Signs and Symptoms
Sadness is a perfectly normal reaction to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but the symptoms of depression are much more than just sadness. Depression is the overwhelming feeling of sadness when everything in your life seems to be going right. However, some depressed people don’t feel sad at all—they may feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic, or some may even feel angry, aggressive, and restless. Whatever the symptoms, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief.
The normal ups and downs of life mean that everyone feels sad or down from time to time. But if hopelessness, isolation, and despair have taken hold of your life and won’t go away, you may have symptoms of depression. Depression makes it tough to function and enjoy the things you once did. Just getting through the day can be overwhelming. But no matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better. Understanding the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment of depression is the first step to overcoming the problem.
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness – A feeling that nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to change it.
- Loss of interest in daily activities – No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, and social life. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
- Appetite or weight changes – Significant weight loss or weight gain – a change of more than 5% of body weight in one month.
- Sleep changes – Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
- Loss of energy – Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
- Anger or irritability – Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
- Self-loathing – Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
- Reckless behavior – You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
- Concentration problems – Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
- Unexplained aches and pains – An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
Depression comes in many shapes and forms. The different symptoms of depression have unique causes and effects. Knowing what type of depression you have can help you manage your symptoms and get the most effective treatment.
Learn about some of the different types by clicking on the tabs above.
Major depression is characterized by the inability to enjoy life and experience pleasure. The symptoms of major depression are constant, ranging from moderate to severe. Left untreated, major depression typically lasts for about six months. Some people experience just a single depressive episode in their lifetime, but more commonly, major depression is a recurring disorder.
Dysthymia (recurring, mild depression)
Dysthymia is a type of chronic, more mild depression. More days than not, you feel mildly or moderately depressed, although you may have brief periods of normal mood. The symptoms of dysthymia are not as strong as the symptoms of major depression, but they last much longer. Some people also experience major depressive episodes on top of dysthymia, a condition known as “double depression.” If you suffer from dysthymia, you may feel like you have always suffered from depression. Or you may think that your continuous depressed state is just “normal.” However, dysthymia can be treated, even if your symptoms of depression have gone untreated for years.
Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depression, is characterized by cycling mood changes. Episodes of depression alternate with manic episodes, which can include impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, rapid speech, and little to no sleep. Typically, the switch from one mood extreme to the other is gradual, with each manic or depressive episode lasting for at least several weeks. When depressed, a person with bipolar disorder exhibits the usual symptoms of major depression.