Most Common Symptoms of Depression Explained

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

Depression is a mental health issue that can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate based on socio economic status, age, gender, race, culture or career. I’ve seen famous musicians struggle with depression and I’ve seen homeless individuals. According to the World Health Organization over 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Depression can seem like a cloud directly above you that can affect the way you view yourself, others and the world around you. It can be both debilitating and most importantly treatable. The following are some of the symptoms and behaviors of Major Depressive Disorder.

Depressed Mood

Your mood may consist of feeling sad or empty. Some people say that they feel “down” and can’t connect to feeling happy or satisfied. You may be tearful throughout the day. Things that may not have elicited an emotional reaction before can now set you into a crying spell. It is important to note that a depressed mood does not necessarily mean that you are depressed. Being depressed means that the sad or empty feeling hasn’t gone away and has been present for at least 2 weeks.


This is very common in men, children and adolescents that are depressed. You may notice that a lot more things seem to trigger your irritability. Things, people and situations may cause you to feel angry, irritable and impatient. You may feel more reactive to situations..


You find it hard to focus in each setting that you are in. When you are home you are thinking about other issues, circumstances, people, work, etc. You start projects but are unable to complete them. At work it’s difficult to complete your job without getting distracted. It may seem more difficult for you to perform the same duties you used to get done. Or it may take you much longer. Also, you may experience times when your mind goes blank either while talking, sending an email or trying to remember something.

Weight change or change of appetite

Changes of your eating habits may occur from depression. Most individuals notice a loss of appetite and weight loss. They may lose interest in preparing food or having the energy to cook. Others may notice that they are overeating and possibly gaining weight. They may be “emotionally eating” to ease some of the emotional pain they may feel. Overeating or binge eating may numb feelings of sadness, frustration, stress and feelings of hopelessness.

Sleep Changes

Your sleep patterns have changed. You may have a very difficult time falling asleep (insomnia). You may have trouble staying asleep and wake up periodically during the night. Some people even experience unpleasant dreams and nightmares. Also, sleeping too much may be a symptom of depression. I always tell my patients to talk to their primary physician if they get 8 hours of sleep and still feel drained/exhausted.

Loss of interest

When you are depressed you loose interest in activities and hobbies that you used to enjoy. This may include traveling, visiting with family/friends, going to the movies, exercise, working, etc. Professionals often refer to this as Anhedonia which basically means a reduced motivation or ability to experience pleasure.

Worthlessness and/or Guilt

Although everyone experiences these at some point you notice that your feelings seem much more constant and extreme. You may tend to personalize events and frequently take on guilt.

Change of Activity Level

Psychomotor agitation (feelings of restlessness) or psychomotor retardation (your movements appear slowed)

Diminished ability to Concentrate

A recent article by Psychology Today explained that depression has been associated with dysfunction of the frontal lobes which controls executive functioning skills. These skills include: attention, decision making, emotional control, insight, planning/prioritizing, working memory, judgement, willpower, etc.

The article states, “It’s important that depressed people realize, as well as family and friends of loved ones who are depressed, that have trouble with self-care is not due to laziness, or not trying hard enough or from weakness. The issue here is significant brain dysfunction.


With depression you MAY have thoughts of death, hurting yourself or ending your life. You think about what life would be like if you weren’t here. It is important that you contact a suicide hotline or 911 if you are experiencing these thoughts or have a plan.

The article that was quoted is from Psychology Today and called, “Why Self-Care is Hard for Depressed Individuals.”

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