Signs of Depression

Published on: 16 May 2020
Clinically Reviewed by Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R
guy in darkness leaning on metal wall

It is perfectly normal to have periods of sadness and unhappiness — after all, these are some of the terms that many of us use to describe a particularly bad day, week, or moment in time. But major depressive disorder or clinical depression are much more concerning and it’s important to know the signs of depression. These are serious disorders that cause a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, impacting how you think, feel and act, and if left untreated, can have a major impact on your overall quality of life.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Outside of the occasional bad day or few week, there are specific ways to determine if you are experiencing depression. If you have encountered any of the following signs and symptoms for most of the day, almost every day, for at least two weeks, you may be experiencing depression. Some of these symptoms may impact your mood, sleep, weight, cognition, the way your body feels, and your behavior. Below you’ll find the most common signs of depression.


You may believe you are worthless, experience self-hate, and have a negative outlook on life, as well as persistent feelings of sadness and emptiness.

Anxiety and agitation

These feelings may cause you to have angry outbursts, feel irritable, and experience frustration over situations big and small. You may also feel unexpected restlessness.

Loss of interest

Depression has a way of sapping the pleasure out of everything that brings you enjoyment. If you are withdrawing from normal activities that you used to look forward to — this may be a sign of depression.

Sleep issues

Disturbances in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or sleeping too much is also a common sign of depression. These interrupted sleeping patterns may be the driving force behind stopping to do things you once enjoyed and can lead to a lack of energy, where even small tasks take extra effort.

Changes in weight or appetite

Weight and appetite fluctuate for people with depression and can vary depending on the individual. You may be unintentionally losing or gaining weight or you notice changes in your eating habits.


Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements can occur with depression and result in problems concentrating, making decisions, and remembering.

Unexplained physical problems

You may experience back pain or headaches without other known causes. Additionally, depression and stress can have a negative impact on your immune system.

Thoughts of death or self harm

Depression is sometimes connected to feelings of self harm and suicide. If you, or someone you know, is considering suicide, please get immediate help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or 911 immediately.

It is important to note that not everyone who is depressed will experience each symptom, and the severity of frequency of these symptoms can vary depending on the individual and their particular experience of this condition. ISome experience just a few of these symptoms, while others experience many of them. In order for a doctor to diagnose you with major depression, several persistent symptoms, in addition to a significant change in mood, is generally required. Knowing the signs of depression will help you be prepared should you experience these symptoms.

Risk Factors and Causes of Depression

Depression is a common mental illness in the U.S. and, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. While it can happen at any age, signs of depression often begin in early adulthood and can also occur in combination with other serious illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (among others). Medications may also cause side effects that contribute to feelings of depression. The most common causes and risk factors of depression include:

  • Personal or family history of depression
    Depression tends to be more common in people whose blood relatives also suffer from this condition.
  • Brain chemistry
    Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals intimately involved in our emotional state and likely play a role in depression. Research finds that changes in their function and how they interact with other neurocircuits can play a significant role in depression.
  • Biological Differences
    People with depression often have physical, observable changes in their brains.
  • Major life trauma, stress, or changes
    These can include physical or sexual abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or financial hardship.
  • Hormones
    Changes in the body’s balance of hormones can trigger depression, occurringas a result of pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum), thyroid problems, menopause, or other conditions.

Treating Depression

Depression may make you feel hopeless, but even in severe cases, depression is often treatable — but the key is to start early. The earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be. The most common treatments for signs of depression are medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Often, treatment doesn’t mean you need to take medication for the rest of your life, as therapy and lifestyle modifications also play a critical role in managing signs of depression and prevention.

Understanding that signs of depression may indicate a serious mental illness, but one that can and should be treated, may help demystify the disorder for many. It is a very common mental illness in the U.S., and across the globe, with tell-tale signs and symptoms that will help an individual receive an accurate diagnosis from a trained medical professional or a licensed online therapist. While the causes and risk factors can make some more susceptible than others, no one is immune to experiencing depression.

You May Also Like