Symptoms of Depression
Depression can cause extreme feelings of sadness or hopelessness that affect your daily life. It can also make it hard to think clearly.
Talk to your regular doctor about depression. They may refer you to a mental health professional for a psychiatric evaluation. The following symptoms can help your doctor diagnose depression: Feelings of sadness or hopelessness that last for more than two weeks.
1. Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Depression can be triggered by a number of factors, such as losing a job or experiencing a relationship breakdown. It can also develop after a traumatic event or as a side effect of some medications.
See your doctor if you or someone you know has symptoms of depression that last for two weeks or more. Keep in mind that depression may look more like a physical health issue, such as a tight chest, persistent headaches or digestive problems. For example, widespread musculoskeletal pain from fibromyalgia syndrome can cause depression-like feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Likewise, some medical conditions can contribute to depression-like symptoms, such as hypothyroidism or diabetes. These may need to be treated before a depression diagnosis can be made. Medications or lifestyle changes can often help ease the symptoms.
2. Changes in appetite or weight
Many people experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness from time to time, but these are different from clinical depression (also known as major depressive disorder). Depression is a real illness that affects how you feel and behave. It can cause a variety of symptoms that make it difficult to work, study and care for yourself or family.
Some of the most common symptoms are changes in appetite or weight, difficulty sleeping and slowed speech and movement. Depression can also appear as physical symptoms, such as a tightened chest or ongoing headaches.
Some people have depression that occurs in the same pattern each year, usually at the same time of the year (called seasonal affective disorder). Others have a different type of mood problem called bipolar disorder, which includes periods of highs and lows.
3. Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
The lack of energy that can accompany depression often makes it hard to concentrate or sleep. This can interfere with school, work and social activities.
Mood swings from feeling emotionally high to deeply discouraged and irritable are another sign of depression. These symptoms can also be triggered by certain drugs, alcohol or medical conditions.
Depression isn’t a character flaw or weakness and usually gets better with treatment, such as medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy). If you notice these symptoms in someone you care about, it’s important to calmly share your concerns in a nonjudgmental way. Then help them seek a health care provider or mental health professional for a screening. Offer to go with them or to support them in other ways, such as making sure they get to their appointments and attending family therapy sessions.
4. Emotional outbursts
If you notice your loved one has a sudden lack of interest in activities that normally bring them joy (sports, hobbies, socializing), or is sleeping excessively, it could be a sign they’re depressed. If they’re irritable or having unwarranted emotional outbursts, it also could be a sign.
Feeling hopeless is another common symptom of depression. A recent study found that people who identify as Hispanic or Latino are the most likely to say they feel hopeless “all or most of the time,” followed by people who identified with two or more races and Alaska Natives.
Having thoughts of death or suicide can be a serious warning sign of depression. If someone you know is having these kinds of feelings, you should take them to a mental health professional right away.
5. Suicidal thoughts
Suicidal thoughts are a serious sign of depression and can be a very dangerous complication of the condition. It’s important to seek help if you or someone you know has these dark feelings.
There are many ways to treat suicidal thoughts and actions. It can be as simple as getting some rest, eating well, and building a support network. But it may be a more complicated treatment that includes counselling and medication. It could also include safety planning, which involves limiting access to lethal weapons and poisonous substances, and hospital or residential care if necessary. Medications may include antidepressants or other types of medications. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is another option that your doctor may recommend only after trying other treatments. This treatment sends electrical pulses through your brain to help restore balance to neurotransmitters.