Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs - HelpGuide.org (2022)

depression

Are you depressed? Here are some of the signs of depression to look for—and how they can vary according to your age, gender, and other factors.

Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs - HelpGuide.org (1)

What is depression?

Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but when emotions such as hopelessness and despair take hold and just won't go away, you may have depression. More than just sadness in response to life's struggles and setbacks, depression changes how you think, feel, and function in daily activities. It can interfere with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life. Just trying to get through the day can be overwhelming.

While some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic. Men in particular can feel angry and restless. However you experience the problem, left untreated it can become a serious health condition. But it's important to remember that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression—not the reality of your situation.

No matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better. By recognizing the different symptoms of depression, you can take the first steps to feeling better and overcoming the problem.

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(Video) Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs

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Signs and symptoms

Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It's important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life's normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they've lasted—the more likely it is that you're dealing with depression.

10 common depression symptoms

  1. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there's nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  2. Loss of interest in daily activities. You don't care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You've lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  3. Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  4. Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
  5. Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  6. Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  7. Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  8. Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  9. Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  10. Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

Am I depressed?

Take this depression quiz to find out:

Depression test

Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?

  1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things:
  2. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)
  3. Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
  4. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)
  5. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much:
  6. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)
  7. Feeling tired or having little energy:
  8. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)
  9. Poor appetite or overeating:
  10. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)
  11. Feeling bad about yourself—or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down:
  12. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)
  13. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading or watching television:
  14. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)
  15. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed:
  16. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)
  17. Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself:
  18. Not at all (0 points)
    Several days (1 point)
    More than half the days (2 points)
    Nearly every day (3 points)

Score:

Interpreting the score:

1 to 4: Minimal depression.

5 to 9: Mild depression.

10 to 14: Moderate depression.

15 to 19: Moderately severe depression.

20 to 27: Severe or major depression.

(Video) 10 Warning Signs Of Major Depression

This questionnaire is not intended to replace professional diagnosis.

Source: Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) ADAA

Depression vs. anxiety

While anxiety and depression are different conditions, they stem from the same biological vulnerability so often go hand-in-hand. Anxiety can both appear as a symptom of depression or it can trigger depression in the first place. In fact, studies suggest that over 40 percent of people with major depression also suffer with an anxiety disorder.

Some of the symptoms between the two conditions can also look very similar, making it difficult to distinguish between the conditions. Irritability, anger, unexplained aches and pains, and changes in energy, focus, and sleeping patterns can occur in both depression and anxiety. Even the persistent dark, negative thoughts commonly associated with depression can look a lot like the endless worry of anxiety.

[Read: Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks]

However, there are also some marked differences. While the symptoms of both depression and anxiety can look very different in different people, the following may help to distinguish between the conditions:

  • In depression without anxiety, you’re likely to feel sluggish and lifeless with little motivation to do anything. With anxiety, you’re more likely to feel tense and jittery with a racing mind.
  • In depression without anxiety, you may feel hopeless and helpless about what you see as an inevitably bleak future. With anxiety, you’re more likely to worry over and over about what the future holds, feeling frightened and nervous but thinking that your worry may hold the key to easing those fears.

If you recognize symptoms of anxiety co-occurring with your depression, it’s important to seek treatment for both conditions. Since they’re so closely related, a lot of the self-help and treatment options that work for anxiety will also help manage symptoms of depression.

Is it depression or bipolar disorder (manic depression)?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, involves serious shifts in moods, energy, thinking, and behavior. Because it looks so similar to depression when in the low phase, it is often overlooked and misdiagnosed. This can be a serious problem as taking antidepressants for bipolar disorder can actually make the condition worse.

[Read: Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms]

If you've ever gone through phases where you experienced excessive feelings of euphoria, a decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, and impulsive behavior, consider getting evaluated for bipolar disorder.

Other conditions that can mimic the symptoms of depression

Anxiety and bipolar disorder aren’t the only conditions that can be mistaken for depression. Just as depression can be triggered by other health problems, there are also mental and medical conditions that can mimic the symptoms of depression. These include:

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Symptoms such as restlessness, trouble concentrating and staying focused, irritability, and a loss of motivation can occur in both depression and ADHD. Even if your ADHD symptoms weren’t recognized in childhood, that doesn’t mean they’re not impacting you as an adult.

Chronic fatigue syndrome or long COVID. Persistent fatigue, changes to your sleep patterns, and difficulty focusing could also point to chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis) or long-haul COVID, where the effects of COVID-19 linger even when you’re no longer testing positive for the virus. While there is still a lot that medical professionals don’t fully understand about these conditions, there are still things you can do to ease symptoms and improve how you feel.

Parkinson’s disease. The lack of energy, slow movements, and changes to mood and memory that often accompany Parkinson’s disease can look a lot like depression symptoms in older adults.

Fibromyalgia. The widespread musculoskeletal pain of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is often accompanied by sleep, fatigue, and mood changes that can be mistaken for depression. Other sources of chronic pain can also leave you feeling hopeless and exhausted.

Other physical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, anemia, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and vitamin D deficiency can also trigger depression-like symptoms. Blood tests and other screening methods from a healthcare professional can help identify if these conditions are causing your symptoms.

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(Video) Physical Symptoms of Depression

Depression and suicide risk

Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. Deep despair and hopelessness can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain. If you have a loved one with depression, take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously and watch for the warning signs:

  • Talking about killing or harming one's self.
  • Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped.
  • An unusual preoccupation with death or dying.
  • Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights).
  • Calling or visiting people to say goodbye.
  • Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends).
  • Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me,” or “I want out.”
  • A sudden switch from being extremely down to acting calm and happy.

If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, express your concern and seek help immediately. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

If you are feeling suicidal…

When you're feeling suicidal, your problems don't seem temporary—they seem overwhelming and permanent. But with time, you will feel better, especially if you get help. There are many people who want to support you during this difficult time, so please reach out!

Read Are You Feeling Suicidal?, call 988 in the U.S., or visit IASP or Suicide.org to find a helpline in your country.

How depression symptoms vary with gender and age

Depression often varies according to age and gender, with symptoms differing between men and women, or young people and older adults.

Men

Depressed men are less likely to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness. Instead, they tend to complain about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest in work and hobbies. They're also more likely to experience symptoms such as anger, aggression, reckless behavior, and substance abuse.

Women

Women are more likely to experience symptoms such as pronounced feelings of guilt, excessive sleeping, overeating, and weight gain. Depression in women is also impacted by hormonal factors during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. In fact, postpartum depression affects up to one in seven women following childbirth.

Teens

Irritability, anger, and agitation are often the most noticeable symptoms in depressed teens—not sadness. They may also complain of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical pains.

Older adults

Older adults tend to complain more about the physical rather than the emotional signs and symptoms: things like fatigue, unexplained aches and pains, and memory problems. They may also neglect their personal appearance and stop taking critical medications for their health.

Next step

In addition to age and gender, depression symptoms can also vary according to the type or severity of your depression. Understanding the type of depression you’re dealing with can help to find the most effective ways to overcome the problem and start to feel better again. Read: Depression Types, Causes, and Risk Factors.

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.

    Get more help

    What Causes Depression? – Including genes, temperament, stressful life events, and medical issues. (Harvard Health Publishing)

    Co-occurring Disorders and Depression – How medical disorders can affect depression and vice versa. (Mental Health America)

    Atypical Depression: What's in a Name? – Article on the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of atypical depression. (American Psychiatric Association)

    Depression and Other Illnesses – An overview of the mental and physical illnesses that often co-exist with depression, and how this impacts treatment. (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)

    (Video) Top 10 SYMPTOMS and WARNING SIGNS of DEPRESSION | YOU must KNOW

    Depression support and suicide prevention help

    Depression support

    In the U.S.: FindDBSA Chapters/Support Groupsor call theNAMI Helplinefor support and referrals at 1-800-950-6264

    UK: FindDepression support groupsin-person and online or call theMind Infolineat 0300 123 3393

    Australia: Call theSANE HelpCentreat 1800 18 7263

    Canada:CallMood Disorders Society of Canadaat 613-921-5565

    India:Call the Vandrevala FoundationHelpline (India)at 1860 2662 345 or 1800 2333 330

    Suicide prevention help

    In the U.S.: Call988 Suicide and Crisis Lifelineat 988

    UK and Ireland: CallSamaritans UKat 116 123

    Australia: CallLifeline Australiaat 13 11 14

    Other countries: VisitIASPorSuicide.orgto find a helpline near you

    Around the web

    Last updated: October 21, 2022

    (Video) The lesser known symptoms of depression

    FAQs

    What are 5 of the main symptoms of clinical depression? ›

    Symptoms
    • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness.
    • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters.
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports.
    • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much.
    14 Oct 2022

    What are the 8 symptoms of major depressive disorder? ›

    It is diagnosed when an individual has a persistently low or depressed mood, anhedonia or decreased interest in pleasurable activities, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, lack of energy, poor concentration, appetite changes, psychomotor retardation or agitation, sleep disturbances, or suicidal thoughts.

    What is Level 3 depression? ›

    Definition This aggregate cause incorporates disability from major depressive disorder (MDD) and dysthymia. MDD involves the experience of depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure almost all day, every day, for two weeks.

    What are the 11 symptoms of depression? ›

    Common Symptoms of Depression
    • Consistently low mood. ...
    • Disinterest or avoidance of once enjoyed hobbies. ...
    • Trouble with concentration or memory. ...
    • Significant changes in eating or sleeping patterns. ...
    • Decreased self-care. ...
    • Physical pains and additional health issues. ...
    • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless. ...
    • Increased irritability or anger.
    3 Feb 2022

    What are the top 3 causes of depression? ›

    Causes - Clinical depression
    • Stressful events. Most people take time to come to terms with stressful events, such as bereavement or a relationship breakdown. ...
    • Personality. ...
    • Family history. ...
    • Giving birth. ...
    • Loneliness. ...
    • Alcohol and drugs. ...
    • Illness.

    What are the 5 levels of depression? ›

    Depression types include clinical depression, bipolar depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder and others. Treatment options range from counseling to medications to brain stimulation and complementary therapies.

    What does a mental breakdown look like? ›

    feel overwhelmed — unable to concentrate or make decisions. be moody — feeling low or depression; feeling burnt out; emotional outbursts of uncontrollable anger, fear, helplessness or crying. feel depersonalised — not feeling like themselves or feeling detached from situations.

    What is the most serious form of depression? ›

    Clinical depression is the more-severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn't the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder.

    What are the 4 main causes of depression? ›

    Here are four of the main ones.
    • Genetics. One of the most influential factors in the onset of major depression is outside your control: your genetic code. ...
    • Substance Abuse. ...
    • Early Childhood Experiences. ...
    • Major Life Events (Both Immediate and Prolonged)
    1 Sept 2019

    What triggers a depressive episode? ›

    Depression episodes can be triggered by factors such as stressful events, loss, illness, lifestyle habits, and substance use.

    How long do most depressive episodes last? ›

    A: The duration of a depressive episode varies and is influenced by its severity, as well as treatment and individual factors. However, the average length of a depressive episode is thought to be six to eight months.

    Is there an end to depression? ›

    Depression is a serious mental illness and is unlikely to go away or cure itself. Without treatment, depression can last for years or decades and can worsen over time. For people concerned about whether their depression will ever go away, it's important to reach out and seek professional treatment.

    What is the most common way to treat depression? ›

    Medications and psychotherapy are effective for most people with depression. Your primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional.

    Is depression curable or just treatable? ›

    There's no cure for depression, but there are lots of effective treatments. People can recover from depression and live long and healthy lives.

    What are the 5 signs of mental illness? ›

    Symptoms
    • Feeling sad or down.
    • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
    • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
    • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
    • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
    • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
    8 Jun 2019

    How are people diagnosed with depression? ›

    To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have five depression symptoms every day, nearly all day, for at least 2 weeks. One of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Children and adolescents may be irritable rather than sad.

    Can depression make you ill all the time? ›

    This mood disorder causes a number of emotional symptoms, including persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in things once enjoyed. Depression can also cause physical symptoms. Depression can make you feel sick and cause symptoms like exhaustion, headaches, and aches and pains.

    What chemicals are released during depression? ›

    People with clinical depression often have increased levels of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), an enzyme that breaks down key neurotransmitters, resulting in very low levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

    How do you know if you have a chemical imbalance? ›

    Symptoms of Chemical Imbalances
    1. Loss of appetite or overeating.
    2. Irritability.
    3. Restlessness.
    4. Sleeping too much or insomnia.
    5. Extreme mood swings.
    6. Lack of energy.
    7. Lack of empathy or feeling numbness.
    1 Apr 2022

    What is the sad hormone called? ›

    production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression.

    What are 4 clinical characteristics of clinical depression? ›

    Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame. Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things. Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.

    What are the 5 levels of depression? ›

    Depression types include clinical depression, bipolar depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder and others. Treatment options range from counseling to medications to brain stimulation and complementary therapies.

    What are the 3 core symptoms of depression? ›

    Agitation or slowing down of movements and thoughts. Poor concentration or indecisiveness. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.

    What are 5 facts about depression? ›

    5 Facts About Depression
    • Depression comes in many forms. ...
    • Depression is treatable. ...
    • There are a lot of myths about antidepressants. ...
    • There's a stigma with depression — as with every mental illness. ...
    • Remission is possible.
    28 Mar 2022

    What are the 4 main causes of depression? ›

    Here are four of the main ones.
    • Genetics. One of the most influential factors in the onset of major depression is outside your control: your genetic code. ...
    • Substance Abuse. ...
    • Early Childhood Experiences. ...
    • Major Life Events (Both Immediate and Prolonged)
    1 Sept 2019

    How long do most depressive episodes last? ›

    A: The duration of a depressive episode varies and is influenced by its severity, as well as treatment and individual factors. However, the average length of a depressive episode is thought to be six to eight months.

    What is considered major depression? ›

    Major depressive disorder isn't something that eventually “passes.” While most people feel sad at times in their lives, major depression is when a person is in a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. Some people feel depressed without knowing why.

    What is the final stage of depression? ›

    Depression creates a sensation of isolation as if you are lost in the wilderness with no direction. The final stage is acceptance, which means you have finally made peace with the reality of your mental illness.

    Is there an end to depression? ›

    Depression is a serious mental illness and is unlikely to go away or cure itself. Without treatment, depression can last for years or decades and can worsen over time. For people concerned about whether their depression will ever go away, it's important to reach out and seek professional treatment.

    Is depression curable or just treatable? ›

    There's no cure for depression, but there are lots of effective treatments. People can recover from depression and live long and healthy lives.

    What are two common symptoms of major depression? ›

    While each person may experience symptoms differently, these are the most common symptoms of depression:
    • Lasting sad, anxious, or “empty” mood.
    • Loss of interest in almost all activities.
    • Appetite and weight changes.
    • Changes in sleep patterns, such as inability to sleep or sleeping too much.

    What is a mental breakdown? ›

    The term mental breakdown is often used when a person has a mental health crisis that overcomes their emotions. It can stem from other conditions like depression and anxiety but tends to be a severe case.

    How do you test for nervous breakdown? ›

    A nervous breakdown is not a recognized medical term, so technically, there is no way to diagnose it. A person who feels overwhelmed by stress or feelings of anxiety or who feels unable to carry on their daily life should see a doctor, who can help.

    Who does depression mainly affect? ›

    Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from depression. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. More women are affected by depression than men.

    How does depression affect the brain? ›

    Depression causes the hippocampus to raise its cortisol levels, impeding the development of neurons in your brain. The shrinkage of brain circuits is closely connected to the reduction of the affected part's function. While other cerebral areas shrink due to high levels of cortisol, the amygdala enlarges.

    What are risks of depression? ›

    Risk factors include: Personal or family history of depression. Major life changes, trauma, or stress. Certain physical illnesses and medications.

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