What are the major signs and symptoms of depression?

Major signs and symptoms of depression - CFHH

Having a human brain is not easy! Our moods, thoughts and emotions can fluctuate at any given moment – we may experience joy and happiness one day, and the next, get plunged into feelings of worthlessness, sadness, anxiety and low mood.

All this suggests polarities that are part of the human condition – since we are mutable beings, our moods, emotions and thoughts are just as changeable and often dictate our feelings and behaviour.

We all have up and down days – but there is a marked difference between ”having a bad day” and suffering from a mental health condition such as depression.

Symptoms of depression

Clinically, depression has several distinct factors, all of which impact a person’s mental health to varying degrees and depends on their life circumstances and other comorbid conditions.

Signs of depression

Some of the signs and symptoms associated with depression and depressive disorder include:

  • Persistent sadness and depressed mood
  • A lack of interest in the things that a person once enjoyed – this may involve hobbies, pursuits and interests that once gave them pleasure
  • Feelings of restlessness and nervousness
  • A lack of self-esteem and low -worth
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Thoughts of despair and the belief that there is ‘no way outโ€™
  • Feeling numb and empty
  • Experiencing feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and feeling down about yourself
  • Sleeping too much (or not enough)
  • Suicidal thoughts and thoughts of death
  • Anxiety
  • A sense of unreality

Other warning signs

People with depression and depressed mood may also exhibit other behavioural patterns such as:

  • Self-harming or suicidal behavior
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or thinking clearly
  • Constantly feeling tired or lethargic
  • Persistent aches and pains and chronic pain
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Back pain
  • Talking about suicide or having thoughts related to death
  • Severe anxiety
  • Persistent low mood
  • Regular substance abuse such as alcohol and drugs
  • Loss of interest or pleasure (such as sexual intimacy)
  • Avoiding social events and activities you once enjoyed

Risk factors

People with anxiety and depression – particularly those with severe depression, may also experience psychotic symptoms – some of these symptoms include:

  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Hallucinations (such as hearing voices)

Feelings of guilt

Psychotic episodes are a symptom of depression and can be very confusing and frightening for the person experiencing them.

An individual may get convinced that they have done something wrong and share overwhelming feelings of guilt for something they didn’t do, like committing a crime or some other terrible act.

Signs of depression

All this can be very real to an individual, making it harder for them to see that these psychotic episodes are related to depression.

People with depression must seek treatment and support from a mental health professional who will discuss their symptoms of depression and treatment options.


According to mental health data, there is no single cause for depression, also known as major depressive disorder and major depression.

Mental disorders

However, some parallels get drawn from depression sufferers; mental disorders such as depression may cause a range of emotional and physical symptoms, all of which are unpleasant and sometimes difficult to manage.

For example, sleeping too much is a sign of depression, and so are suicide attempts and frequent drug abuse.

Although the cause of depression isn’t all that clear, some factors cause mental illness and depression in some people and not others, such as:

  • Changing hormones
  • Genetic factors
  • Childhood events such as bereavement and experiencing trauma as children
  • Lifestyle habits: smoking, substance abuse, bad diet, and not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of depression in adults
  • Illness – certain health conditions (mainly if they are life-threatening) may cause clinical depression in some people

Depression types

Low mood and depression have different manifestations and types; these include:

Depressive episode

When diagnosing patients with depression, doctors may refer to it as a ”depressive episode” which gets classified as either a mild, moderate or severe episode.

Clinical depression

When a person receives a diagnosis of clinical depression, it means the doctor has diagnosed them with depression.

Recurrent depressive disorder

When someone experiences at least two depressive episodes – their GP or mental health professional may diagnose them with ”recurrent depressive disorder” – similar to depressive episodes, their depression may get ranked as mild, moderate or severe.

Reactive depressive disorder

A therapist or doctor will diagnose patients with reactive depressive disorder if they believe a patient’s depression is because of specific life events such as abuse, financial worries or any other circumstance.

Bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression)

Bipolar (formerly called manic depression) is not the same condition as depression; however, bipolar disorder features periods of depression and episodes of extreme emotional highs.

Other mental health conditions associated with depression include:

  • Dysthymia
  • Psychotic depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Prenatal or postnatal depression
  • Cyclothymia

National institute of mental health

According to the institute of mental health, major depression is the most prevalent mental illness in the United States.

Health information

Medical data shows that approximately 17.3 million adult Americans have experienced at least one major depressive episode; these episodes were more prevalent in women (8.7%) than men (5.3%).

Other data shows that major depressive episodes’ prevalence was highest among those aged between 18-25 compared to older adults.

When to see your doctor

If you think you may be experiencing any symptoms like the ones mentioned above, you must seek health care advice from your doctor immediately.

Depression often causes physical health complications.

Research shows that people with depression are also at risk of developing health complications such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Strokes
  • High blood pressure


One study conducted at the University of Cambridge showed that people who scored high for severe depression were more likely to develop other health conditions such as heart disease or stroke than those with lower scores.

The Center for Suicide Prevention reported that people with depression and depressive illnesses carry out most suicides.

Major depressive disorder is also the most common disorder with other co-occurring disorders (such as substance use disorder) in precipitating suicide (Mood Disorders Society of Canada, 2013).


Seeking professional help for depression from a mental health professional is the first step to recovery. Treatment options may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Problem-solving therapy
  • One on one counselling
  • Trauma treatment
  • Group counselling and family programs
  • Admission into addiction treatment centers (where substance abuse is a co-occurring condition)
  • Medication such as antidepressants

Get in touch

If you think that you or a loved one may be experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of depression mentioned above, then it’s time to reach out to a specialist who can help you.

Depression (and any other mental illness) doesn’t have to be a way of life – there are plenty of ways to seek help and support.

Mental health conditions such as depression often rob people of the joy, happiness and contentment they deserve.

Fortunately, plenty of effective healthcare options are available to those seeking long-term recovery from the unpleasant signs and symptoms associated with depression.
Get in touch with a member of our team today to discuss your options.

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