Everyone experiences feelings of sadness occasionally, but depression is different. It persists over time and can cause a range of other symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness, anger, irritability, tiredness, and difficulty concentrating.
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, but they commonly include:
- loss of pleasure in activities
- appetite changes
- thoughts of death or suicide
Keep reading to learn more about the common symptoms of depression, as well as the treatment options and when to seek help.
There are several types of depression, and the symptoms vary among individuals.
Although anyone can experience some of these symptoms from time to time, a doctor will only diagnose depression when a certain cluster of symptoms appears and persist for 2 weeks or longer.
1. Feeling sad or empty
Mood changes are one of the most common symptoms of depression. A person who has depression may feel sad or low for extended periods.
They may also say that they feel “empty” or unable to feel happiness. Some people may describe this feeling as despair or melancholy.
2. Feeling hopeless or helpless
Depression can make people feel hopeless because there is no foreseeable end to how they are feeling.
A person may also feel helpless. They may say or think that no one can help them get better and that they will always feel depressed.
3. Feeling worthless
A person with depression may feel as though they are worthless or their life has no meaning.
They may also believe that they are a burden to others and that the world or their family is better off without them. If a person has these feelings alongside suicidal thoughts, they should seek emergency help.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
4. Feeling excessively guilty
Guilt is a normal reaction after a person says or does something that they regret, but people with depression may have ongoing feelings of guilt for no reason. They may focus a lot of energy on this guilt and feel bad about themselves and things that they have said or done — even events that have long since passed.
5. No interest or pleasure in activities
Some people with depression lose interest in things or activities that they used to enjoy. These can include sports, hobbies, going out with friends, music, or sexual activity. They may turn down offers to do activities or be with others, and they may not want to do things they used to like doing.
This inability to feel pleasure during previously pleasurable activities is also known as anhedonia.
6. Anger and irritability
A person with depression may seem to be angry with others. They may become easily annoyed and irritated.
Children and adolescents are
Other depression symptoms can indirectly cause irritability. For example, if a person is not sleeping well and feels tired, they may be more prone to irritability.
7. Feeling tired and having a lack of energy
Some people with depression may find it hard to get up in the morning because they feel exhausted and run down. They may feel too fatigued to do everyday tasks, such as going to work and cooking meals. As a result, they may spend a lot of time at home resting or sleeping.
The fatigue of depression can make a person feel as though they are always tired, even if they are getting enough sleep. However, sleep disturbances are also a symptom of depression, and a person who experiences these can feel even more tired.
8. Insomnia or lack of sleep
Sometimes, a person with depression may be unable to sleep well and have trouble falling and staying asleep. They may stay up very late at night or wake up very early in the morning.
9. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
Depression can interfere with a person’s cognitive abilities. They may have trouble focusing or concentrating on personal or professional matters. Additionally, they may find it difficult to make decisions, even those involving seemingly minor, everyday choices.
People with depression may also find that they cannot remember things as well as they did previously. They might forget appointments or commitments and not recall things that they said or did recently.
10. Lack of appetite
People with depression may lose their desire and appetite for food, which can cause weight loss. They may have little interest in eating and go for long periods without food.
11. Overeating and weight gain
Conversely, some people with depression may eat more than usual. For some individuals, food can be a comfort mechanism for negative feelings and a way to deal with boredom or loneliness.
Depression can make it difficult for people to feel motivated to get outside or exercise. Combined with an increase in food intake, this can cause weight gain.
12. Aches, pains, and physical symptoms
A person with depression may experience persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment. These include:
- digestive disorders
- unexplained aches and pains
13. Trouble ‘switching off’ the brain
People with depression may have persistent negative thoughts that they find it hard to stop. They may find it difficult to control their worry.
14. Thoughts of death or suicide
A person with depression may think more about death and dying. They may also think about suicide and how they could end their life. The term for this is
Sometimes, a person may tell others about these thoughts. If someone is talking about death or suicide, this could be their way of asking for help, and it is vital to seek assistance right away.
Depression is a common but serious condition that can be life threatening. Not every person who thinks about suicide will attempt it. However, if someone mentions suicide, it is important either to contact a doctor or to help the person seek urgent medical care.
Having just one of the symptoms above does not mean that a person has depression. For instance, other health issues and some medications can cause weight gain or insomnia.
However, people who have multiple symptoms and are concerned about depression should contact a doctor to discuss their mental health.
There is no single test that can diagnose depression. Usually, a medical professional will evaluate a person’s symptoms and their personal and family medical history to make a diagnosis. They may also use specialized questionnaires and screening tools.
Many people with depression use therapy, medication, or both to manage the symptoms. It is important to go to scheduled appointments and take medications as the doctor prescribes them.
Treatment can take time, and a person may not feel better straight away. Antidepressants can take
Some people with depression find that the following measures can help them manage their symptoms:
- spending time with supportive friends or loved ones
- avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs
- trying stress management techniques
- breaking significant tasks down into smaller ones
If a friend or loved one is showing symptoms of depression, a person can help by:
- asking them to contact a doctor
- helping them make an appointment
- offering support, understanding, and validation
- continuing to invite them to events and outings
- reducing stressors at home or work, where possible
- helping them eat nutritious meals
- spending time with them outdoors
If a person suspects that they may have depression, they should contact a doctor. Effective treatment can manage the symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.
Resources are also available to help people find medical care for mental health conditions. These include:
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
People can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Those who feel more comfortable communicating online or do not have access to a phone can use the online chat feature instead.
Depression is a treatable mental health condition that can cause a range of symptoms.
Anyone who is concerned that they or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression should speak with a doctor as soon as possible. Proper care for depression can significantly improve quality of life and even be lifesaving.