When you are dealing with a narcissistic abuser in a toxic relationship, you’ll experience all kinds of PTSD-related symptoms, including dissociation, anxiety, various physical symptoms and much more.
One of the easiest symptoms to miss is depression – and while everybody gets depressed from time to time, there are certain warning signs you should watch for when it comes to healing after your toxic relationship or even trying to find the strength to leave one.
Depression is tough because it can debilitate you, and because it’s easy for people to miss – you might just be a little quieter than usual or a bit withdrawn, and after having survived the abuse you have, a lot of people might assume it’s normal. That can absolutely be the case – but sometimes, you’ve got a case of clinical depression, and that can be devastating to your life and to your narcissistic abuse recovery.
Narcissists and How They Affect Your Depression
Most of the time, a narcissist will do everything in his or her power to maintain some level of control over you, so your depression gives them a chance to twist in the screws a little tighter. Rather than helping you through it, they’ll put their proverbial foot on top of your proverbial head and spit on you as you try to climb out of the depths of hell. That’s why, if you’re still currently dealing with the narc in your life, you might want to consider working toward going no contact (or low contact). Your life may depend on it.
How Is Clinical Depression Different from Sadness?
It’s normal to feel sad when faced with stressful or emotional situations, but how can you distinguish feelings of sadness from clinical depression symptoms? The answer is complex. Sadness or “the blues” might disappear soon after the onset, perhaps a few days later. Clinical depression will usually last for two weeks or longer and cause noticeable changes in your lifestyle.
During periods of sadness or stressful situations, you might be able to pull yourself out of the mood by talking to a trusted friend, getting away for awhile or simply taking better care of yourself. Clinical depression is signified by feeling like you’re in an unfathomable abyss that you can’t climb out of no matter what you do.
This can manifest in a number of ways, of course. A lot of my coaching clients tell me that they just go numb after awhile, but that they find themselves with a bit of social anxiety – and find that they prefer to be alone a lot. They can’t deal with social situations because they feel overwhelmed by both their own emotions and the idea of having to handle ONE MORE PROBLEM feels like it might just be the straw to break the camel’s back.
So, if you’re in that boat, you may find yourself becoming upset when friends or family attempt to cheer you up or reach out to you in some other way.
You might find that you have feelings of irritability, stomach problems, changes in sleep patterns or an inability to cope with even the most menial tasks or dilemmas – and you can’t always pinpoint any good reason for this stuff.
Clinical depression might mean that you have thoughts of death or suicide, that life just isn’t worth living anymore or that you’re worthless and don’t deserve anything good.
Men Vs. Women – Clinical Depression Related to Narcissistic Abuse
Women experiencing these symptoms usually don’t have as difficult a time reaching out for help, but men might consider it a sign of weakness to admit that they’re depressed. They may lose perspective and attempt to live with the debilitating symptoms rather than asking for assistance. Clinical depression isn’t something that can be worked through without help.
The Easiest Way to Detect Depression in Yourself
The most solid clarification of the differences in sadness and clinical depression is that sadness is fleeting and the feelings usually disappear after you cope with whatever problems are causing the distress. You go on living with sadness, working every day and dealing with the lingering thoughts that are causing the “blues.”
Clinical depression just going to stick around until your life becomes a living hell. Well meaning friends and family might tell you to “snap out of it,” or “get over it,” but you just can’t make that transition. Turning to drugs and alcohol or other medications to feel better, even for a limited amount of time, is a choice that could harm you or affect the rest of your life in a negative way.
Another Possible Cause of Clinical Depression: Your Rx
Prescription drugs for a medical condition might also be causing clinical depression as it chemically changes your body’s makeup. If you suspect that prescription medications might be the cause of your depression, speak to your physician about changing the dosage or the type of prescription you’re taking.
If you’ve tried everything to make your depression go away, but feel locked into the emotional roller coaster of sadness and despair, you may have clinical depression. Clinical depression can be treated with a number of options that you can discuss with your doctor.
Understanding the Symptoms of Depression
Are the hopeless, exhausted and sad feelings you’re experiencing signs of depression or just “the blues,” and it’s lasting longer than usual? Understanding the symptoms of depression can clue you in to whether you’re having a typical down time or if you need to go and see a doctor for treatment of depression.
By taking the time to understand the symptoms of depression and know how it’s affecting you, you can get out of the dumps faster and get back to the life you need to be living. Understanding the symptoms of depression is the first step you need to take to overcome this debilitating problem that usually affects everyone sooner or later.
First, you need to know that life’s challenges are enough to sometimes make you sad and disappointed. Those feelings alone aren’t considered depression. Full blown depression is much more than that. When symptoms of depression overwhelm your life so that you can’t work, eat, sleep and barely function through each day, depression may be the reason for this relentless onslaught.
Some symptoms that may be a red flag for clinical depression include:
- Thoughts that life is just not worth living that turn in to thoughts of ending your life.
- Feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness that bring on guilt and sadness.
- Lack of concentration for even the most menial tasks.
- Insomnia that brings on fatigue or sleeping too much.
- Constant fatigue.
- Irritability with others or extreme anger.
- Loss of appetite or binge eating that leads to weight gain or loss.
- Physical problems such as headaches, stomach aches or other chronic pain problems.
Depression can affect young and old, men and women, successful people and those who have lost almost everything. Symptoms sometimes appear different in men than in women and also different in teenagers and even children. Seniors often have a problem with depression after they’ve lost a spouse or had a major life change, such as moving into a nursing home.
Various types of depression can cause varied symptoms. For example, a mild depression could come in the form of feeling slightly depressed and it may go away quickly and your normal mood may return, but mild depression can return again and sometimes last for years. Often, mild depression can go undetected and cause problems in your lifestyle.
Major depression is usually accompanied by a complete inability to find any pleasure in life. If a bout with major symptoms of depression is left untreated, it may last for months, so if you think you’re having symptoms that surpass the normal “blues,” seek treatment immediately.
Your turn. Are you depressed? Have you been clinically depressed before? How’d you deal? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, and let’s talk about it.
Next week, I’ll do a series on how to overcome depression during your narcissistic abuse recovery – stay tuned!
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.