Nine classic symptoms of depression
The following are the nine classic
symptoms that a doctor looks for when considering a diagnosis of
depression. A major depressive episode is present if five or more of
the following nine symptoms are present during the same two-week
period. At least one of the five symptoms must be either a depressed
mood or loss of interest or pleasure.
|| Depressed mood for
most of the day
|| Disturbed appetite or
change in weight
|| Disturbed sleep
retardation or agitation
||Loss of interest in
previously pleasurable activities; inability to enjoy usual
hobbies or activities
||Fatigue or loss of
worthlessness; excessive and/or inappropriate guilt
concentrating or thinking clearly
||Morbid or suicidal
thoughts or actions
A change in mood is the red flag that alerts a doctor to consider a
diagnosis of depression. Depressed individuals typically feel sadness
or despair. They find they've lost their ability to feel pleasure, and
they're no longer interested in things they normally enjoy. Some
depressed patients may be more irritable or tense than sad.
If you're depressed, you may notice emotional changes, including
inappropriate feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Many depressed
people experience a marked lack of confidence and feelings of
ineptitude. Some people will avoid situations that require any sort of
responsibility for fear of failure.
Changes in the way your body
Depression affects the body as well as the emotions. Depressed
individuals may notice changes in the way their body functions.
Changes in appetite are common. Typically, appetite decreases.
However, depression also may be expressed by excessive appetite and
weight gain. Sleeping patterns may change as well. When people suffer
from depression, they may have difficulty falling asleep, they may
wake up in the middle of the night, or they may wake up in the early
morning hours without being able to return to sleep. People who wake
up in the early hours (terminal insomnia) tend to have the most severe
depression. Occasionally, depressed individuals complain of chronic
fatigue and report excessive sleeping rather than insomnia.
Loss of energy and sex drive
Loss of energy and tiring too easily are also common symptoms of
depression. Sex drive may be decreased markedly in depressed people
and may lead to impotence and the inability to have an orgasm (anorgasmia).
Many people who suffer from depression have difficulty concentrating
or thinking clearly. Depressed individuals may feel that they are
unable to study or that their efficiency at work is decreased. In
severe cases, depressed individuals are not even able to watch
It is possible for people to suffer from major depression without
their friends and loved ones realizing it. Their depression may be
masked because they don't talk about their low mood. Instead, they may
complain of various physical problems (e.g., indigestion, heartburn,
muscle or joint pains, and chronic headaches). Further questioning may
reveal that depression is responsible for their symptoms.
In very severe cases of depression, patients may develop psychotic
symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. Often, the psychotic
symptoms have depressive themes, such as an unshakable belief that one
is totally worthless. Some severely depressed patients hear a voice
telling them to kill themselves.
Want more reading on depression?
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Encyclopedia Article from Encarta
Institute of Mental Health