment for them.
According to a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 13.5% of adults ages 18–25 had both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition in 2021.
A 2019 review of existing research suggests that alcohol use disorder is a risk factor for depression, and the two conditions often occur together.
Learn more about alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder.
A 2018 study found that the use of prescription drugs that can cause depression as a side effect is common in the U.S.
These medications include:
People can speak with a healthcare professional about any concerns they may have about the side effects of their medication.
If an individual feels their symptoms of depression are worsening, it is important that they reach out to a healthcare or mental health professional. There are also several resources available online.
A healthcare or mental health professional may be able to recommend changes in a treatment plan or provide further options to help manage symptoms.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that if someone feels they may be in immediate danger due to their mental health, they should seek help at the nearest emergency room.
It also lists several crisis support lines, such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
A person may be able to speak to someone they trust about their symptoms, such as a relative, friend, or teacher. The trusted person may be able to provide support in accessing further resources.
Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.
Symptoms of depression may vary in severity from person to person. They may become more prominent over time, or new ones may appear.
People may experience changes in their sleeping and eating habits or begin to spend more time alone. They may find they have less motivation to engage in activities they used to find interesting or enjoyable. In severe cases, someone may experience suicidal thoughts.
It is important for individuals experiencing worsening symptoms of depression to seek help and support from a healthcare or mental health professional or a person they trust. Crisis helplines are also available online, by phone, and through text.
Last medically reviewed on October 12, 2023
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