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Could You Be Depressed and Not Know It?

WebMD can help you recognize depression - and find relief
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WebMD Feature

"Could you be depressed and not know it?" This sounds like a ridiculous question. After all, wouldn't you know if you were depressed? Possibly not. Depression can take hold gradually, without a person realizing that depressive thoughts and feelings are increasingly dominating her perspective - and her life.

Many people assume that depression is easily identifiable, manifesting itself as persistent sadness that doesn't lift. In fact, symptoms of depression can take a variety of forms. Chances are that if you are reading this article, you have the feeling that something isn't quite right. You may find that you are tired all the time, and all you want to do is sleep. Depression can also trigger insomnia, forgetfulness, and an inability to take pleasure in normal activities. According to Eve Wood, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona, and author of 10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Emotional Life, "Women often say, 'I'm not depressed; I just don't care', but that indifference can signal depression." It turns out that excessive fatigue, insomnia, and joylessness can all be symptoms of depression.

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As subtle and confusing as signs of depression can sometimes be, it's important to remember that depression is a serious illness that can cramp lives, cast a shadow over families, and even lead to suicide. A growing body of research has documented the serious and chronic effects of depression on the human brain - effects that can make a person susceptible to future incidents of depression.

According to the American Psychological Association, women are twice as likely as men to experience depression or dysthymia (persistent low-level depression), and misdiagnosis of depression in women is high. The good news is that depression can be effectively treated. If you suspect that you or someone you know is depressed, you've come to the right place. WebMD can help you learn more about depression and what you can do about it.

Symptoms of Depression in Women

* Changes in weight, sleep or appetite: These signs of depression can be confusing because depending on the individual, they can take very different forms. Some depressed women want to sleep all the time, for example, while others may experience insomnia.

* Physical symptoms of depression that won't go away, like fatigue, headaches, back aches, digestive disorders, chronic pain, or menstrual problems

* Anxiety

* Agitation, irritability

* Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating

* Low sex drive

* Pessimistic or hopeless outlook on life: While there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the future, a depressed person is more apt to dwell on negative events and be unable to find anything to be happy about.

* Feelings of guilt or helplessness

* General apathy and lack of interest or pleasure in customary activities

* Thoughts of suicide

Experts say that certain behaviors can also be a sign of underlying depression. "Women often engage in behaviors that signal "masked depression," says psychologist Lara Honos-Webb, PhD, author of Listening to Depression. Compulsive shopping, working, eating, or drinking alcohol can be signs of depression -- particularly when a woman feels empty or anxious when she's not participating in these activities.

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