Things Getting Under Your Skin? It Could Be Depression

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We all have things that get under our skin. But when things irritate us uncharacteristically and for little apparent reason, it just could be that we’re actually struggling with depression.

Ever feel cranky, grouchy, or ornery for no apparent reason? Do you find yourself responding to the sound of your partner’s voice like you would to fingernails scratching across a chalk board? Does your puppy’s whining to go out and play make you just want to scream?

In recent years, much more information has become available about depression. And many of us are familiar with depression’s more common signs and symptoms. These include:

  • A sad or low mood. Feeling down in the dumps, “blue,” and unhappy and possibly for no discernable reason.
  • A loss of interest and pleasure in things that have characteristically been a source of joy. Not wanting to do things that have always been of interest. Sometimes this can escalate into losing interest in almost anything. And not finding any joy in doing the things we usually find of interest. Sometimes this can escalate into finding no joy in anything.
  • An uncharacteristic change in appetite or eating habits. Binging and wanting to eat all the tim. Losing appetite for things we’ve typically enjoyed. This can escalate into losing appetite altogether. Putting on an unusual amount of weight or dropping a significant number of pounds unintentionally.
  • A change in usual sleeping pattern. Chronically oversleeping. Staying in bed or not wanting to get out of bed. Difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep. Waking up early. Sleeping a lot but still not feeling rested or refreshed upon awakening.
  • Uncharacteristic avoidance of social interaction. This can escalate into more general social withdrawal or isolation.
  • Difficulty concentrating and performing usual tasks. Feeling overwhelmed or incapable of doing things generally easily done.
  • Excessive feeling of guilt and shame. Possibly unreasonable, and unwarranted feelings of guilt. Feelings of worthlessness. Feelings of powerlessness. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
  • A sense of doom. Thoughts of death. Thoughts of self-harm. Plans or attempts of suicide.

The above are some of the more common and well-known signs and symptoms of depression. But sometimes depression expresses itself in some very different ways, especially in children, adolescents, and younger adults, making it difficult to detect. Long before the anger that sometimes underlies depression gets “turned inward,” it can lurk just below the surface and manifest as heightened irritability and abrasiveness.

Some individuals have a characteristically “short fuse.” It’s intrinsic to their temperament and part of their personality. Hopefully, with proper guidance and experience, such folks can learn to overcome these tendencies to an extent, increase their frustration tolerance, and moderate their responses. But an all too commonly overlooked sign of depression is when a normally level-headed person becomes uncharacteristically and easily annoyed and quick to lash out. They might “snap” at you for no apparent reason or get angry and frustrated over the slightest little thing. Sometimes their quick rise to anger can just as quickly turn to tears. This is more common in younger children (inasmuch as the older we get the more prone we are to want to hide our tears) and makes it a bit easier to surmise that depression is really at work. But sometimes a person’s increased irritability is not so obvious. They might simply disengage quickly, before becoming too upset, shut down, or fail to speak up when something’s actually bothering them.

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Whether someone’s showing the more classic signs of depression or some of the more subtle signs like easy irritability, the one reliable signal that something problematic is going on is how uncharacteristic it is for the person to be behaving the way they are. When you see such uncharacteristic behavior in others, it’s easier to tell that something’s wrong, even if you’re not sure it’s depression. But when the uncharacteristic behavior is in you, you may not be able to recognize it or appreciate its significance. So it’s important to take things seriously when you notice a change in someone’s typical pattern of behavior, and it’s worthy of your attention when someone you know points out that you don’t seem to be acting yourself. Depression is a serious, sometimes debilitating, and unfortunately occasionally even fatal illness. Changes in mood, eating or sleeping habits, etc. or even how easily things seem to be getting under a person’s skin lately should always sound an alarm. Depression is a treatable illness. And the quicker someone gets the help they need, the better. We all do well to be aware of the warning signs — not just the more commonly known ones, but all of them, including uncharacteristic grouchiness, easy frustration, or irritability.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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