The 5 Stages of Depression
According to Healthline, 1 in 10 American adults will experience clinical depression at some time in their lives, and 80% of those with the condition will not seek medical treatment. Moreover, the number of people who become clinically depressed increases by approximately 20% each year (Healthline, 2014).
Did you know that there are five stages of depression? Most people don’t know this important fact. So, what are the five stages? Well, truth-be-told, there are no definitive stages of depression, but there are signs that are commonly associated with this condition. These signs typically occur at various times, during a depressive episode, which is where the five stages come into play. To fully understand the five stages, you must have a sound understanding of clinical depression. How does the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) define clinical depression? Well, according to the DSM-V, in order to be diagnosed with clinical depression, also known as major depression and major depressive disorder, an individual must exhibit at least (5) symptoms of depression such as: feelings of sadness and despair, amongst other mood-related symptoms for at least two consecutive weeks (Lane, 2013).
The 5 Stages of Depression
The five stages of depression typically include: (1) negative thought patterns, (2) poor appetite, (3) irregular sleep patterns, (4) self-blame, and (5) suicidal ideation. If you are interested in learning more about the five stages of depression, you have come to the right place. This article will teach you the different stages, so you are able to seek help from a professional mental health worker (i.e. counselor, psychologist, psychotherapist, clinical social worker, and/or psychiatrist). ***If either you or a loved one is suffering from depression, contact a mental health professional for assistance.
Stage 1: Negative Thought Patterns
One of the first stages of depression is negative thought patterns. In other words, when you are depressed, one of the first signs is that you become overly cynical and pessimistic. Others may comment that you have recently become more negative. You may also become doubtful, gloomy, distrustful, and/or suspicious (for no reason). Moreover, you may feel hopeless and helpless at times, but at this stage the latter feelings (hopelessness and helplessness) will still be sporadic. If you start to notice that the joy and happiness have recently been sucked out of your life, you may be in the early stages of depression.
Stage 2: Poor Appetite
Have you recently lost your appetite? Has this been occurring for at least two weeks or more? If so, you may be in the second stage of depression. A poor appetite is common during this stage of depression. Why is this happening? Well, probably because your depression is consuming your thoughts. In other words, when you are depressed your mind does not function the way it does when you are not depressed. Constantly ruminating on unpleasant and unhealthy thoughts can negatively affect your behavior (i.e. your desire to eat). During this stage, foods that used to bring you pleasure may start to repulse you. Over time this lack of appetite will most likely cause you to lose a significant amount of weight, which may alert friends, family members, significant others, and co-workers that something may be seriously wrong with you.
Stage 3: Irregular Sleep Patterns
Have you recently started sleeping longer, waking up too early or multiple times at night, or going to sleep later and later? If so, you may be in the third stage of depression. Depression can alter your sleep patterns causing you to oversleep (hypersomnia) or under sleep (insomnia). This sign will increase as the depression worsens. Why does this happen? Well, because your brain tells your body that it needs to escape from the stress, pain, and turmoil in your life. As a result, your hormone levels are affected, and your sleep rhythm is thrown off, which triggers an irregular sleep pattern.
Stage 4: Self-Blame
Do you find yourself constantly blaming yourself for everything that happens, regardless of whether you are responsible or not? If so, you may be in the fourth stage of depression. During this stage, you experience a high level of self-blame. Trivial things are “blown up” until you feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness are highly prevalent during this stage. In your mind, you cannot do anything right. You are failure, yet in reality you aren’t a failure, you are just suffering from depression.
Stage 5: Suicidal Ideation (Thoughts and Behaviors)
The last and most dangerous stage of depression is the fifth stage – suicidal ideation. If you are at this stage and seriously contemplating suicide, it is important that you seek emergency treatment with a medical professional (i.e. psychologist, psychiatrist, clinical social worker, therapist, physician, etc.). You are at a critical stage in your depressive episode, and you need professional help. During this stage, you are probably obsessed with death and dying. You may have already planned out how you plan to commit suicide and/or you may have given away your belongings to friends and family. If you are at this stage – you are not OK. If you cannot get a hold of a medical professional – call 911. The feelings you are experiencing are only temporary. They will pass, I promise. There are people who can help you be happy again – you just have to reach out to them.
- Dr. R. Y. Langham
Healthline. (2014). Depression statistics. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic
Lane, C. (2013). Major depressive disorder. PsychWeb. Retrieved from http://www.psyweb.com/mdisord/MoodDis/majordepress.jsp
Stewart, J. Y. (2013). Stages of depression. Lifescript. Retrieved from http://www.lifescript.com/health/centers/depression/articles/the_stages_of_depression.aspx
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