There are several common signs and symptoms of depression. While it’s normal to experience feelings of sadness and even short episodes of depressed feelings, long-lasting symptoms of depression can hurt your ability to function in basic daily tasks.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at one of the most common questions we hear from people – what are the signs and symptoms of depression?
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression?
While professionals sometimes frown upon when we come into the office ready with our internet diagnosis, it can be helpful to have completed some of our research into what we think the problem is.
The information we gather can help the diagnosing professional better understand the situation and lessen the chances of an inaccurate diagnosis.
The following are descriptions of the more common signs and symptoms associated with clinical depression. Run through this list if you suspect you or a loved one may suffer from depression. If one or more of these symptoms of depression resonate with you, it may be time to consider the benefits of exploring depression treatment.
So, what are the signs and symptoms of depression?
Loss of interest in activities that once seemed exciting is one of the most familiar symptoms of depression. This loss of interest is often accompanied by the inability to experience a sense of joy or happiness. This combination of lack of motivation and lack of positive feelings is known as anhedonia, and it is present in several forms of mental disorder. It can manifest in areas such as a decrease in sexual drive, withdrawing from social activities, or simply feeling bored with life. The experience of anhedonia can tempt a person toward using drugs or alcohol in an attempt to bring some excitement back into life, but the substances also increase the tendency to experience anhedonia while sober.
Changes in Appetite
Many people suffering from depression will report that their eating habits have changed. Some will note that they have increased their food intake and will complain of gaining weight. Others will find that they no longer experience any joy while eating and will find it hard to take in enough calories during the day. Both overeating and the lack of desire to eat are tied to the fact that our brains are designed to release feel-good chemicals when we eat. Eating more is a way to obtain it for the person chasing a boost from that chemical. For a person who drops weight while depressed, the feel-good chemical boost may be imperceptible while eating.
Most people experience days when their brain is not operating in top shape. For someone suffering from depression, these days of brain fog may be more than just occasional. The term is used to describe a sense of cloudiness in the mind, similar to how heavy fog would make navigating your way through a dense forest very difficult. A person experiencing mental fog won’t be able to retrieve stored information as readily as before and will have difficulty storing new information. Such a person may be observed by others as zoning out or seeming disconnected during interactions and may be observed as moving very slowly throughout the day.
Some of the mental fog experienced by someone with depression can be present due to excessively thinking about other things. One of the hallmarks of depression is the tendency for all of those thoughts to be negative. A depressed person will tend to replay past events within the mind and will consistently interpret those events in a negative light. There are likely mental scenarios involving guilt, loss, betrayal, and failure. Repeatedly thinking about unsolvable problems not occurring in the present moment is called rumination. For a depressed person, rumination often involves rehashing events in the past that cannot be changed.
When we are busy beating ourselves up for an inability to go back in time and do things differently, it is hard to feel good about ourselves. It is also difficult to maintain a good level of self-esteem when we are busy beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up. People with depression tend to be very hard on themselves and judge themselves under the harshest lights. They may consistently compare themselves with others they deem more successful and will use that information to confirm that they are not good enough. Like rumination, being stuck in a mindset of low self-esteem can create a vicious cycle. When we act without confidence, we create conditions for failure. Repeated perceptions of failure will tend to feed the beast of low self-esteem.
Thoughts of Suicide
Depression is the primary mental disorder associated with suicide. A person unable to experience joy, can’t think clearly, is stuck in the past, and believes that they are not good enough may find little point in continuing with life. Hope is the primary state of being which drives us onward, and a person with depression tends to possess little of it. The experience of having hope requires that we be able to conceive of a fulfilling future and believe that we possess the means of reaching it. Without hope, life can appear meaningless, and navigating it becomes a chore. If you are experiencing thoughts of ending your life through suicide, it is very important that you seek help immediately. A qualified person will be able to assist you to clear out some of that fog so that you can see some of the light that is waiting for you at the end of the tunnel.
Diagnosis of Depression
Most people will experience days when they feel down in the dumps or lack motivation. Events in life can also trigger a process of uncertainty and grief which produce feelings of depression, as can living under genuinely oppressive circumstances. Certain medical conditions can contribute to being in a state of depression.
To receive a mental health diagnosis of major depression, non-psychological sources of the feelings of depression will need to be ruled out. There will also be a set of criteria that includes experiencing at least five of the associated symptoms for at least two weeks. Some other associated diagnoses can also apply, so it is important to go over your situation with your treating provider before determining the correct diagnosis.
- Silver N. Brain Fog Depression: Symptoms, Causes, and More. Healthline. Published December 12, 2018. Accessed October 9, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/brain-fog-depression
- Ackerman CE. What is Self-Esteem? A Psychologist Explains. PositivePsychology.com. Published May 23, 2018. Accessed October 9, 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/self-esteem/
- Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Home. Accessed October 9, 2022. https://988lifeline.org/
- Gardner A. 10 Health Conditions That Are Linked to Depression. Health. Published September 25, 2022. Accessed October 9, 2022. https://www.health.com/condition/depression/conditions-linked-to-depression
- Truschel J. Depression Definition and DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria. Published August 26, 2022. Accessed October 9, 2022. https://www.psycom.net/depression/major-depressive-disorder/dsm-5-depression-criteria