Everyone has down days. Feeling a range of emotions and getting upset about things from time to time doesn't make you broken, it makes you human.
But while it's perfectly natural to swing between happiness and sadness or excitement and apathy, there are some times when the negativity can feel like it's swallowing up all of the good stuff—and it's not right or fair for you to spend your life battling that darkness when you could be enjoying everything the world has to offer.
So what is the difference between a bad mood that can be beaten, or a sign that it's time to ask for help?
1. You don't want to see your friends
When something goes wrong in our lives, we generally turn to the people we love the most, and for most of us, even a night in front of a movie or a catch up over coffee can make us feel just about as happy as we were feeling sadfaced before.
Cutting friends out of your life is a bad sign—especially if when you do end up seeing them, you don't like spending time in their company anymore. One of the hardest things about depression is the way that it isolates you, making it ten times more difficult to reach out, so try your best to put two fingers up to your cloud of sadness and make plans with pals whenever you feel like you can. If they're the good eggs you've always believed they are, you'll need them along the way.
2. Your eating habits have changed
Hands up if you're prone of a bit of comfort eating? Err… so that'll be all of us then—but for those living with depression, changes in appetite are far more extreme than a late-night box of Krispy Kremes dunked in Nutella (guilty…)
There are two common ways that mood can affect appetite—not wanting to eat at all, or eating more than is necessary or comfortable, and BOTH can affect your mental and physical health just as seriously. Not eating enough can leave you feeling weak and anxious, whilst eating too much can leave your body feeling sluggish and overwhelmed, and either way, it's a sign that it's become too much effort to take care of your body—an issue which needs addressing. Make a conscious effort to eat 3 balanced meals a day, and always seek advice from your doctor if you think your eating habits are getting out of your control.
3. You're constantly tired
And no, not in an "ugh, my alarm just went off and I can't with Mondays" kind of way—in a truly exhausted, hopeless way, even if you've just had a full eight hours. The tiredness that comes with depression occurs in your body and your mind—you might end up sleeping for more hours than you're awake, and find that your attention span has shrunk, leaving you unable to concentrate on even the easiest of watches or reads anymore.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, not being able to sleep at all is also a frequent problem for people with depression—in fact, it's not uncommon to stay awake all night, especially if you're dwelling on a particular problem that can't be solved straight away. Exercise, avoiding caffeine and relaxation techniques can all help, but until your emotional symptoms are managed, your sleep patterns are likely to stay disturbed.
4. You're not interested in sex
Sex drives are completely personal beasts—you might be at it twice a day, totally happy having sex once a month, or just not into it much at all, and any of these options are totally fine. Whatever floats your respective boat, ya know?
The important change to note is if you once had a pretty active sex life, but now have no motivation to pursue sex at all. Depression essentially robs you of the ability to feel pleasure, and in the same way that your low mood might stop you feeling bothered about seeing friends, eating your fave meals or going out and having fun, often you stop giving a shit what happens between the sheets as well. Talk to your partner about how you're feeling, and don't feel pressured into having sex when you don't want to, but if you do want to, it's time to get it sorted.
5. You can't look forward to the future
A bad day makes you look forward to the weekend—a bad month makes you feel like you have nothing to look forward to. The key difference between a bad mood and something more serious is the fact that depression will plague you for as long as it can, making it hard to plan for or even imagine a time when it's not smothering you entirely.
Ultimately, if you have any of the above symptoms for an extended period of time, or have any other reason to believe you might have depression, there are two things you need to know: you're not alone, and it isn't forever. The first step is recognising that you need support, and the next one is asking for it—don't put either of them off.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.