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7 Common Symptoms That Can Be Signs of Depression

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There’s a lot more to depression than feeling really, really sad. Sneaky symptoms like insomnia and grouchiness creep in so gradually that many people don’t even realize they’re depressed. Take a look at the symptoms below: They're not exclusive to depression, but if you can check off several on the list, it might be time to talk to your doctor. Depression is very treatable.

1. EVERYTHING IS HARD.

“Executive function” is the technical term for the tiny emperor that lives in your brain, kicking in when you can’t go on automatic and have to concentrate or make a decision. Depression can cause executive dysfunction, making it very hard to convince yourself to sort the laundry, return a phone call, finish a project, or wash the dishes. If these small tasks are piling up, don’t blame yourself—but pay attention.

2. EVERYTHING IS BORING.

Depression is like emotional bleach. It can suck the color and life out of everything, from conversations with friends to your favorite TV show. Anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure, is a very common symptom that makes it hard to focus or care about the things that used to bring you alive.

3. EVERYONE IS ANNOYING.

Does everybody and everything push your buttons these days? Has your fuse gotten shorter? Irritability is a classic but less well-known symptom that, like anhedonia, can cause people to push their now-aggravating loved ones away and become isolated. Some studies have found that depression with irritability may be a separate, more intense subtype of the illness.

4. YOUR CLOTHES DON’T FIT LIKE THEY USED TO.

Depression will do a number on your relationship with your body and food. Anhedonia and a decreased appetite may make food less appealing, while executive dysfunction can make it hard to shop or prepare meals. Some people with depression seek solace in food, using the stress-inhibiting powers associated with carbs and fats to feel better for a short time. Illnesses and medical issues that cause depression can also cause weight gain and loss.

5. YOUR HAIR IS GREASY.

When anhedonia, executive dysfunction, and isolation combine, they create … a person who doesn’t feel like taking a shower. Letting yourself temporarily ignore the demands of an overly clean culture when your mood is stable can be incredibly freeing. Wearing dirty clothes for four days because you’re too numb to move is not.

6. YOU CAN’T SLEEP … OR STOP SLEEPING.

Sleep disturbance is both a sign and a possible cause of depression. Some depressed people stop being able to sleep, and when we don’t sleep, our mental state begins to fray. Depression can also cause intense fatigue that doesn’t go away even after you’ve had a good night’s rest. Take a look at your sleep habits and energy level. Have they changed for reasons you don’t understand?

7. EVERYTHING HURTS.

The relationship between depression and pain is incredibly complicated. People who live with chronic daily pain are at a high risk for becoming depressed. It hurts to hurt and to feel limited or trapped by pain. But depression can also increase our brain’s sensitivity to pain, making us more likely to just feel bad all over. Antidepressant medications have been shown to help decrease pain, and treating pain can help reduce depression.

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science
New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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