11 Depression Symptoms (You Shouldn't Ignore)

Updated in October 2022

Depression symptoms that may indicate the development of this disorder include constant fatigue, lack of energy and lack of motivation to partake in activities that were once pleasurable. These symptoms may be mild in the beginning, but can worsen overtime and eventually affect mood, ability to work and ability to maintain relationships.  

Depression occurs as a result of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors that affect neurotransmitter levels. It can be triggered by many specific situations, or as a result of a cumulative life events that eventually take a toll and cause physical symptoms. 

Nonetheless, depression is treatable with the right diagnosis and with treatment like antidepressants, anxiolytics, and/or psychotherapy.

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The most common signs and symptoms of depression include

1. A feeling of emptiness or sadness

Feeling empty or sad can sometimes be physically visible, and a person can appear to have sunken, listless eyes and a curved or hunched posture. Those affected with depression will often have crying spells or cry very easily, and will often have feelings of pessimism, blame and low self-esteem.

It's also common to feel useless, and therefore people who develop depression tend to isolate themselves from their family or, in more serious cases, contemplate “solutions” like suicide.

People with depression typically report that their sadness feels “different this time” as it does not improve with attitudes or actions that would normally help them feel better. Sadness is often felt with feelings of emptiness, apathy, disinterest and a lack of motivation to complete activities of daily living.

2. Reduced interest in activities you used to enjoy

This is one of the main signs of depression. It is normally present right at the beginning of this disorder and can worsen as the depression develops. A depressive mood disorder can lead to a person having quick and transient changes to their disposition (e.g. making them more susceptible to crying, for example).

In addition, interest in participating in activities that once brought joy (e.g. playing an instrument, watching moves or series, being with friends, going to parties) disappear without any logical explanation. People often explain that they simply “don't feel like it.”

3. Lack of energy and constant fatigue

A lack of energy and constant fatigue can impede a person's ability to perform activities of daily living, such as personal hygiene, eating, or going to work or school. This is often a sign of depression, and the additional lack of motivation to perform these activities may mean the depression is worsening.

4. Irritability

Due to the profound sadness felt, it is common to develop irritability and have rage attacks, as well as symptoms like tremors, an uncontrollable desire to shout and even excessive sweating. Additionally, people with depression are prone to develop anxiety and hopelessness.

5. Pain and other physical changes

Headaches frequently occur with depression due to poor sleep patterns and changes in mood. Other physical feelings that can occur with depression are chest tightness and a feeling of heaviness in the legs. Due to hormonal changes associated with depression, some people can even report hair loss, brittle fingernails, and back or stomach pain. Vomiting and tremors may also occur, and are often recognized as "psychosomatic" symptoms of depression.

6. Sleep disorder

It is common for people with depression to experience terminal insomnia, which means that you wake up early in the morning, around 3am or 4am, and are unable to fall asleep again until at least 10am. This contributes to the fatigue experienced.

7. Loss of appetite

A loss of appetite or change in weight due to depression is a result of many symptoms working simultaneously. For example, a person with depression can end up losing weight because they avoid meals for several reasons: they do not have energy to get up in the morning, they feel pain, or they are irritated. It is common for people with depression to eat just one meal per day, and usually only at the insistence of loved ones.

Weight changes occur due to a low production of serotonin, which aids in the absorption of nutrients. A reduction in serotonin can result in excessive weight loss.

8. Lack of concentration

A lack of concentration can emerge with depression, as well as memory loss, persistent negative thoughts and indecision. These mental traits can all affect a person's work life, school life or social life. This symptom can be easily recognized, as people will not respond to questions and stare-off blankly for long periods. People with depression may also lose a sense of time.

9. Thoughts of death and suicide

A combination of all depression symptoms can lead a person to have thoughts of death and suicide, as many of the symptoms experienced can lead someone to think that there is no reason to live. A depressed person may rationalize that death is a solution to escaping the situation they are in.

10. Alcohol and drug abuse 

Alcohol and drug abuse happen due to the presence of profound sadness and suffering. The person may feel the need to experience joy and to turn off their depressed feelings. This can be dangerous, as abuse can lead to dependence and overdose. 

Nonetheless, alcohol and drug abuse does not occur to all people with depression, therefore it's important to be alert to any rapid change in a person's personality that could indicate signs of addiction.

11. Slow thinking

Depression can, at times, interfere with psychomotor processing, which can range from agitation to slowness (with the latter being the most common). This can affect thoughts, movements and even speech, causing the person to respond with short answers, or on the contrary, speak very rapidly with twitching in the hands and legs.

Online depression symptom checker

To assess your risk for depression, confirm your symptoms below: 

  1. 1. I feel happy when I watch TV or read a book.
  2. 2. I am excited about good things that are coming my way.
  3. 3. How I look is important to me.
  4. 4. I feel like my mind is sharp.
  5. 5. There are moments throughout my day that bring me happiness.
  6. 6. I can laugh spontaneously and have fun.
  7. 7. I like to keep-up my old hobbies.

If it important to highlight that a depression diagnosis can only be confirmed by a psychologist and/or psychiatrist following a thorough assessment that evaluates your symptoms, lifestyle habits, healthy history and family history.