What are the symptoms of depression?

Depression signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of depression include the following:

  • Sadness or irritability
  • A loss of enjoyment of once pleasurable activities
  • A loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained physical complains (e.g. headache, backache, stomach upset)
  • Decreased sex drive
  • A change in appetite (increased or reduced)
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and/or worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

If these symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, clinical depression may be present. The greater the number of symptoms present, particularly if associated with sadness or irritability, the more likely depression is present. Suicidal thinking warrants an immediate evaluation, especially if associated with hopelessness. As can be seen from the list, many of the features of depression involve physical symptoms. Depression is not strictly a condition in the mind. Lack of energy and fatigue may make it difficult to get moving or follow through with commitments (work, school, and family). Some people exhibit psychomotor retardation – a condition in which the body moves very little and very slowly. Symptoms may change over the course of a day with a worse mood in the morning and a better mood at night or vice versa.

Because of the multitude of physical symptoms in depression, many patients seen by a primary care health provider for certain physical complaints actually have depression. Certainly a physical evaluation excluding any other medical conditions is warranted, but depression needs to be considered as a possible condition. Many times the clinician does not consider it, or when asked about mood or the possibility of depression being present, some patients may become upset, thinking that their doctor considers they symptoms “all in their head”. In fact, depression is a medical condition that causes real physical symptoms. Physical symptoms will get better as the depression is treated.