Major depressive disorder is a clinical mental illness that will not just clear up on its own. Depression symptoms require treatment, just like those of any other illness. When ignored and untreated, depression can lead to many other physical and mental problems, including a heightened risk of suicide.
The problem is that depression is an elusive disease. Most individuals experiencing the condition do not recognize that their depression symptoms are related to a clinical psychological problem. Friends, co-workers or family members need to help these individuals identify their depression and seek help. For this reason, it’s important to know and be able to recognize the symptoms of depression.
Common Symptoms of Depression
According to the DSM-IV, depression exists when at least five of the following depression symptoms occur simultaneously and linger for at least two weeks:
- Concentration issues: Depression can interfere with the normal ability to concentrate or even make simple decisions.
- Disinterest in activities: Depressed people often lose interest in activities that they enjoyed before.
- Fatigue: This symptom of depression is persistent and lasts for multiple days.
- Feelings of depression: Obviously, this is the most blatant symptom of depression. However, it goes beyond normal sadness or even feeling “down in the dumps.” It’s a persistent sad feeling that lasts most of the day, almost every day. These feelings are often especially strong in the mornings.
- Feelings of worthlessness: Depressed people often feel worthless or guilty. Related symptoms of depression include feelings of being overwhelmed, or a sense of hopelessness or pessimism.
- Restlessness: People suffering from depression may feel “amped up,” anxious and restless. Or they may experience the opposite symptom of depression, with their reflexes responding slowly.
- Thoughts of suicide or death: If you are experiencing this symptom of depression, or you think a loved one may be contemplating suicide, seek help immediately by calling 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.
- Trouble sleeping: These symptoms of depression may include insomnia or excessive sleeping.
- Weight loss or gain: A loss or gain of more than 5 percent of total body weight is a red flag. This is especially true if there’s no obvious reason for this symptom of depression, such as a new diet or exercise program.
Depression Symptom Test
If you are experiencing any of these depression symptoms, visit a doctor (such as a licensed psychiatrist) immediately. The doctor will give you a physical exam, possibly run some blood tests and conduct a depression symptom survey. Be sure to share your current thought patterns and behavior, and mention if you’ve had similar episodes in the past as your doctor conducts this depression symptom survey.
It’s important to seek professional help so that if you do have major depressive disorder, you can be properly diagnosed and treated for it. Even if you don’t have major depressive disorder, the depression symptom test may uncover another problem, such as bipolar disorder or seasonal affective disorder.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Tests and diagnosis. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/DS00175/DSECTION=tests-and-diagnosis.
National Institute of Mental Health Staff. (n.d.). Depression. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the National Institute of Mental Health Web site: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/complete-index.shtml.