The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people. But as a general rule, if you’re depressed, you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy.
The symptoms persist for weeks or months and are bad enough to interfere with your work, social life and family life.
There are many other symptoms of depression and you’re unlikely to have all of those listed below.
The psychological symptoms of depression include:
continuous low mood or sadness
feeling hopeless and helpless
having low self-esteem
feeling irritable and intolerant of others
having no motivation or interest in things
finding it difficult to make decisions
not getting any enjoyment out of life
feeling anxious or worried
The physical symptoms of depression include:
moving or speaking more slowly than usual
changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
unexplained aches and pains
lack of energy
low sex drive (loss of libido)
changes to your menstrual cycle
disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning
The social symptoms of depression include:
not doing well at work
avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
neglecting your hobbies and interests
having difficulties in your home and family life
Severities of depression
Depression can often come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people try to cope with their symptoms without realising they’re unwell. It can sometimes take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.
Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:
mild depression – has some impact on your daily life
moderate depression – has a significant impact on your daily life
severe depression – makes it almost impossible to get through daily life; a few people with severe depression may have psychotic symptoms
Grief and depression
It can be difficult to distinguish between grief and depression. They share many of the same characteristics, but there are important differences between them.
Grief is an entirely natural response to a loss, while depression is an illness.
People who are grieving find their feelings of sadness and loss come and go, but they’re still able to enjoy things and look forward to the future.
In contrast, people who are depressed constantly feel sad. They don’t enjoy anything and find it difficult to be positive about the future.
Read more about coping with grief and bereavement.
Other types of depression
There are different types of depression, and some conditions where depression may be one of the symptoms. These include:
postnatal depression – some women develop depression after they have a baby; this is known as postnatal depression and it’s treated in a similar way to other types of depression, with talking therapies and antidepressant medicines
bipolar disorder – also known as “manic depression”, in bipolar disorder there are spells of both depression and excessively high mood (mania); the depression symptoms are similar to clinical depression, but the bouts of mania can include harmful behaviour, such as gambling, going on spending sprees and having unsafe sex