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  • Depression is marked by intense feelings of despair and a loss of interest in daily activities—the remaining symptoms can vary and even resemble the flu.
  • Depression and the flu share physical symptoms like fatigue and changes in weight or appetite; additionally, victims of both illnesses can experience similar changes in mood.
  • To be diagnosed with depression, you must meet a specific set of criteria, of which includes the aforementioned feelings of despair and loss of interest or pleasure.
  • If you’re experiencing symptoms of either or both illnesses, it’s important you get a professional opinion and diagnosis.
  • The next step is to receive proper treatment for whichever illness you’re dealing with so that you can move forward with your life.

Depression is characterized by, well, a depressed state. Those who develop the condition present this state of despair as well as a loss of interest or pleasure in day to day life. The remaining characteristics can vary… and be mistaken for another illness entirely—the flu. This makes distinguishing the difference between the two illnesses and their symptoms vital.

Understanding Depression and its Symptoms

Depression comes with a range of symptoms, from mood to behavioral, cognitive, and the more physical. These include:

  • Intense feelings of despair
  • Sleep disruption
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment

These symptoms make depression a highly disruptive condition—mentally, emotionally, and physically. “It is a mental condition which not only has the potential to affect your mind, but also your body,” Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert, explains. “The stress and anxiety which accompany some types of depression may cause the body to react in a way which resembles physical illness.”

Anybody who has ever had the flu knows that fatigue, changes in weight or appetite, and sleep disruption can (and often do) accompany this sickness—all of which are listed above as symptoms of depression. Additionally, “the emotions and moods which come with the territory of being sick with the flu can also be seen during mentally overwhelming times of stress,” says Backe. Think: irritability, loss of interest, even sadness or despair.

So… Is It the Flu or Depression?

To meet diagnosis for depression, one must experience intense feelings of despair, a loss of interest or pleasure, and at least three other symptoms (determined by the DSM), for two weeks or longer. That said, the line that exists between the flu and depression can still appear blurry. And in either case you need to receive proper treatment. So, if you’re experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, go see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. “Determining the root cause of something is always best left to the professionals,” says Backe. “Self-diagnosing and self-medicating could be an issue with a subject matter this sensitive and fragile, so it is advised to seek care from a qualified provider.”

If you’re still unsure about getting that depression screening, here’s a list of factors that signify a need for doing so, as determined by Backe:

  • When those around them are showing genuine concern for their mental wellbeing, due to your loss of interest, or your irritability
  • When you find yourself unable to function properly due to your negative emotions, whether at work, outside, or at home
  • When you’re not sleeping or eating right and are experiencing an “empty” and vacant feeling regularly
  • When you’re having persistent thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book and has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."

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