Depression is more than just the blues. It sucks the joy out of life. Depression takes away your energy and self-esteem. The simplest task seems impossible to complete. Being around friends and family feels like a chore. Work and school suffers. Depression weighs on your physical and mental health. In severe cases of depression, suicide feels like the only way out. If you’re worried you or a loved one has depression, learn more about depression signs and symptoms.

Warning Signs of Depression

You may be able to pinpoint the cause of depression if it’s tied to a life event. Perhaps it’s the death of a loved one, job loss or end of a relationship. Sometimes people feel depressed and can’t identify an obvious reason. Either way, signs of depression should be taken seriously.

Symptoms of depression vary by individual. There are also different types of depression. Some are more severe than others. In general, here are some depression signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling hopeless and sad a lot of the time
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks, conversations or daily activities
  • Feeling tired or unmotivated
  • Feeling irritable, agitated or angry for no reason or because of minor inconveniences
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Memory issues
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Sleeping too much
  • Aches and pains without a medical condition
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Fantasizing about suicide and death
  • Suicide attempts

If you regularly experience some of these common symptoms of depression, check in with a mental health professional to see if you need help.

Types of Depression: Symptoms and Signs

You may have two ideas of what depression is like: the type of depression that lands you in the hospital, or the “walking around” kind of depression that’s patched up with therapy and medications. There are actually several forms of depression. Some have overlapping symptoms. Common types of depression include:

Persistent Depression Disorder (PDD)

This type of depression is also known as dysthymia. It’s less severe than major depression, but shares some symptoms. People with PDD have a low mood for two years or longer. Sometimes people refer to PDD as high-functioning depression. People looking in from the outside may not guess you’re struggling. You may be doing fine at work or school. This type of depression can take a toll over time though. You’re tired, sad and feel bad about yourself a lot of the time. People with PDD may have episodes of major depression. Some research shows around 75% of people with PDD struggle with major depression at least once.

Major Depression

Major depression can be very debilitating. Some people have one major depressive episode. Others have several episodes. Major depression lasts most days for two weeks or more. Symptoms of major depression include:

  • Low mood
  • Depression symptoms that interfere with job, school and relationships
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in life
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Insomnia or sleeping excessively
  • Loss of energy
  • Issues moving as normal
  • Poor concentration
  • Hard time making decisions

Major depressive disorder may occur without apparent reason. It may also be brought on by events like:

  • The death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Illness
  • Other impactful life changes

If you have major depression you may feel that life is no longer worth living. It’s hard to imagine life being any better. That’s your mental health disorder talking. It’s critical that you seek depression treatment to get relief from these severe depression symptoms.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This form of depression occurs at particular times of the year. You may have depression symptoms in the fall and winter when the days grow shorter. SAD depression symptoms typically lift in the spring. Some people have mild symptoms. Other people experience symptoms that make them withdraw and let self-care slide.

SAD symptoms may include:

  • Low energy
  • Sleep issues
  • Isolating
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Overeating and weight gain

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a type of depression in women. Some women have postpartum depression while pregnant or after giving birth. Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fears about hurting yourself or your child
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Feeling unable to take care of yourself and your child

Many new mothers feel some sadness after giving birth. If you’re having the types of depression symptoms above, seek professional help from a doctor or therapist.

Situational Depression

This type of depression is also known as adjustment disorder. Situational depression stems from problems with a particular situation. You’re easily able to identify why you’re depressed. Some issues that may contribute to situational depression are:

  • Divorce
  • Death of a loved one
  • Involvement in an accident
  • Involvement in a crime
  • Developing a serious illness

In some cases, situational depression may progress into major depression. It’s a good idea to speak with a mental health professional to make sure symptoms aren’t getting worse.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder includes symptoms of depression. It’s a mood disorder. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. People with bipolar disorder have mood swings that cycle between extreme highs and extreme lows. These are called manic episodes and depressive episodes. The time between mood shifts varies from a few times a year to several times a week. Bipolar depression feels very dark while manic episodes feel exhilarating. You likely enjoy the manic episodes and dread the depression episodes. Bipolar disorder is a disruptive condition that can cause significant problems in your life and relationships. You’ll likely require medication and behavioral therapy to manage your bipolar symptoms.

Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is a form of depression that has unusual depression symptom patterns. Atypical depression lasts for two weeks or more. You feel sad a lot of the time, but certain situations can lift your mood. You may also feel physical symptoms.

Atypical depression symptoms may include:

  • Low mood that lifts with good news or other positive external events
  • Weight gain or appetite increase
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping more, but still feeling tired
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection
  • A feeling of physical heaviness in your body

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Some women struggle with depressive symptoms around their period. These are more disruptive than what people typically think of as PMS. Symptoms of PMDD may include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Self-criticism
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Severe anxiety or stress
  • Crying spells
  • Food cravings and binges
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Mood swings
  • Body aches

Causes of Depression

Experts don’t believe there’s one cause of depression. It likely involves internal and external factors. Many people have a genetic predisposition to depression (internal). Sometimes that could be enough to bring on depressive symptoms that are more intense with certain circumstances. Other times external factors trigger depressive symptoms. External factors can contribute to depression in people who don’t have a genetic predisposition. External factors may include:

  • Traumatic events like rape, natural disaster or violence
  • Complex trauma, often resulting from childhood abuse or neglect
  • Chronic illness
  • Conditions that can throw off the brain’s balance of serotonin and norepinephrine like:
    • An eating disorder
    • Substance abuse
    • Compulsive sexual behaviors
    • Compulsive gambling

Depression and Co-Occurring Disorders

People with depression may also struggle with other mental health conditions. Common co-occurring disorders with depression include:

The relationship between depression and other mental health issues is complex. You may use drugs and alcohol or destructive eating behaviors to cope with depression symptoms. In addition, these behaviors can contribute to depression symptoms. It may seem surprising that anxiety disorders and depression can also occur together. People with anxiety may experience depressive episodes and vice versa. Depression and anxiety share some of the same symptoms like:

  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight changes
  • Disruption to everyday life

Depression can be a symptom of personality disorders as well. It’s common in personality disorders like borderline personality disorder.

When depression co-occurs with other behavioral health issues, treatment must address both disorders. For example, behavioral therapy and medications should be appropriate for both behavioral health issues.

Treatment for Depression

Many treatments can relieve depression symptoms. One of the most effective treatments for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy. Some people with depression improve by taking antidepressants and attending therapy. One clinical trial shows exercise and antidepressants can be effective depression treatments as well.

Some people turn to alternative medicine to treat depression with varying success. One study found promising results with some alternative approaches like St. John’s Wort and exercise. The same study found folic acid supplements and omega-3 fatty acids may also relieve depression to some degree. Ketamine may help treatment-resistant depression. One clinical trial found some people see results in as little as one day. Research on alternative depression treatments is sparse. More studies are needed to confirm their effectiveness.

People with chronic or major depression may require inpatient depression treatment. If you have other issues like substance abuse, inpatient treatment may be necessary as well. Residential treatment for depression may include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication management
  • Relapse prevention training
  • Stress management
  • Healthy lifestyle training
  • Aftercare planning

Recognizing depression is the first step to getting better. Sometimes it’s difficult to see that you have a mental health disorder when you’re “living it.” Although treatment outcomes are strong, less than half of people with depression get help. You don’t have to live under a cloud of depression. With appropriate treatment, people learn to manage mental health disorders and have satisfying lives.

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

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