Life comes with more than its fair share of ups and downs. Unfortunate life events such as divorce, loss of a job or the death of a family member can cause normal feelings of grief that can last for days, weeks or even months. However, with time and healing, most people are able to eventually move on from these sad feelings.
Clinical depression, on the other hand, is a severe medical disorder that can totally disrupt a person’s life. Symptoms of depression may last for months or years. Severe depression signs and symptoms often interfere with daily life, and won’t disappear on their own without treatment. The first step in getting a proper diagnosis of depression is being aware of the signs of depression.
Symptoms of Depression
According to the DSM-IV, signs of depression are marked by either a persistent depressed mood or a loss of interest in daily activities. A depressed person exhibits at least five of the following severe depression signs:
- Depressed or irritable mood that lasts almost all day and manifests nearly every day
- Fatigue; loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Indecisiveness and trouble concentrating
- Obvious restlessness or “slowing down”
- Recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicide
- Sleep issues, either sleeping way too much or struggling with insomnia
- Weight loss or weight gain.
To qualify for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, a person must be experiencing at least five of these symptoms of depression concurrently over a period of at least two weeks.
Diagnosis of Depression
If you identify signs of depression in a family member, or if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, make an appointment to visit a doctor. Discuss your symptoms candidly and answer any questions your doctor has about past behavior and your family history. Expect a routine physical examination and lab tests to help rule out other conditions that could coincide with severe depression signs.
After eliminating the possibility of other conditions, your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of depression. Be prepared to answer questions about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior. Your doctor will ask if you’ve had similar episodes in the past or if any family members have exhibited symptoms of depression.
The answers you provide will help your doctor determine whether or not you have clinical depression or another illness, such as hypothyroidism, bipolar disorder, or seasonal affective disorder. Once a diagnosis of depression is established, you and your doctor can discuss appropriate treatment options to help deal with your symptoms of depression.
Help Guide Staff. (n.d.). Understanding depression: Signs, symptoms, causes and help. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the Help Guide website: http://helpguide.org/mental/depression_signs_types_diagnosis_treatment.htm.
Mental Health Today Staff. (n.d.). Major depressive episode: DSM IV diagnosis. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the Mental Health Today website: http://www.mental-health-today.com/dep/dsm.htm.