Depression is a very complex state which is why the signs of depression are wide-ranging.
Many people are depressed without realising it.
Depression is certainly much more than just feeling sad.
It’s not a disease that a person either has or doesn’t have.
Like most mental conditions it exists on a continuum — in this case from mild to severe.
Depression can last for weeks, months or even years.
10 signs of depression
In general people who are depressed often feel that life is hopeless, that their lives are worthless and they are out of control.
Since the mind and body are so intimately connected, many of the symptoms are not purely mental.
For a positive diagnosis, a person would be experiencing some of the following signs of depression almost every day.
1. Sadness, low mood and anxiety, or often a combination of these. It could include crying for no reason. In depression some combination of these negative feelings usually persists for at least a couple of weeks.
2. Low motivation: a general loss of interest in things a person used to find enjoyable. It could include loss of sex drive or interest in work, socialising and hobbies.
3. Low energy: a feeling that normal daily tasks are too exhausting. It may also include being unable to get out of bed at the usual time, speaking slowly and having unexplained aches and pains.
4. Changes to sleep patterns: people who are depressed often find their sleep is disrupted. They have difficulty getting to sleep and may wake frequently in the night.
5. Poor concentration: finding it hard to make decisions or finding that negative thoughts take over the mind. As a result, people with depression can also feel very restless or impatient.
6. Hopelessness and helplessness: thinking “What’s the point?” and seeing little hope for change in the future. Depressed people often describe feeling ’empty inside’ as well as out of control.
7. Weight change: people with depression may lose weight or gain weight depending on how they respond. The weight change, though, can be an important sign of depression.
8. Thoughts of death: while thinking about death occasionally is normal, becoming preoccupied with it is less so. Depression can lead to an unhelpful focus on death. Self-harm or suicidal thoughts may follow.
9. Worthlessness and guilt: depressed people blame themselves for their situation. This lowers their self-esteem and creates feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
10. Self-medication: using alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs more than usual.
Living with depression
Since it can come on gradually, the signs of depression may be difficult to spot.
That’s why many people do not realise there is a problem until it is pointed out by someone else.
Depression is often classified into mild, moderate or severe, depending on its impact on daily life.
Mild depression has some impact on daily life, moderate has a significant impact and severe depression makes it very hard to get through the day.
Depression is often classified into all sorts of sub-types and is frequently found with other mental health problems.
Most people who have an episode of depression are able to recover and be symptom free, but it depends on the severity.
However, 50% of people who have an episode of major depression go on to have at last one more episode.
This quick self-assessment tool is provided by the National Health Service in the UK.
It asks about the common signs of depression, how often they are being experienced and then it provides a score.
A score of 10-14 means mild depression, 15-19 is moderate depression and 20+ is severe depression.
Mild depression may go away by itself or with a little self-help therapy.
For moderate and severe depression, talking therapies are often used in conjunction with medication.
However, there is much controversy over whether modern antidepressant do much good (e.g. Science of Antidepressants Is Backwards and Long-Held Belief About Depression Challenged by New Study).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Depressed woman image from Shutterstock