Depression – what are the signs and symptoms of depression?

Guts and depression
Guts and depression

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.

Psychological symptoms

The psychological symptoms of depression include:

continuous low mood or sadness

feeling hopeless and helpless

having low self-esteem

feeling tearful

feeling guilt-ridden

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

having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Physical symptoms

The physical symptoms of depression include:

moving or speaking more slowly than usual

changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)

constipation

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

Social symptoms

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

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