How to Recognize Clinical Depression in the Early Stages The initial onset of clinical depression is not easy to identify. Its early symptoms are subtle, gradual and tend to develop in succession, like dominoes tumbling one after the other. Because depression hides in the shadows in its earliest stages, when the\u00a0full-blown clinical disorder arrives it may seem as if it blindsided you. Only after you awaken beneath the surface of the water do you suddenly realize you\u2019re drowning. Depression Is Not Sadness It is natural to feel sad or discouraged from time to time. Life often hurts and disappoints us. When the blows are especially painful it might take you some time to bounce back. But eventually you\u2019ll learn to accept what happened and move on. Clinical depression, however, is different. Depression buries your feelings of unhappiness and discontent under an avalanche of emptiness, hopelessness and despair, which grab hold of you and refuse to release their iron grip. Ideally, you should seek help immediately when the\u00a0symptoms of depression appear. Job loss, relationship troubles, financial setbacks and\u00a0substance use problems\u00a0are just some of the difficulties you may experience when depression gets out of control. But you can\u2019t react to what you don\u2019t recognize. That is why knowledge about the earliest signs of depression is so important and can have such a powerful protective effect. Storm Clouds on the Horizon: Identifying the Early Symptoms of Depression Depression affects more than\u00a0eight percent of the population of people over the age of 20 at any given time. It is a progressive condition, and while there are continuities between earlier and later symptoms, early-stage depression isn\u2019t nearly as mind-altering or life-consuming as the later version. This can catch you unprepared if you aren\u2019t aware of the differences and don\u2019t know what to watch out for. Here are some telltale signs of clinical depression in its initial stages: \tLow motivation and a lack of energy: When we\u2019re busy living our lives, it never dawns on us that motivation is required for even the simplest, most routine tasks. But when the curtain of depression falls, everything becomes a struggle. Getting up in the morning, preparing meals, getting ready for work, brushing your teeth, showering, going to the store \u2026 all of it becomes a challenge, and as days and nights pass, you\u2019ll do so without energy or enthusiasm. \tLoss of interest in hobbies and other favorite pastimes: You may still practice the same activities, but you won\u2019t take pleasure from them or look forward to them the way you used to. Soon, you\u2019ll find yourself making excuses not to leave the house or see friends who share your interests. Instead of pursuing your favorite hobbies, you\u2019ll spend your time lying on the couch in front of the TV or surfing on your computer. \tLoss of emotional edge: In the early stages of depression, you\u2019ll continue to feel a wide range of emotions. But they won\u2019t be quite the same as before. In general, your emotional reactions will lack depth and intensity; they\u2019ll feel like pale imitations of the real thing. That sensation of dullness or deadness may seem moderate at first, but can worsen if your depression is unaddressed. \tVague and un-diagnosable aches, pains and physical ailments: The physical symptoms you experience may include tension headaches, sharp neck pain, backaches, numbness in the facial muscles and stomach troubles. In response, you may visit numerous doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists and a host of other specialists. Unfortunately, none will be able to offer relief or identify any physiological causes for your discomfort. \tChanges in sleep patterns or eating habits: You may stay up unusually late or wake up unusually early. You may take naps every day because you\u2019re feeling so tired and worn out. Your hunger may be insatiable or you may lose your appetite altogether. The specifics will vary, but almost everyone in the early stages of depression will experience sleeping and eating disruptions. \tSmall problems suddenly seem insurmountable: Depression will sap your inner strength and steal your resiliency. Even the smallest setbacks will begin to overwhelm you, leaving you unable to respond or take meaningful action. As your ability to manage stress and conflict lessens, you\u2019ll feel a strong urge to withdraw, from situations that make you feel vulnerable. \tPerforming in school or at work becomes increasingly difficult: As depression develops, your ability to concentrate and stay focused will slowly fade away. You\u2019ll become restless and easily bored or distracted. Your mind will wander even while performing tasks you found enjoyable or rewarding in the past. \tThe world will begin to seem like a dark, scary and dangerous place: The influence of depression will color your worldview. You\u2019ll see sorrow and suffering all around you. You\u2019ll be filled with pessimism about your own future as well as the future of the planet. What you\u2019ll be doing of course is projecting your inner feelings onto the exterior environment. If that continues, you\u2019ll eventually see your apathy and despair as a rational response to a world gone mad. It Is Never Too Early to Recover from Depression If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you should make an\u00a0appointment to see a psychiatrist or psychologist\u00a0right away. A trained mental health professional can evaluate your psychological and emotional well-being and diagnose clinical depression if it is present. Treatment for depression\u00a0usually involves a combination of therapy and medication, and your chances for recovery are excellent if intervention begins early. But if your depression has progressed to a later stage don\u2019t despair. Recent research has shown that even treatment-resistant depression can be helped,\u00a0especially by stimulating the vagus nerve. There is still reason for hope, and that remains true even if your depression has been complicated by a substance use disorder. You can find the strength and the courage to reach out and ask for help. Your own destiny can be yours once again.