Common Symptoms of Depression

Even though there are no blood tests that enable one to diagnose depression, health care professionals use well-developed clinical guidelines in order to properly diagnose depression.  One standard for diagnosing depression is the DSM-IV®, developed by the American Psychiatric Association.  The  DSM-IV® is a diagnosis tool used by health care professionals to help diagnose depression.

According to the DSM-IV, a diagnosis of depression is made when an individual is suffering from persistent sadness (or an “empty” feeling), has a loss of interest in activities, and has at least five or more of the following symptoms most of the day, almost every day,  for at least 2 weeks:

Emotional Symptoms of Depression – Depression can manifest itself emotionally by feeling one or all of the following emotions:

  1. Constant sadness – Individuals suffering from depression often report that they feel “empty” and appear to be sad. It often seems impossible to break through this sadness and raise their spirits, and it continues day after day.
  2. Irritability – They will possibly be very short tempered and easily irritated, or else be very emotional and cry very easily, seemingly for no reason.
  3. Hopelessness – People with depression can appear to be very “one-dimension”, as though nothing excites or interests them at all. They may display signs of anxiety, and can also have difficulty in concentrating. They may feel as there is no reason for living and simply want to give up.
  4. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt for no reason – Often times individuals with depression feel worthless, as though their life has no mean.  They can feel overwhelming guilt, which may seem irrational to others. They may also suffer from suicidal thoughts, or feel that their life is not worth living.
  5. Loss of interest in favorite activities – Depression causes many individuals to lose interest in their work and lose the will to participate in activities that they previously enjoyed. Depressed individuals may also lose enjoyment in spending time with friends and family, and then to withdraw from others.

Physical Symptoms of Depression – Depression can also manifest itself physically by suffering from one or all of the following physical symptoms:

  1. Trouble sleeping – One of the first signs of depression is that sleep may be affected. You might have difficulty falling to sleep at night, often troubled by negative thoughts. Sometimes people with depression will awake throughout the night, or awake too early. Often times, getting back to sleep once you are awake can be very difficult. Alternatively, some individuals find that their sleep pattern goes to the opposite extreme, and they may need a lot more sleep than usual, including naps during the day.
  2. Low energy or fatigue – People with depression often suffer from low energy or fatigue. They can find it very challenging to carry out simple daily activities.  Sufferers can also appear to be exhausted, have little energy and can appear to move almost in slow motion.
  3. Significant weight change – People with depression often show changes in their appetite:  either deriving comfort by eating, or losing their appetite completely.  A gain or loss of 5% of body weight in the space of a month is often seen as a indicator of depression.
  4. Difficulty concentrating – Depression can make an individual have difficulty focusing on details, and they often feel like they want to just “give up” because it takes too much energy to concentrate.

Depressive symptoms can affect your ability to function at home, at work, or with family, friends, or colleagues. Therefore, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms of depression as described by the DSM-IV, it is important for you to contact your health care professional.