Health Guides: Managing Major Depression

MDD Symptoms

The signs of major depressive disorder may surprise you.

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When you're depressed, you expect to feel sad, blue, or down in the dumps -- a state known as dysphoria. You may also suffer from anedonia, which is a lack of interest or pleasure in almost all activities, most of the day. These are two hallmarks of depression.

To be diagnosed with major depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) and clinical depression, you must experience at least five depressive symptoms from the following list, including dysphoria and anhedonia. These symptoms must be present most of the day nearly every day for at least two weeks:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest, particularly in activities you typically enjoy
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Feeling restless, agitated, irritable, unable slow down
  • Fatigue, loss of energy, or feeling tired all the time
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Impaired concentration and difficulty making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

To be classified as MDD, these symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning. A formal clinical depression diagnosis will also rule out other medical causes of depressed mood, including medication side effects, substance abuse, or a medical condition, such as an underactive thyroid. Finally, the symptoms should be distinguished from the grief or bereavement associated with loss of a loved one or extraordinarily stressful life events.