So what are the signs and symptoms that you or a loved one is depressed? Here are some warning indicators to watch out for:

Mental symptoms of depression

  • An inability to think clearly or make decisions
  • Trouble concentrating (you can test your concentration by trying to say the months of the year backward, spell words backwards, or count back by 100 in divisions of 7)
  • Pessimistic thinking/A negative outlook on people or life in general
  • A depressive mood that lasts most of the day
  • An absence of joy or loss of pleasure/interest in life (anhedonia)
  • Becoming more anxious/worried
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthless or inadequacy
  • Strong guilt feelings
  • Feeling a sense of isolation

Behavioral signs of depression

  • Diminished interest in things a person used to find enjoyable
  • Lethargic behavior/becoming less active
  • Becoming overly critical
  • Vacillating between anger and withdrawal
  • Crying over things that never used to bother you
  • Neglecting hygiene & appearance
  • Deteriorating work or school performance
  • Neglecting tasks
  • Lack of interest in sex/loss of libido
  • Drinking more or picking up old bad habits again, such as smoking
  • Less interactive than normal
  • Not wanting to go out or socialize
  • Not reacting to what others find interesting or funny
  • Going along with things/doesn’t express an opinion


Physical effects of depression

  • Abnormal sleep patterns, such as trouble sleeping at night but being drowsy during the day – this is one of the most common symptoms;
  • Hypersomnia (sleeping excessively
  • Decreased energy, or fatigue
  • Lowered motor skills / becoming more clumsy
  • Trembling
  • Numbness
  • Insomnia affects 85% of those with major depression. (Fieve, 2006, p. 88)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss while not dieting
  • Pain sensitivity; complaining of every little ache and pain
  • Lowered immune response
  • Sexual dysfunction or loss of sexual interest
  • Gastro-intestinal illness like constipation, diarrhea, or stomach pain.

The symptoms of depression are often misunderstood as a medical problem. As Dr. Ronald Fieve states, “Because the neurotransmitter serotonin and norepinephrine influence both mood and pain, it’s not uncommon for depressed individuals to have physical symptoms such as joint pain, back pain, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, and appetite changes, accompanied by slowed speech and physical retardation. Many patients compulsively go from doctor to doctor seeking treatment for their physical symptoms when, in fact, they are clinically depressed.” (Fieve, 2006, pp. 55-56)

“Depression can mimic a great number of medical disorders because your mood swings often create a wide variety of puzzling physical symptoms,” adds Dr. David Burns. “As your depression improves, these symptoms will in all likelihood vanish. However, keep in mind that many treatable illnesses may initially masquerade as depression, and a medical examination could reveal an early (and life-saving) diagnosis of a reversible organic disorder.” (Burns, 1980, p. 25)

The difference between sadness & depression

We all experience pain and anguish during difficult times in our lives. Sadness is a normal and healthy response to upsetting events or difficult situations. So how does one distinguish between everyday sadness and depression? The two biggest distinctions are A) The way a person is handling this sadness, and B) The length of time it endures. Whereas sad people are quite vested in what led to the sadness and interested in seeing it change, those who are depressed typically show an utter lack of interest in their current predicament. They have withdrawn, checked out fo life, and seem disinterested in what happens to them. Sadness can also be traced to a specific antagonist, and tends to get progressively better over time, whereas depression remains about the same for long stretches of time or even gets worse.