What are the Top 5 Symptoms of Depression?

The Top 5 Signs of Depression and How to Recognize Them

Depression is a mental disorder that has many different aspects and ranges from mild to severe. According to the American Psychiatric Association, an estimated 6.7% of adults experience depression each year, and 16.6 % are depressed at some point in their lives. While depression is hard to understand, it is treatable with the proper medical care and support.

If you are suffering from depression, it is vital that you know the different symptoms and how best to identify them. You could be feeling depressed even though you do not realize it. The list of depression symptoms is long. However, there are some common symptoms and signs of depression that should not be ignored. Depression is typically diagnosed if they how you think, feel, and act. You might not be able to carry out the simplest of tasks, or you may feel so sad and defeated that you can’t get out of bed.

Depression is a mood disorder that can affect anyone at any age. It’s more common in women and older adults and can run in families. It’s not your fault if you’re depressed, and you can’t simply “snap out of it” without help.

Types of Depression

While many people think of it as a single condition, there are actually several different types of depression. Some of the most common are listed below. Your symptoms and treatment options will vary depending on the type of depression you’re experiencing.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is often referred to as clinical depression. It involves a significant loss of interest and pleasure in daily activities, which can persist for more than two weeks. A person with MDD often experiences noticeable changes in mood and behavior, such as frequent crying spells, changes in appetite, irritability, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

Bipolar Depression

Bipolar disorder involves two or more episodes of mania and depression. When people talk about “bipolar disorder,” they usually refer to bipolar I, II, or III. These terms describe the severity of the condition and the likelihood that you will experience severe episodes again in your lifetime.

The type of bipolar disorder you have can greatly impact how your symptoms develop and how well you respond to treatment. You may also have subtypes based on when your episodes begin and end or whether they involve periods of depression and mania or hypomania.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression mainly affecting people living in areas with less sunlight during winter. SAD affects about 6% of people living in the United States. Symptoms include depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, and fatigue.

It involves changes in sleep patterns and weight gain during the winter months when less light is available in the day than usual. Seasonal affective disorder can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

Psychotic Depression

This is a type of depression that causes hallucinations and delusions. The symptoms are the same as in other types of depression, but the mood changes are more dramatic and extreme. Psychotic depression is typically treated using a combination of professional counseling and psychotropic medications.

5 Major Symptoms of Depression

While there are several different types of depression, here are five major symptoms that generally indicate the disorder.

1. A Persistent Low Mood

Everyone feels sad or discouraged once in a while. Causes can include the loss of someone or something important. This might be a beloved significant other, family member, friend, or pet. It could be a job, a home, or even a car. You could also have “the blues” for what seems like no reason at all.

Sadness and grief generally pass over time, but if you continue feeling down for weeks on end, you could have depression.

2. Loss of Interest in Activities You Used to Enjoy

Losing interest in your formerly favorite activities may be due to taking up new pursuits that you find more engaging. But it could also mean you no longer see the point of bothering with these activities and/or no longer have the energy to keep up with them.

For example, if you used to love going out with friends and having fun but now find yourself choosing not to go out. This loss of interest may be a sign of depression.

Your depression can make it difficult to continue the things you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, or intimacy with the one you love. If you get depressed for several months, this may be a sign that the condition is worsening.

3. Feelings of Worthlessness and Guilt

Guilt and feelings of worthlessness are not only common for people with depression, but they can also be a symptom of depression itself. Guilt is typically an internal feeling you experience when you do something wrong. When someone is depressed, however, there may be no definitive reason for their guilt.

You may feel guilty because you don’t want to put forth the effort to complete a task or meet a deadline. Guilt may also arise because you feel like you didn’t do something right or made a mistake.

Many people with depression feel ashamed of their symptoms. They may feel they are not worthy of love or support because they feel bad about themselves.

Some people think that depression is an indicator of weakness or lack of willpower. This is not true, but believing it can give a depressed person one more reason to feel guilty or worthless.

4. Poor Concentration

Do you find it hard to focus on the task at hand, whether it’s your job, schoolwork, household chores, or even a social event that feels more like work? Does it seem impossible to complete even the simplest errand, like shopping for groceries or picking up take-out food? These can be signs of depression, too.

This disorder affects the body as well as the mind, so you may also find you’re getting more headaches or backaches than usual or feel that you can never get enough sleep. Even without complications like these, things you need to do every day, and used to do with hardly a thought, now seem nearly impossible to begin, let alone complete.

5. Thoughts of Death, Self-Harm, or Suicide

When feelings of worthlessness or guilt grow to the point where you feel no reason to keep on living, you’re experiencing the most serious symptom of depression. This can express itself in various ways. You may dwell on the past and feel that nothing you’ve achieved matters. You may look ahead and see nothing but bleak, meaningless days. Even if you know that the people you care about love you, you may decide that they, and the world, are better off without you.

At this point, some people consider self-harm or even suicide. If you or someone you love is feeling this desperate, seek help as soon as possible.

Depressed individuals may try hard not to show how bad they feel most of the time. Others tell themselves that it is a passing phase in life that will soon be over. However, depression doesn’t go away on its own; it takes treatment to improve your quality of life. Treatment and support can guide you toward a more fulfilling and happy future.

How to Treat Depression

Fortunately, depression is treatable, and there are a number of resources available to help. Here are some tips for treating depression.

Consult Your Doctor

It’s important to talk with your doctor about your feelings of sadness or hopelessness that don’t go away on their own. Your doctor will want to know how long you’ve been having these feelings and how they impact your life.

Consult your physician about what treatments might be most helpful for treating depression and preventing another episode from occurring. Talk with your doctor about any medicines you are taking. Some medicines can make depression worse or trigger a relapse in people with a history of depression. Ask your doctor if you should make any changes to your medication.

Get Plenty of Rest and Exercise Daily

Physical exercise offers many benefits. It helps to relieve stress, which is one factor that contributes to depression symptoms. Physical exercise also helps boost your mood and energy levels, reducing depression symptoms. You workout can be as simple as walking briskly for half an hour daily or doing aerobics three times a week at the gym. You can also get your exercise at home on an exercise bike or treadmill.

Exercise boosts the chemicals in your brain that make you feel better about yourself and more relaxed after a workout. Exercise also helps you cope with other stresses in life, such as relationship problems or financial worries.

Try a relaxation technique such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation each day to help reduce stress levels and improve your mood. In addition, try to set aside time each day for yourself just for you. Get out and enjoy nature, or have breakfast in bed if possible.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating healthy foods will help your body function at its best and help it fight off disease naturally. Fruits and vegetables have nutrients that help boost your mood, such as vitamins B6 and C, folate, magnesium, and potassium. They also contain antioxidants that help fight free radicals — unstable atoms in the body that damage cells and can contribute to heart disease, cancer, or dementia.

Get Help for Depression Today

Depression is a disorder that affects how you feel, think, and behave. It can happen whatever your age, gender, or race. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, it’s important to reach out for help. In addition to discussing symptoms with your doctor, you can benefit from talking with others who understand what you are going through.

The National Depression Hotline is just a phone call away and is staffed by trained individuals who can help you learn more about your symptoms and find resources in your local area. Our hotline is free and confidential, and it’s available 24/7/365. In addition to help you battle depression, our team can help you learn more about related conditions such as anxiety and substance use disorder (SUD). Contact the hotline to get the help you need today.


Medically Reviewed By:

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

Our Mission

Our goal is to provide resources for people struggling with depression. We know how hard it is to find reliable, and free resources to help yourself or a loved one. This website does just that. If you want to talk, getting help for depression is only a phone call away. Our free hotline is available 24/7.

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