What are the symptoms of depression?

Dr. Aruna V. Josyula, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

Symptoms of depression vary with each patient, but these are the most common:

  • lack of motivation
  • lack of energy and complaints of fatigue
  • change in appetite or weight, pain and gastrointestinal symptoms
  • change in sleep pattern, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • abandoning favorite activities or hobbies
  • withdrawing socially from friends and family and refusing to leave the home
  • feeling afraid of becoming a burden and feeling worthless

The symptoms of depression can vary widely, and every case is different. Commonalities are sadness, feelings of worthlessness, the inability to focus, frustration, the loss of appetite, sex drive or interest in activities that used to give you joy. Depression may lead to thoughts of suicide. You may move slowly or cry for no apparent reason. You may start to feel guilty all the time or believe that you've done something unforgiveable. Far less common is psychotic depression which is characterized by delusions and hallucinations, such as seeing deceased family members or other images of death.

The emotional stress of depression can cause heart disease and lead to drug and alcohol abuse with its associated negative physical impacts. Insomnia caused by depression can make you feel weak and devoid of energy.

Depression can present as a variety of symptoms. The most common are low mood, loss of interest in everyday activities, increased sleepiness and a varying inability to work or socialize. Less common signs exist and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional if depression is suspected.

Depression affects the body in much the same way as chronic stress does. Depression is associated with changes in sleep patterns (too little or too much), appetite and body weight (loss or gain), and lack of sexual desire or functioning. It can increase your sensitivity to pain and is even linked to heart disease. Many of these effects on the body go hand in hand, so it's difficult to say which is directly caused by depression. Some of these changes may actually be a cause of depression. It is probably best to think of the link between depression and its associated effects on the body as a cyclical relationship.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Irritability can be a symptom of a mental disorder like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's not uncommon for a person to have both illnesses at the same time. If you suspect you have depression and/or PTSD, talk to your doctor or mental health provider about getting diagnosed and treated.

Richard Walsh
Social Work Specialist

Depression can be a challenging issue for many people. Studies show that over 20% of the population have experienced symptoms that meet criteria for clinical depression during their lifetimes. A clinical depression in adults are typically considered when some of the following symptoms have been occurring for over 2 weeks.

  • depressed mood most of the day nearly every day
  • markedly diminished interest or pleasure in formally pleasurable activities
  • significant weight loss of more than 5% of body weight in a month when not dieting
  • insomnia or premature awakenings or in some cases increased sleep
  • agitation or slowed body movements nearly everyday observed by others
  • fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly everyday
  • diminished ability to concentrate, or indecisiveness nearly every day
  • recurrent thoughts of death, but not fear of dying. suicidal thoughts may or may not include a plan

The above usually need to be causing significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning. The symptoms are not better accounted for by bereavement, however if bereavement is prolonged it can be a sign of clinical depression. Symptoms should not be due to a general medical condition, medication side effect, or substance abuse, though some depressed people will use alcohol or drugs in order to cope with the symptoms of depression.

If you feel that you meet some of these above criteria you can easily arrange a consultation from your home or office using tele-therapy with a medical or behavioral professional to evaluate your condition via MDLiveCare.

Dr. William B. Salt, MD

While other medically unexplained symptoms can be associated with 
depression, the most common are listed as follows:

  • fatigue
  • energy (low)
  • pain (e.g., headache, neck and back, abdomen)
  • weight change (loss or gain)
  • appetite change (loss or gain)
  • libido (loss)
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The signs a teenager may be experiencing depression are:

  • Extreme personality changes
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Significant loss or gain in appetite
  • Difficulty falling asleep or wanting to sleep all day
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Neglect of personal appearance or hygiene
  • Sadness, irritability, or indifference
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Extreme anxiety or panic
  • Drug or alcohol use or abuse
  • Aggressive, destructive, or defiant behavior
  • Poor school performance
  • Hallucinations or unusual beliefs
Dr. Michele Borba
Psychology Specialist

Watch for: sleep pattern changes, significant weight loss or gain, tearfulness, excessive worrying and low self-esteem, unprovoked hostility or aggression, drop in grades, refusal or reluctance to attend school, loss of interest in playing with peers, feelings of unworthiness: “Nobody likes me.” “I’m no good.” “I can’t do anything right.”

In addition, look for: sleeping longer; feeling hopeless; abusing drugs, alcohol or smoking; conduct problems in school; fatigue; loss of enjoyment of previously enjoyable activities; self-destructive behavior; difficulty with relationships; eating-related problems; social isolation; doesn’t attend to appearance; extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure; physical slowness or agitation; morbid or suicidal thoughts.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Two major signs of depression are a loss of interest in activities normally enjoyed, and an overwhelming hopelessness or pessimism. Other major signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings;
  • Decreased energy and sluggishness;
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
  • Irritability;
  • Decreased energy;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Insomnia—especially waking early in the morning or excessive sleeping;
  • Overeating or appetite loss;
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts;
  • Constant pains, headaches or stomach problems that do not respond to treatment.

Every individual expresses different signs and symptoms with different frequency or severity; however, having five or more of these symptoms could indicate depression.

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Depression is marked by profound sadness and a lack of interest in life. It's not just a blue mood. If you have major depression, you'll have a persistent low mood that interferes with your ability to function. It may cause physical and emotional symptoms, and can last for weeks, months or years.

To be diagnosed as major depression, symptoms must last at least two weeks, says Rob Doyle, MD, clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and staff member at Massachusetts General Hospital. You may feel hopeless, be unable to sleep or eat or have thoughts of self-harm.

If you suspect that your teen or child has depression, you should call your doctor right away. Statistics for depression range from 5% to 20% of American teenagers.

People suffering from depression often experience some of these key symptoms, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

  • persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • irritability
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • decreased energy or fatigue
  • moving or talking more slowly
  • feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • appetite and/or weight changes
  • thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Researchers say these five signs could mean your unhappiness is lasting a while:

  • Watching more than 20 hours of television weekly: One 2008 study found that happy people watch about 30 percent less TV each week than unhappy people because their leisure time is filled with other activities.
  • Troubled relationships: Unhappy people might not attempt to make new friends or resolve issues with current ones.
  • Uncontrollable stress: Feeling unable to alleviate stress can increase despondency.
  • Seeking pleasure through new things: Because humans adapt to their circumstances, unhappy people often search for bigger and better goods to boost their moods.
  • Poor sleep: Although worry might keep you awake, not getting quality sleep also adds to stress. Researchers say that sleep-deprived people are more sensitive to the effects of the stress hormone cortisol.

There is an array of symptoms that may mean you have depression. These include feeling sad most of the day, loss of interest in activities that you have enjoyed doing, weight loss or weight gain, sleeping too much or too little, anxiety, fatigue, feeling worthless, unable to concentrate and thinking about suicide.

If you have five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or more you may be suffering from the blues otherwise known as depression. It is really important that you talk to someone and get help. It can be a friend, doctor, therapist or even a rabbi, pastor or priest. The key is to get help.

When the sadness persists and interferes with everyday life, it may be depression. Depression is not a normal part of growing older. It is a treatable medical illness, much like heart disease or asthma.

The symptoms are the following:

Depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks. Mood represents a change from your baseline and causes impairment in function: social, occupational, educational.

Specific symptoms, at least 5 of these 9, present nearly every day:

  1. Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
  2. Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day.
  3. Significant weight change or change in appetite (it could be increased or decreased appetite/weight).
  4. Change in sleep: Poor sleep or sleeping too much.
  5. Change in activity: Thinking or moving slower than usual.
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy.
  7. Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
  8. Concentration: Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or difficulty making decisions.
  9. Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or having a plan to end your life.

If you have been feeling really sad, blue or down in the dumps, check for these symptoms of depression:

  • Loss of pleasure: You no longer take interest in doing things you used to enjoy.
  • Change in sleep patterns: You have trouble falling asleep, you wake often during the night or you want to sleep more than usual, including during the day.
  • Early to rise: You wake up earlier than usual and cannot to get back to sleep.
  • Change in appetite: You eat more or less than you used to, resulting in a quick weight gain or weight loss.
  • Trouble concentrating: You can't watch a TV program or read an article because other thoughts or feelings get in the way.
  • Loss of energy: You feel tired all the time.
  • Nervousness: You always feel so anxious you can't sit still.
  • Guilt: You feel you "never do anything right" and worry that you are a burden to others.
  • Morning sadness: You feel worse in the morning than you do the rest of the day.
  • Suicidal thoughts: You feel you want to die or are thinking about ways to hurt yourself.

If you have three or more of these symptoms, or if you have just one or two but have been feeling bad for two weeks or more, it's time to get help.

Sheri Van Dijk
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

The following are possible symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Increased appetite
  • Difficulties falling asleep
  • Feeling empty
  • Social isolation
  • Problems with memory
  • Persistent anger
  • Irritability
  • Decrease in motivation
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Weight gain
  • Waking early in the morning
  • Restlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Tearfulness
  • Loss of interest in things
  • Aching limbs and muscles
  • Decreased appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities
  • Poor concentration
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Waking frequently during the night
  • Decrease in energy
  • Increased sleep
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feeling guilty
  • Mental confusion
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Inactivity
  • Lethargy
  • Dwelling on the past
  • Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, chronic pain or stomach problems that do not respond well to treatment
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Patients with depression experience changes in their mood that are usually described as sad, down or depressed. This depressed mood is present most of the day, nearly every day for several weeks or longer, and represents a change from their typical mood. Oftentimes, the mood does not improve even if something good happens and is accompanied by other symptoms such as changes in interest, energy, concentration, sleep, appetite and thoughts of death or suicide. The presence of suicidal thoughts is particularly concerning and may indicate a psychiatric emergency.

Depressive conditions can differ from individual to individual, but each includes some of the following symptoms:

  • a persistent sad or empty mood
  • loss of interest or pleasure in formerly enjoyable activities
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • sleep disruptions
  • eating disturbances
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • thoughts of death or suicide
  • irritability
  • inappropriate or excessive crying
  • aches and pains
  • other symptoms that do not respond to treatment

If you have depression, you will probably have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Having trouble enjoying things you once enjoyed
  • Being easily annoyed
  • Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling tired all the time, having little energy
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Wanting to be alone more
  • Moving too slowly—or being very restless
  • Feeling like a failure or that you're a bad person
You may be suffering from depression if you experience feelings of:
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Enormous guilt for feeling like a burden
  • Lack of interest in the things you once enjoyed
  • Sadness or weepiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • A desire to die

When sadness and empty feelings continue for two weeks or more, you may be depressed. Depression is a type of misery that doesn't love company. It also doesn't love sleeping well, or enjoying activities, or eating healthfully, or making hopeful plans.

For many women, depression is an all-too-familiar visitor. Women are twice as likely as men to have depressive episodes.

The symptoms of depression include trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping or staying awake, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, persistent negative thoughts, excessive alcohol use, drug use, loss of appetite, increased food consumption, irritability, low energy levels, aggression, reckless behavior and thoughts of suicide.

This answer provided for NATA by the Southern Connecticut State University Athletic Training Education Program.

Debra Fulghum Bruce PhD
Healthcare Specialist

Common signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • disturbances in sleep patterns
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • weight loss or gain (more than 5 percent of body weight)
  • fatigue
  • impaired thinking
  • thoughts of dying or suicide
  • depressed thoughts or irritable mood
  • mood swings
  • loss of interest in activities such as hobbies
  • staying at home all the time
  • avoidance of special friends
  • excessive sleep or lack thereof
  • reduced or increased appetite
  • difficulty concentrating
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The following are symptoms of depression:

  • Do you frequently feel sad, irritable, or quick to anger?
  • Have you stopped enjoying your hobbies and other things you used to enjoy?
  • Do you feel guilty or hopeless or worry too much?
  • Do you feel out of energy or just prefer to sit alone more than usual?
  • Have you stopped participating in social events with your family or friends?
  • Are you sleeping too long or having trouble getting to sleep?
  • Have you experienced a 10-pound change in your weight that you didn't intend to have?
  • Do you have thoughts of suicide or death?

If you answered yes to the last question or at least two of the other questions, talk to your doctor. These feelings can be symptoms of depression. They can also be caused by other health problems, like anemia, thyroid disease, medication side effects or other medical conditions.

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The symptoms that come with clinical depression last longer and are usually much stronger and more overwhelming than those of sadness or mild depressed mood.

The following are some of the symptoms that may be a part of clinical depression:

  • Feeling very sad for part or most of the day for several days a week or more
  • Being very sad for many weeks or months
  • Feeling very sad without knowing why
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Having little hunger or not feeling like eating
  • Eating too much
  • Having little energy
  • Losing interest in daily activities
  • Losing interest in spending time with friends and family
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Experiencing little or no happiness
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling guilt or self-blame
  • Feeling strong anxiety or nervousness
  • Feeling that there is no hope for your situation to get better
  • Feeling like you might hurt yourself or another person
  • Nothing you do seems to help any of your feelings
  • Having suicidal thoughts

If you have concerns, talk to your healthcare team right away.

Depression may be experienced very differently from person to person. The symptoms need to be severe enough to interfere with daily living and/or work activities to be considered an indicator of major depression. Four or more of the nine symptoms below, lasting for two weeks or more, require professional help.

  • Noticeable change in sleep pattern
  • Noticeable change in appetite
  • Decreased ability to experience pleasure, e.g., loss of interest and pleasure in things formerly enjoyed
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, emptiness, helplessness
  • Inappropriate guilt and self blame
  • Problems with thinking, concentration and attention
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Overwhelming sadness and grief
  • Physical symptoms, fatigue, loss of libido

People also report the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Decreased ability to make decisions
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Despondency
  • Lack of motivation
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Preoccupation with negative thoughts
  • Self-blame
  • Unreliability
  • Excessive drinking
  • Mixed up thoughts
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Irrational fears and phobias

There are many different kinds of depression—from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight) to reactive depression (associated with having an illness or experiencing a tragedy). There's also postpartum depression.

No matter what type, depression is generally defined by a feeling of sadness and disinterest in everyday life, and it can range anywhere from mild to severe. To be classified as clinical depression, the feeling of sadness must go on for more than two weeks.

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Symptoms of depression include a loss of interest in things that usually would be interesting, an ongoing sad or low mood, fatigue and loss of energy. Many times a depressed person has difficulty sleeping or sleeps too much, has a loss of appetite or eats too much, loses interest in sex, is irritable and cannot concentrate. There may be a decline in functioning in daily activities, such as inability to go to work, or even to get dressed. Most depressed people experience a loss of self-esteem, and may feel as if they are failures. Depression can vary from mild to moderate or severe. People who are more severely depressed may have suicidal thoughts, or even plan to end their lives. Depression is very treatable, and a person who has most of these symptoms for at least two weeks needs to be assessed by a physician or mental health professional.

The following are the symptoms of depression:

  • Ongoing sad, anxious or empty feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable, including sex
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details or difficulty making decisions
  • Not able to go to sleep or stay asleep (insomnia); may wake in the middle of the night, or sleep all the time
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide or making suicide attempts
  • Ongoing aches and pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not go away.

Not everyone diagnosed with depression will have all of these symptoms. The signs and symptoms may be different in men, women, younger children and older adults.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, PhD
Psychology Specialist

The general symptoms of depression include a change in usual functioning, more time spent sleeping or having insomnia, and extreme sadness and crying. Watch psychologist Jeffrey Gardere, PhD, discuss the symptoms that could indicate depression.

Dr. John Preston, PsyD
Psychology Specialist

Symptoms of depression (often referred to as "major depression" or "clinical depression") include sadness, unhappiness or irritability; low self-esteem; a loss of enthusiasm, motivation, or vitality; extremely negative and pessimistic thinking; a range of physical symptoms including disturbances in sleep, appetite and weight; loss of sex drive; and fatigue. Intense worry, anxiety, agitation and suicidal thoughts are also common symptoms of major depression. Major depression can dramatically interfere with functioning (e.g., work, school, parenting, relationships).

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Clinical depression is more than feeling depressed. The official definition of clinical depression is based on the following eight primary criteria:

  • Poor appetite accompanied by weight loss, or increased appetite accompanied by weight gain
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep habits (hypersomnia)
  • Physical hyperactivity or inactivity
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or decrease in sexual drive
  • Loss of energy; feelings of fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

The presence of five of these eight symptoms indicates clinical depression; an individual with four is probably depressed. The symptoms must be present for at least one month to be diagnosed as clinical depression.

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Depression is a medical illness that involves the mind and body. It affects how you feel, think and behave. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living.

You may be depressed if you have any of the following depression symptoms: feelings of sadness or unhappiness; irritability or frustration, even over small matters; loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities; reduced sex drive; insomnia or excessive sleeping; changes in appetite; agitation or restlessness; slowed thinking; indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration; fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide; crying spells for no apparent reason; unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches.

If any of these symptoms are present, please seek assistance from you health care provider. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or other treatment.

The following are the most common symptoms of major depression. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
  • loss of interest in activities once previously enjoyed
  • excessive crying
  • increased restlessness and irritability
  • decreased ability to concentrate and make decisions
  • decreased energy
  • thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • increased feelings of guilt, helplessness and/or hopelessness
  • weight and/or appetite changes due to over- or under-eating
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • social withdrawal
  • physical symptoms unrealized by standard treatment (i.e., chronic pain, headaches)

For a diagnosis of major depression to be made, an individual must exhibit five or more of these symptoms during the same two-week period. The symptoms of major depression may resemble other psychiatric conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Dr. Dan V. Iosifescu, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Depression is characterized by multiple psychological, cognitive, physical and behavioral symptoms. Common psychological symptoms of depression include sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in situations that were previously enjoyable, and feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, guilt, hopelessness, helplessness, agitation and irritability. Difficulty concentrating is a common cognitive symptom in depression. Individuals with depression also experience physical symptoms such as changes in appetite, weight gain or loss, fatigue and lack of energy, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much and moving very slowly or severe restlessness. Behavioral symptoms of depression include becoming withdrawn or isolated and, in severe cases, suicide attempts or gestures. Not all symptoms of depression are present at the same time.

Dr. Lara Honos-Webb, PhD
Psychology Specialist

The main requirement for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder is either a depressed mood experienced most of the time for at least two weeks or a dramatic loss of interest in almost all customary activities. In addition to these symptoms, a person must report four of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained or unusual weight loss or weight gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Physical slowing down or physical agitation
  • Fatigue and loss of energy every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness and inappropriate guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

As you can see from this list of symptoms, depression affects not only the level of emotional distress but also bodily functioning, so sleeping, eating and physiological activity are changed by the experience of a depression. Depression profoundly alters both the body and the mind.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.