Depression symptoms

Symptoms of depression

We hope the following information is useful in helping identify whether you or someone you know may be suffering depression.

If you are depressed, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • tiredness and loss of energy
  • persistent sad, empty or anxious feelings
  • loss of confidence and self-esteem
  • feeling restless and agitated
  • not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting, including sex
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • sleeping problems – insomnia, waking up much earlier than usual, or sleeping too much
  • avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends and family
  • finding it hard to function at work/college/school
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • thoughts about suicide and death.

(Symptoms list from the National Institute of Mental Health)

If you have had five or more of the above symptoms for more than 2 weeks, you may want to discuss this with your GP. Generally the earlier you can recognise the symptoms of depression and make positive changes to counter it, the less likely it is to worsen. In basic terms, the longer it has been going on and the more symptoms you experience, then the more severe your depression. The less depressed you are, the less you may need to do to lift your mood. The more depressed you are, the more help you might need to do this and the longer it might take.

Depression and anxiety

Around half the people who suffer from depression also suffer from anxiety. If we are feeling down and lacking energy and confidence, things in general might become more difficult for us and lead to us becoming stressed and anxious. Equally, if we are feeling anxious about things and worrying a lot, then this can lead to us having doubts about our capacity to cope – which in turn can end up with us withdrawing from pleasurable situations that might have lifted our mood and boosted our confidence.

Symptoms in teenagers and young people

In young people and teenagers, depression may present as feelings of hopelessness or irritation with people and situations for weeks at a time – or longer. Teenagers are more likely to display symptoms of depression as irritability or anger at the world and those around them. Depressive symptoms may include moodiness, hostility, frustration or angry outbursts. (Some teens and young people, though, will be more clingy and dependent – the symptoms will vary from person to person, also depending on age and personal situation.) The risk is that the symptoms will be overlooked or taken as part of temperamental teenage behaviour or moodiness – rather than something more serious.

Depressed teens may be extremely sensitive to criticism, as they can be already experiencing feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.

Teenagers may also show physical symptoms of depression, such as unexplained aches and pains, headaches or stomach pains. Their social habits may change, as they no longer wish to hang out with their usual friends, and they may eat and sleep more or less than usual. However, depressed teens may not withdraw from all friends (as depressed adults do) but keep some close friendships.

They may also experience difficulty paying attention, not only in class but also when playing video games or watching TV. The majority will lose interest in academic work and show a decline in grades.

Some young people dwell on and talk about death – this can be expected in those grieving the death of someone close, but can be a warning sign in the case of those not experiencing a loss.

Symptoms in the elderly

There is a link between getting older and depression - partly linked to a deteriorating ability to carry out routine tasks (helping older people to increase that ability can improve their mental health). Depression often coexists with physical symptoms in the elderly, such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Older people may show more cognitive symptoms of depression, such as forgetfulness or confusion. They may also experience more physical symptoms, such as fatigue or chronic pain and feel generally anxious. A loss of independence, such as moving from a house to a flat or retirement home, or giving up driving can be a trigger for depression. Other symptoms can include:

  • unexplained or worsening aches and pains
  • demanding behaviour
  • memory difficulties
  • lack of interest in personal hygiene
  • missing meals
  • not taking medications.

The elderly who suffer depression are less likely to seek treatment or help than younger people and are at particular risk of suicide. Family conflict, serious physical illness and a sense of loneliness and isolation appear to be risk factors for suicide for the over-75s suffering depression.

Further help on depression

We hope you have found this information useful, please also see:

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