Depression is terrifying, controversial, and confusing. There are so many contradictory signs of it that it can be hard to know what to look out for or take notice of, leading to… well, a huge mess. Let’s use a recent pop culture event to explain that better:
Last week, as I’m sure you’ve already heard, Kanye West was hospitalized after having what is being called a breakdown at one of his concerts in Los Angeles. Just as a quick refresher: Kanye came out, performed three songs, and then went into a long, nonsensical rant about Jay-Z, Beyonce, among other things. After his rant and only 30 minutes of performing, Kanye walked off stage and cancelled the rest of the show. This followed up another long, random rant from Kanye on stage that was about how he would have voted for Donald Trump. Shortly after his cancelled show, Kanye cancelled the rest of his tour, and was then admitted to the hospital.
The immediate response to Kanye’s actions was anger and a lot of taunting. The general thought on his behavior was something along the lines of, “What did you expect? It’s Kanye. He’s always angry and saying stupid things. I’m not surprised.” Fans were furious, haters were thrilled to have something else to make fun of, and media outlets grabbed at the story to sensationalize the hell out of it. Because Kanye has a history of random outbursts, out of control tweets, and strange behavior, people were quick to judge and roll their eyes. I get where the anger and frustration comes from, but also, it makes me really sad, because there’s clearly something deeper going on with Kanye that a lot of people refuse to discuss.
Anyone who has ever dealt with depression can see that Kanye clearly has some mental health problems to work through – which is probably why he is in the hospital right now. Ye has always dealt with depression and anxiety, but his symptoms come out in a different way than we expect, and so people automatically dismiss it. When we think of someone who is depressed, we often think of some poor fool who can’t stop sleeping, who always looks miserable, who has no friends and looks like they forgot their last 10 showers. We think of someone with no job, no social life, and maybe some kind of addiction. And yes, all of these things can be signs and symptoms of depression, but they don’t make up the entire disease. There are other, more surprising signs of depression that need to be addressed, because not doing so contributes to the unhealthy and dangerous stigma surrounding mental health issues. Here are a just a few of them:
Barely Showing EmotionThe stereotypical view of a depressed person goes like this: the person suffering depression always seems sad, miserable, super negative, unhappy, and maybe angry at the world. And, of course, there are a lot of depressed people who act this way. But I've found that a lot of people who struggle with depression often come across as more apathetic than anything else. In fact, seeming apathetic is a big indicator that someone is dealing with depression. When someone is barely showing any emotion, acting like they don't really care one way or another, they're showing that they have no motivation to feel, well, anything. It's a major symptom of depression that can be easily overlooked when you're searching for only the cartoonish signs of the disease. Source: iStock
Lashing Out At The Wrong TimesA lot of depressed people feel anger that they don't know how to deal with. Instead of trying to get rid of the anger in a healthy way, they push it to the side, and it ends up coming out wrong. Case in point: Kanye West, if he really is suffering from depression. Kanye used his on stage time to start a nonsensical feud with Jay-Z and Beyonce, two of his closest friends. Does this seem rational? No. But it's very possible that feelings of depression, anxiety, and paranoia pushed him to a point where the anger had to come out in some way. It's kind of confusing, but it happens a lot. This doesn't mean that every angry outburst from a depressed person should be excused and forgiven immediately. It just means that before we judge, we should look into what's happening to see the deeper meaning. Source: iStock
NarcissismNarcissism is defined as an excessive need for attention and love, a huge sense of entitlement, and egotistical personality traits that go far beyond just posting a few selfies on Instagram. A narcissist is more than someone acting a little cocky - it's someone with a distorted sense of self who thinks they are untouchable. Some experts believe that narcissism and depression can often go hand in hand, because when a narcissist's thoughts of themselves are threatened in some way, they can react in an extreme way. This article on narcissism and depression outlines the facts and it's really interesting. It's easy to look at a person who seems very over-confident and obsessed with themselves and think they couldn't possibly be depressed, but that isn't true. Narcissism is a mental health problem like depression, and the two can often feed into each other. Source: iStock
A Change In AppearanceWhen someone is really struggling with depression, you will most likely notice some sort of change in appearance. They might gain a lot of weight or lose a lot of weight. They might do something drastic, like cut their hair off. They might start to look more messy and bum-like rather than put together. When someone is depressed, they often stop caring about their appearance and stop putting effort into it. Some people stop eating, while others overeat to make up for the emotional pain. I recently heard Justin Bieber say he's been suffering from depression, and then heard a round of laughter as people said he couldn't be, because he's too famous. In recent appearances and videos, Justin looks tired, his hair and style is not quite as on point as it once was, and it seems like he's not putting as much effort into his looks. This could be from many things, of course, but if Justin really is depressed, it could absolutely be a sign of that. Source: iStock
Always Looking For The Next Best ThingA common way of thinking among people who suffer from depression is to always be in search of the next best thing. They are always convinced that there is something out there that will make them feel more happy and cure their depression. One of my exes suffers from severe depression, and I saw him do this constantly. He would say things like, "Once I get my driver's license, I'll be so much happier." Then he would get it, nothing would change, and he would say, "Once I get my car, I'll be so much happier." He got it, and nothing changed, and the mantra turned into, "Once I graduate college, I'll be so much happier." And on and on we went. It was devastating to watch him realize that nothing he was waiting for was curing his depression. If you know someone who does stuff like this, try not to think of it as frustrating and realize it is a sad way to cope with tough feelings. Source: iStock
Forgetting A Lot Of ThingsPeople who are depressed often struggle with remembering basic things. Science has shown that depression can raise the body's levels of cortisol, which can weaken the part of the brain that helps assist with memory. Of course, this doesn't mean that anyone who is forgetful is depressed, but if you notice that someone who generally seems okay is suddenly forgetting everything and seems a bit off, they could be dealing with a particularly brutal episode. Source: iStock
Acting Very DistractedSomething that goes hand in hand with forgetting things is feeling distracted. One reason depressed people forget so many small things is because they can get easily get distracted by the noise going on in their heads. They can start to focus on small things that are triggering depression over anything else going on in their lives. Source: iStock
Exaggerated EmotionsSometimes depressed people are apathetic, sometimes they are very miserable, and other times, they are a mix of intense emotions. Someone suffering from depression doesn't have to just be sad - they could be over compensating for their unhappiness by acting overwhelmingly outgoing and happy. This is one of the weird things about depression that leaves us feeling totally lost and confused when someone like Robin Williams commits suicide. Robin Williams was funny, someone who was always laughing and doing ridiculously silly things and who seemed so happy - almost too happy. Sometimes, people with depression act "depressed" and other times, they are more intense with other emotions. Source: iStock
Relationship TroublesNotice your friend has started fighting with their boyfriend for no reason at all? Do you know someone struggling from depression who can't seem to keep a significant other for very long? I do. My ex would hop from person to person, searching for someone who would make him happy and forget about the depression. Depression can cause people to push others away, to take out their feelings on someone close to them, or to just make it very difficult to keep people close. Source: iStock
Acting Super IndecisiveWhen you're feeling very depressed, making a decision can either be overwhelming or completely boring. Someone who is depressed might feel way too stressed and anxious to decide on something - or they just might feel like they don't care about the outcome at all. Either way, suddenly acting super indecisive can be a sign that someone is dealing with depression. Source: iStock
Not Sleeping EnoughWhen you think of someone who is depressed, maybe you think about someone laying in bed, not moving, sleeping away the day. This obviously happens, but it's just as likely to find a depressed person with serious insomnia. A lot of depressed people find it extremely difficult to get a good night's sleep. Source: iStock
Physical PainDepression and physical pain often go hand in hand. Studies have shown that people who have lower back pain might just be depressed and have never been treated or diagnosed. Depression and chronic pain are often linked as well, since having a chronic illness can lead to depressed feelings. Depression can also lead to muscular pain, stomach pains, headaches, and aches and pains that seem to have no other explanation. Source: iStock
Do you suffer from depression or know someone who does? Get help by calling the Suicide Hotline at 800-784-2433, the Crisis Call Center at 800-273-8255, or text ANSWER to 839863.