We all have days when we feel a bit “off.” You might say that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or you might be able to pin your negative mood on something that is happening in your personal life. But what if those days happen more often than not, and you can’t figure out why you feel the way you do? It could be mild depression.
It’s a highly common mental health condition, but it’s a problem that can impact your life, your happiness, and your loved ones. Whether you’re concerned that you or someone close to you may be mildly depressed, you’re in the right place. This guide explains the essentials of mild depression and the next steps you should take.
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What Is Mild Depression?
Mild depression is a mood disorder that, in a nutshell, impacts your mood and your actions. It’s more than an occasional bad mood because it occurs frequently over a long period of time.
Depression is classified into three levels of severity: mild, moderate, and severe (or major depressive disorder). When a person is formally diagnosed with depression, their healthcare provider will classify their depression based on factors like the symptoms they experience, the frequency of their symptoms, and how severe their symptoms are.
Moderate vs. Mild Depression
Generally, mild and moderate depression have similar symptoms, but moderate depression makes these symptoms more severe, more life-impacting, and/or more frequent. People with mild depression experience symptoms that may only be noticeable to those who are very close to them. People with moderate depression, on the other hand, exhibit symptoms that are severe enough to cause problems at home or at work.
Severe Depression or Major Depression vs. Mild Depression
Severe depression, also called major depressive disorder, is the next step up from moderate depression. It is far more severe than mild depression.
For people with severe depression, the symptoms are highly noticeable to those around them. It often stops them from being able to reliably function on a daily basis and keep up with their obligations. In some cases, severe depression can also cause hallucinations, delusions, and suicidal thoughts or actions.
Signs and Symptoms of Mild Depression
What are the symptoms of mild depression that you should look for? It’s important to differentiate between symptoms you feel and symptoms that are visible to others. If you have a loved one who is mildly depressed, you can’t necessarily see that they feel hopeless or unmotivated.
Signs You May Have Mild Depression
Mild depression can feel different for each person, as can any medical condition. If you’re mildly depressed, you may experience symptoms like:
- Irritability or being quick to anger
- Not feeling joy from activities you once loved
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and/or despair
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to concentrate on tasks
- Unexplainable aches and pains
- Loss of interest in socializing
- Extreme fatigue
- Changes in appetite
- Weight changes
- Loss of empathy toward others
Keep in mind that everyone has these feelings from time to time. If they occur frequently for you, though, it could be a sign that you are mildly depressed.
Signs Your Loved One May Have Mild Depression
If you’re concerned that a loved one may be mildly depressed, there are certain behavioural changes you can look for. Watch for these common outward signs of mild depression:
- Avoiding social engagements
- Snapping at others or displaying other signs of anger that aren’t equivalent to the problem, such as becoming very angry because they dropped a pencil
- Sleeping more often, especially during the day
- Withdrawing from activities they used to enjoy
- Dropping performance at work, in school, or in other endeavours
- Significant changes in their eating habits, such as a noticeable increase or decrease in appetite
- Changes in their weight
- Unusually risky behaviour, like gambling irresponsibly, driving recklessly, or abusing drugs or alcohol
If your loved one’s behaviour or temperament has recently changed in several of these ways, and if those changes are appearing frequently, your friend or family member may suffer from mild depression.
Other Types of Depression
Mild, moderate, and severe depression are not the only types of depression. There are several forms of depression that are more specific, such as having symptoms that stem from certain triggers. The other primary types of depression include:
- Persistent depressive disorder, also called dysthymia – an especially persistent, long-term form of depression with symptoms that last two years or longer
- Perinatal depression – depression symptoms during pregnancy in someone who did not have depression before becoming pregnant
- Postpartum depression – depression symptoms that occur after giving birth and which can be severe
- Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD – a type of depression in which symptoms are brought on by the fall and winter but fade in the spring and summer
- Bipolar depression – a condition in which the person fluctuates between depression symptoms and manic episodes that give them extremely high energy and activity
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder – depression symptoms accompanied by extreme PMS symptoms that occur during the 1-2 weeks before menstruation
Who Gets Mild Depression?
It’s important to understand that mild depression can affect anyone. There are people of all ages, genders, races, locations, and income levels who suffer from depression. No one is immune from the possibility of being a little depressed, so it’s vital to know the symptoms so you can seek treatment if they appear.
Common Ways to Treat Mild Depression
You or a loved one has been diagnosed as mildly depressed. What happens next? Fortunately, it’s very treatable. Depending on your symptoms, medical history, and other factors, your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of several treatment options.
Qualified mental health professionals are well-versed in treating depression through talk therapy. During your therapy sessions, your mental healthcare provider can work with you on techniques and strategies to reduce your symptoms, as well as guide your self-talk that can affect your symptoms.
Depression symptoms are often influenced by physiological factors like your hormones. To help your body contribute to easing your depression symptoms, a healthcare professional may recommend lifestyle changes, such as:
- Adding exercise to produce more mood-boosting hormones
- Creating a healthy sleep schedule and adhering to it as much as possible
- Building a healthy diet that minimizes “junk food” in favour of whole foods
Stress and anxiety often contribute to depression symptoms. Meditation is an excellent way to not only control your stress but also help you connect with and listen to your body so you can better manage your symptoms. A mental health professional can direct you toward guided meditations or teach you how to meditate on your own.
Some medications can help reduce the symptoms of depression. These medications are more commonly prescribed for moderate or severe depression, but in low doses, they may also be abundantly helpful for people with mild depression.
Keep in mind, though, that these medications can have side effects. In most cases, your healthcare provider will start treating your depression with other techniques first and will prescribe medication if those other treatments aren’t effective.
Herbs and Supplements
Select nutritional supplements and natural herbs can be helpful for people with depression. For instance, some people see improvement in their symptoms when they take St. John’s Wort, while others can regulate their sleep-related symptoms with melatonin.
Natural supplements can still interfere with medications and aren not advised for everyone. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before you start using any herbs or supplements.