How to Spot the “Early Warning Systems” to Improve Depression

Physical signs to look out for

In spotting the signs of depression, you may notice physical changes, such as sleep disturbances and appetite changes like eating more or less than usual or gaining/losing weight. Also, complaining of headaches, stomach aches, and joint and muscle aches. During a physical state, your thinking can often get confused, meaning you start to feel unfamiliar with shifting mood states. It can affect your ability to cope environmentally, for example, at work, family responsibility or study. While this condition causes physical symptoms, and on rare occasions has physical causes, it is not a disease, yet is often unpreventable except with medication.

Social/motivational symptoms

You may notice a lack of social activity deteriorating more than before. Hanging out with friends or visiting and receiving visitors starts to become a struggle. Also withdrawing from your immediate family, where you might spend much of your time in your room, begins to become apparent. Additionally, showing a lack of motivation when getting ready for work, study or family commitments start to take its toll. You may also appear to lose interest in close relationships or intimacy.

Variation in moods

Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger, agitation and despair also occur when depression worsens. The difference in moods can change throughout the day, which might be worse in the morning yet improve later in the day, or vice-versa. You may find you’re feeling apathetic and lose interest in specific projects or the activities and hobbies you used to enjoy.

Identifying why you’re feeling low or agitated is helpful. The “early warning systems” can help identify certain moods and help you monitor and regulate your feelings.

What are the “Early Warning Systems”?

The “Early warning systems” is a strategy that’s used in therapy to help evaluate why someone is feeling a particular way. For example, if you were to start feeling low in the afternoon, you might think that your mood will worsen and never get better, but it might mean you had little sleep the night before. By understanding and using the “early warning systems”, you or your caregiver can help you grasp the difference between feelings and facts. It helps determine what it is that caused your mood to change in the first place. You learn to identify specific challenges in certain environments, with individual people or friends, physical or emotional states, lifestyle, medication and more. You can then problem-solve anything amiss with these things. Finding the key to an early warning system means you can then influence how to manage your moods independently.

Negative beliefs

Cognitive symptoms that include persistent negative beliefs about yourself and your abilities add to the problem. Cognitive symptoms can also slow down thoughts, making concentrating on tasks difficult. Taking in central coherence during work or remembering and making decisions about other things in your life can also be part of depressed moods.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Since thoughts, feelings and behaviours interact, cognitive behavioural therapy can help you think better about your unhelpful thoughts. When thoughts change for the better, feelings and behaviour also improves.


Recognising the “early warning systems” can help you when you’re clinically depressed. By evaluating why your moods are low and then finding ways to manage them is essential for improved mental health. Also, cognitive therapy can help change negative thoughts for better outcomes.

To read more about clinical and major depression and the early warning systems go to: Effective Ways to Handle Depression.

Disclaimer: This document is information-based only. Therefore, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article, please consult with your medical practitioner for their advice and before using the suggested strategies. 

By Carol Edwards

Get a FREE online counselling consultation with Sunil Punjabi

Sunil Punjabi is a confident therapist who supports individuals struggling with depression. He is also highly recommended for his expert approach in delivering exposure-response prevention, the treatment of choice for anxiety and OCD.

Sunil is available:

  • In-person, over the phone, or online, so that distance is not a constraint
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