I’m Depressed…Or Maybe Not


November 5, 2022


It’s not unusual for caregivers and those they care for to experience depression. But did you know there are lots of illnesses that can mimic depression?  

In the past, it was common for people to deny depression, claiming that they were “fine,” or that they are just tired. Even now, this and other responses come from family caregivers because they don’t know what is “normal” for caregivers to experience. More recently, perhaps because of websites like WebMD, people are observing certain symptoms and deciding that they or their care receiver is depressed. Either way, it’s best to check with a medical professional.

8 Conditions that Can Mimic Depression

  1. Anemia – Small and deficient blood cell results in low iron, poor oxygen-carrying capacity. This leads to fatigue as the oxygen is not reaching to the important organs, Low energy levels, fatigue, and moodiness are among depression symptoms.
  2. Anxiety – Characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, physical changes like increased blood pressure, usually recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. Anxiety is not the same as fear, but they are often used interchangeably.
  3. ADHD – Adult Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — While the adult version shares symptoms of childhood ADHD such as lack of attention and impulsiveness, it can impact patients in other ways.
  4. ME/CFS – or chronic fatigue syndrome. Myalgic encephalomyelitis, is a serious, long-term illness that affects many body systems. People with ME/CFS are often not able to do their usual activities. At times, ME/CFS may confine them to bed. People with ME/CFS have severe fatigue and sleep problems.
  5. Diabetes – problems managing diabetes can be associated with feelings of sadness, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy. These symptoms can get in the way of how well you function at work and home, including taking care of your diabetes.
  6. Low blood sugar – Have you ever felt so hungry you feel angry or irritable? It may not be depression but low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia. is when your body experiences very low levels of sugar, one of your body’s energy sources. A drop in blood sugar causes similar symptoms as depression — irritability or intense fluctuations of emotion.
  7. Hypothyroidism – when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, you may have fatigue, sluggishness, trouble concentrating, and sleep disturbance. These symptoms may be those of depression.
  8. Vitamin D – Research is providing increasing, although not definite, evidence of an association between vitamin D insufficiency and depression. Increased vitamin D intake in those with clinical depression who are vitamin D deficient may benefit.

Also, remember prescription medications can affect other medications, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamin supplements. Those interactions can change your mood, thinking, and energy.

This blog is for information only and does not replace the advice of a physician.

SOURCE: Zanda Hilger, M.Ed., LPC

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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