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Common Signs of Depression

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Living with depression can make you feel isolated and alone in the world. The truth is, many people experience depression at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that about 264 million people around the world have depression.


Within the United States, 7.1 percent of all adults have experienced depression. If you put one hundred people in a room, you can count on finding at least seven other people who know what depression feels like. Regardless of how you feel, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone.


Some of the Most Common Signs of Depression


If you’re depressed, you will more than likely experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pervasive sadness or feelings of emptiness

  • Lethargy (low energy)

  • Anxiety—causing you to avoid people and specific situations

  • Difficulty going to or staying asleep

  • Feeling extremely tired even though you have had plenty of rest

  • Trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, or making decisions

  • Irritability, frustration, and anger (extreme anger over minor issues)

  • Feeling guilty or worthless

  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or even committing suicide

  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, such as eating, having sex, or meeting friends

Not all signs of depression are mental. People living with depression often experience physical symptoms in their bodies. Common symptoms include:

  • Headaches

  • Sore muscles

  • Aches and pains

  • Sensitivity to pain

Unhealthy Coping Strategies Can Make the Signs of Depression Worse


The hopelessness and pain that many people feel during periods of depression can encourage them to engage in unhealthy coping strategies. These behaviors may offer some short-term relief, but they often have a rebound effect that will make you feel worse in the long run.


Substance Use Disorder


About 20% of Americans with depression or other mood disorders also have substance use disorder. “Substance use disorder” is the technical term used to describe someone who mentally or physically depends on a drug.


Consuming alcohol or certain drugs can temporarily improve a person’s mood. Unfortunately, substance use often makes the signs of depression worse by interfering with chemicals in the brain and contributing to life problems, such as job loss, legal issues, physical injury, and unstable relationships.


Avoiding Social Interaction and Commitments


The lethargy and hopelessness that often accompany depression can make people want to do as little as possible. Some might stay in bed or lie on their couches for days at a time, getting up only to use the bathroom or eat.


Avoiding social commitments and other interactions may worsen the signs of depression. The physical and mental activity that happens when socializing may offer a temporary reduction in depression.


There Are Different Types of Depression


There are many types of depression that a person can live with. Some people feel depressed for a short amount of time. With the right treatment, their mood can improve quickly. Other people have more severe forms of depression that can come and go throughout their lives.

You can’t know what type of depression you have by reading about signs and symptoms. However, knowing what others experience can help you describe your depression to a mental health professional.


Major Depression

  • Major depression can last for long periods, or it may come and go throughout a person’s life. It involves severe levels of depression that usually include feelings of hopelessness.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

  • Persistent depressive disorder may not feel as severe as major depression, but it can last for two years or longer.

Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar disorder often includes periods of depression. Not all people with bipolar disorder experience depression, though.Bipolar disorder can also include periods of mania, when the person may experience abundant energy and thoughts of grandeur.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

  • Seasonal affective disorder causes people to feel depressed when they do not get enough exposure to sunlight. It most often occurs during the winter months.

Perinatal Depression

  • Perinatal depression includes minor and significant bouts of depression that occur during pregnancy.

Postpartum Depression

  • Postpartum depression occurs after having a baby. Studies show that anywhere from one in 10 to two in 10 women experience postpartum depression.

Only a Mental Health Professional Can Diagnose Depression


The signs of depression can occur in people who have other mental and physical health issues. Don’t assume that feeling sad or lethargic means you have depression. For example, hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) can cause some of the same symptoms, including fatigue, sadness, muscle aches, and impaired memory.


Getting an accurate diagnosis is a crucial step toward finding an effective treatment option. If you suspect that you could have depression, schedule an appointment to talk with a mental health professional. They can diagnose your condition and help you explore various treatment options until you find one (or a combination) that works for you.

If you need us, Empathy Therapy is always here for you.


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