Depression commonly affects your thoughts, your emotions, your behaviors and your overall physical health. Here are some of the most common symptoms that point to the presence of depression:
- Angry outbursts
- Loss of interest in friends, family and favorite activities, including sex
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble making decisions
- Trouble remembering
- Thoughts of harming yourself
- Delusions and/or hallucinations can also occur in cases of severe depression
- Withdrawing from people
- Substance abuse
- Missing work, school or other commitments
- Attempts to harm yourself
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Changes in sleep – sleeping too little or too much
- Sexual problems
Of course, all of us can expect to experience one or more of these symptoms on occasion. An occurrence of any one of these symptoms on its own does not set up depression. When healthcare professionals suspect depression, they commonly look for knots of these symptoms occurring regularly for two weeks or longer, and impacting functional aspects of the person’s life.
Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder
Symptoms of Major Depression represent a major change from the individual’s normal level of functioning. Together the symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in the individual’s life and his/her ability to function. Depression symptoms can occur with either a sudden onset or in a more gradual fashion, with the severity of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
A Major Depressive Episode is defined as having five or more of the following symptoms present for the same two-week period, and represents a change from the individual’s normal level of functioning when well. At least one of the five required symptoms must be (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest.
- Depressed mood experienced most of the day, nearly every day
- Lessened interest in all or almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day
- Significant change in appetite (increase or decrease) or weight (loss or gain)
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
- Observable psychomotor distress (feeling restless or fidgety) or feeling slowed down nearly every day
- Loss of energy or fatigue nearly every day
- Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt, nearly every day
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or uncertainty, nearly every day
- Recurring thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
Symptoms of Dysthymic Disorder
The differentiation of dysthymic disorder from major depressive disorder can be difficult. Key features of dysthymia are a mild to moderate depressed mood that has a chronic course (greater than 2 years). Dysthymia is characterized by the following:
- Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, for at least two years.
- While depressed, there must be present 2 or more of the following: poor appetite or over-eating, insomnia or hypersomnia, low energy/fatigue, low self-esteem, poor concentration or difficulty making decisions, feelings of hopelessness.
- During the two-year period, the patient has never been without the symptoms in number 1 or 2 for more than 2 months at a time.
- No history of a major depressive episode, manic episode, mixed episode, hypomanic episode or cyclothymic disorder.
- The symptoms cause significant impairment or distress.