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Signs of Depression: Are You Just Sad or Clinically Depressed?

Are you wondering “Am I depressed?” or whether a loved one is? What are the signs of depression? Everyone feels sad or depressed from time to time. This doesn’t mean you are clinically depressed or have major depressive disorder, a serious medical illness. Usually feelings of unhappiness are temporary and appropriate given the situation (e.g. relationship ending, death, crisis, transition). However, when signs persist or become severe, this may be early symptoms of major depression.

Signs and symptoms of depression include emotional, cognitive and physical aspects (see below). One of the key signs of clinical depression is that these depressive symptoms cause you great suffering and/or impair your functioning in important areas of your life such as work, school and relationships. When you have clinical depression or a depressive disorder, you need depression help -- either antidepressant medication and/or therapy. 

If you experience some of these depression warning signs, see a health care/mental health professional for further assessment and possible treatment.

Clinical Depression Symptoms

As defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association listing the criteria for various psychiatric diagnoses, a major depressive episode consists of at least 5 or more of the following signs. For at least two weeks, you experience these depression signs persistently (for most of the day, nearly every day). One of the symptoms of major depression is either 1) depressed mood or 2) a significant decrease in interest or pleasure in all or most activities/things you used to enjoy. Some of the following signs can occur early on or build up over time.

These symptoms of clinical depression are not caused by a medical condition or substance (e.g. medication, drug). You can feel depressed for a particular reason or for no apparent cause (endogenous depression).

Emotional/Cognitive Signs of Depression:

  • Feeling worthless or excessive guilt
  • Having difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling like you want to hurt or kill yourself, having repeated thoughts of suicide. You’ve tried to attempt suicide or you have a specific plan on how you will kill yourself. (If you feel like hurting yourself, call a 24 hour crisis hotline, 800-273-8255 or 800-784-2433 or call “911” or go to the nearest emergency room.)

Depression Physical Symptoms:

  • Losing or gaining a significant amount of weight or not wanting to eat or overeating
  • Having difficulty sleeping or over sleeping
  • Feeling physically agitated/restless or slowed down (which is noticeable by others)
  • Feeling extremely tired and having no energy or little or no motivation to do anything

Other Symptoms for Depression:

  • Wanting to isolate and not be with people
  • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless about the future
  • Feeling more irritable than usual
  • Crying more than usual or crying easily
  • Low self-esteem. Feeling more self-critical or like a failure
  • Change in sexual interest or drive
  • Experiencing psychotic signs such as hallucinations (hearing voices) or delusions (false beliefs)

Symptoms of severe depression may include having many of the above signs, suicidal thinking or behavior, significant problems with daily functioning (e.g. missing work or school, isolating oneself) and/or psychotic symptoms.

Different types of depression exist which are distinguished by the prevalent symptoms, severity and duration.

To help determine whether you are experiencing depressive signs, you can take a depression test.


1. Source - Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition.


Also see: [ depression test ] [ causes ] [ types ]



The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only. This information should not replace proper evaluation and diagnosis of depression by a mental health professional. Before taking any action, please consult with a mental health professional. Please see Terms of Use for more information.


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