Signs And Symptoms
There is no specific test for diagnosing depression, like a blood test or brain scan. Instead, there are different signs and symptoms that mental health professionals generally agree upon as evidence of depression. These are what clinicians assess when interviewing their patients. A clinical interview is still considered the most reliable means of determining whether someone is depressed.
There are two especially important questions clinicians ask in order to make the diagnosis. A “yes” answer to either or both of these questions suggest a person is already depressed or is at risk for becoming depressed. The two questions are:
- Have you been feeling down, depressed, sad or blue for the last month or more?
- Have you lost interest in or stopped getting pleasure from the things that normally interest you or give you pleasure?
If your answer is yes to either or both of the above questions, I hope you will take the important step of talking to a health care professional as soon as possible.
Signs and symptoms of depression can be grouped according to what dimension of experience they most tend to affect, as in the following list. No one symptom or group of symptoms defines depression, though, which is why each person’s experience of depression is a little different. This is a general list describing the range of symptoms people might experience. It is by no means a complete list.
- Physical Symptoms
- Sleep disturbance (sleeping too little or too much)
- Sexual dysfunction or ongoing lack of interest
- Lack of energy, fatigue
- Appetite disturbance (eating too much or too little)
- Emotional Symptoms
- Feeling sad most of the time
- Feeling helpless to manage
- Feeling hopeless anything can get better
- Loss of capacity to experience pleasure
- Guilt feelings that are either inappropriate or excessive
- Social Symptoms
- Isolation – Withdrawal from people and social situations
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyed social activities
- Irritability, frequently “snapping” at people for no good reason
- Cognitive Symptoms
- Concentration problems
- Memory problems
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Indecisiveness, rumination
- Negative thinking across diverse situations
- Behavioral symptoms
- Avoidant behavior
- Self-destructive behavior
- Alcohol and drug abuse
As you can see, the symptoms of depression can vary quite a bit from one person to another. The bottom line, though, is how you feel about yourself and the quality of your life. If you’re not generally satisfied with your life, maybe it is (and maybe it isn’t) depression. But waiting for things to improve by themselves is usually not the best option. Taking positive action makes better sense.