A person’s behavior may change if depression worsens. They may have less motivation to engage in activities. Worsening depression may also affect sleeping and eating habits.
Symptoms of depression can range from mild to severe.
A person with depression may feel as though their symptoms are getting worse. It is important that people who feel this way speak with a healthcare or mental health professional.
This article looks at signs that depression may be worsening and factors that can impact depression. It also provides tips about what to do if the condition gets worse and where to find help.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) lists the current criteria mental health professionals use to diagnose depression.
Signs depression may be becoming more severe include the following:
Spending more time alone
One of the
Difficulty finding things to spark an interest
People may find that activities or hobbies that previously sparked their interest or provided pleasure no longer appeal to them. They may also lose motivation to engage in experiences they used to enjoy.
Changes in sleeping and eating habits
Symptoms of depression
Some may find that their appetite changes, meaning they have less interest in food than usual or overeat.
Mood changes at particular times
Research suggests that as depression worsens, a person may experience a more depressed mood and feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt. Additionally, depression may worsen in times of particular stress, such as when a person experiences:
- financial or employment worries
- separation from a partner
Intensifying emotional distress
Emotional distress may manifest in several behaviors that are symptomatic of depression. People may:
- have difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- display an increase in purposeless physical activity, such as pacing and hand-wringing
- speak or move more slowly than usual
Suicidal thoughts and feelings also distinguish severe depression from moderate depression. It is important for anyone who experiences these thoughts and feelings to contact a healthcare or mental health professional right away. Help and support is available.
Read about common symptoms of depression.
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.
Various factors can lead to an increase in the severity of depression symptoms. These include stress, inactivity, and rumination, among others.
Researchers suggest RNT is essentially a natural process to alert us to not achieving our goals and to motivate us to engage in action. However, excessive RNT in the context of mental health conditions has lost this function.
Read more about rumination.
Stress and stressful life events may trigger depression or worsen symptoms in some people. Examples of factors that may impact depression
- difficult or unhealthy relationships
However, because depression causes fatigue and a lack of energy, people with these symptoms may find it challenging to engage in physical activity and become more inactive as the condition worsens.
Learn more about exercise and depression.
The Office on Women’s Health notes that
People with depression may have more difficulty eating a healthy diet due to experiencing a lack of energy for cooking or an inclination to eat less healthy foods during periods of low mood, which some may call “comfort eating.”
Weight loss can also be a sign of depression, as many people experiencing the condition find they have a lack of appetite.
Read about diet and depression.
According to the
The CDC also advises that the following situations can lead a person to see fewer people socially and become more isolated, potentially impacting their mental health:
- caring for a relative or loved one
- working long hours
- economic hardship
Read about isolation and mental health.
An ineffective treatment plan
Generally, a healthcare or mental health professional will work with an individual to develop a treatment plan for depression. This often includes medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
Sometimes, a treatment plan may not be as effective as expected. A person may need to try various medications or therapies before finding the most effective treatment for them.
According to a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 13.5% of adults ages 18–25 had both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition in 2021.
These medications include:
People can speak with a healthcare professional about any concerns they may have about the side effects of their medication.
If an individual feels their symptoms of depression are worsening, it is important that they reach out to a healthcare or mental health professional. There are also several resources available online.
A healthcare or mental health professional may be able to recommend changes in a treatment plan or provide further options to help manage symptoms.
Crisis support lines
It also lists several crisis support lines, such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Speaking to a trusted person
A person may be able to speak to someone they trust about their symptoms, such as a relative, friend, or teacher. The trusted person may be able to provide support in accessing further resources.
Mental health resources
Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.
Symptoms of depression may vary in severity from person to person. They may become more prominent over time, or new ones may appear.
People may experience changes in their sleeping and eating habits or begin to spend more time alone. They may find they have less motivation to engage in activities they used to find interesting or enjoyable. In severe cases, someone may experience suicidal thoughts.
It is important for individuals experiencing worsening symptoms of depression to seek help and support from a healthcare or mental health professional or a person they trust. Crisis helplines are also available online, by phone, and through text.