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Symptoms of depression

It’s an unfortunate fact of life: sadness and tragedy touch all people. A loved one dies. A friend drifts away. Opportunities are lost, relationships crumble into acrimony and sometimes bad decisions are regretted for years. Bad as these situations can be, the sadness associated with them eventually goes away.

Clinical depression is different.

Depression is a disease that causes long-term episodes of sadness, hopelessness and feelings of emptiness and worthlessness. It affects both mental and physical health, the life of the individual and the lives of those around them. Depression can be dangerous, as people with depression often cannot see a way out, leading to thoughts – and actions – of suicide.

Sadly many people with depression never seek help. In some cases this may be because they aren’t able to recognize the signs that they are dealing with this mental illness.

Symptoms of depression are different in everyone with depression, but are shared across the spectrum of depressive disorders.

Types of depressive disorders

Depressive disorders come in several forms:

  • Major depression: Episodes of major depression include symptoms that can make the life of an affected person more difficult, as they interfere with their ability to sleep, work and even eat. Depression can rob enjoyment of even simple activities like having a conversation with a friend. Episodes of major depression can occur only once in a lifetime, but more often people experience multiple occurrences
  • Persistent depressive disorder: A person with persistent depressive disorder will have major depressive episodes with varying levels of severity for at least two years
  • Postpartum depression: The hormonal and physical changes of pregnancy, along with the addition of new responsibilities involved in caring for a baby, sometimes cause moments of depression in new mothers. This period of depression experienced by some women is normal and is often referred to as the “baby blues.” However, if these feelings last for longer than two or three weeks, they may be a sign of postpartum depression, a very serious disorder. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of women experience this form of depression
  • Psychotic depression: This occurs in people who have severe depression along with some form of psychosis, conditions involving breaks with reality and auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Seasonal affective disorder: Some people experience depression during the winter months, when natural sunlight is less available. SAD tends to improve during the spring and summer
  • Bipolar disorder: Often called manic depression, it is much less common than other depressive disorders. People with bipolar disorder experience wildly cycling mood swings, from highs (mania) to lows (depression)


A depressive episode may occur only once during a person’s life. However, most people with clinical depression experience multiple depressive episodes. Symptoms of depression appear constantly during these episodes and last throughout the day. Symptoms of depression are both mental and physical. Mental symptoms of depression can include:

  • Changes in temperament such as restlessness, anxiety and agitation, including increased frustration and irritation even over small things. Angry outbursts become more common
  • Changes in mood including feelings of guilt, worthlessness and obsessing over past perceived failures, as well as other feelings like emptiness, hopelessness and sadness
  • Feeling a loss of interest or not taking pleasure in normal activities like hobbies, daily physical activities or sex. Depressed people often report feeling constantly tired so that even the smallest tasks take more effort
  • Slowed thinking, speaking and moving
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide, as well as suicide attempts
  • Changes in appetite. Some people experience cravings for food and weight gain during depressive episodes where others experience reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Sudden physical problems like headaches and back pain

Signs of depression in older people

Depression is not a part of growing older and is a dangerous problem to ignore. In older people, depression can frequently be more dangerous as older adults are less likely to seek help and the symptoms can be less obvious. In addition to the symptoms of depression that present in younger people, older people with depression often experience:

  • Personality changes
  • Memory difficulties
  • Problems with fatigue, appetite and sleep unrelated to medications or other medical conditions
  • A desire to stay at home rather than going out in public
  • A loss of interest in socializing or trying new things
  • Older men with depression are particularly prone to suicidal thoughts and thinking

Signs of depression in children and teens

Children and teens experience most of the same symptoms of depression that adults do but the symptoms can present themselves in different ways:

  • In addition to feelings of sadness, irritability and worthlessness, depressed teens often feel misunderstood. Teens with depression may lose interest in normal activities or socializing. Behavior issues like drug and alcohol abuse are common in depressed teens, as well as attendance and performance issues at school
  • Younger children with depression often exhibit clinginess, sadness and irritability, often refusing to go to school. Physical signs like being underweight along with aches and pains are common, too

There are some overlaps between the symptoms of depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Depression can co-occur with ADHD as well.

For those living with depression, getting help can seem pointless – indeed, one of the chief symptoms of the disease is hopelessness. Depression responds well to treatment, therapy, medication and counseling and even severely depressed people benefit from a course of treatment.

If you or someone you know is living with depression or has questions about where to find a facility that offers treatment, please contact the Colorado Depression Treatment Helpline. A member of our team can provide you with information and resources on depression and treatment for depression. To learn more call the Colorado Depression Treatment Helpline at any time.

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