Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of Depression:
Depression goes beyond the usual experience of ups and downs, grief and loss, sadness and negative moods that we all experience from time to time. The following is a list of common symptoms of depression. If you have more than one of these symptoms over time, it is possible that you are depressed.
The first step that anyone should take if experiencing a depressive episode without apparent cause, should be a physical evaluation by a medical doctor. There are many physical problems that can cause symptoms of depression, one of the most common being thyroid disorders.
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Depressive disorders come in different forms, however within these types there are variations in the number of symptoms, their severity, and persistence.
Major Depression is defined by a combination of symptoms (see symptom list) that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. The duration must be for at least two consecutive weeks to warrant the diagnosis of Major Depression. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly returns several times in a lifetime.
A less severe type of depression, Dysthymia, involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives. Dysthymia is sometimes called "characterological depression" because it is rooted in one's personality structure, due to its long duration, often beginning in childhood.
Another type of depression is Bipolar Disorder, also called manic-depressive illness. Not nearly as prevalent as other forms of depressive disorders, bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes that can follow different patterns ranging from severe highs (mania) to devastating lows (depression). Please see the Bipolar Treatment page for more information about this disorder, which is quite unique and distinctly different from all other forms of depression. It should be understood, that while external and psychological factors can lead to depression, Bipolar disorder is primarily an endogenous illness -- that is -- it is primarily a neurological disorder which is inherited as a "genetic predisposition." The same stressors and psychological factors which lead to Depression, can trigger mood swings (episodes of elevated or depressed mood), for a person with an underlying Bipolar Disorder.
When symptoms of depression are present, it can be difficult to determine whether it is uni-polar (typical) or bipolar depression.
Anti-depressant medications (most commonly the SSRI's) can trigger mania in a person who is Bipolar, even if no Bipolar Symptoms were evident before.
For this reason, it is extremely important that your doctor have knowledge and experience about the risks of an anti-depressant medication triggering a manic episode. This is a dangerous and all too common occurance for undiagnosed Bipolar patients. I've talked to many people whose first manic episode was triggered by starting treatment with anti-depressants, rather than a mood stabilizer like Lithium or Lamictal. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, be sure to get a thorough evaluation for Bipolar Disorder before rushing to start an anti-depressant.
This website may serve as a depression self-help tool, but the use of this information does not constitute a therapist/client relationship and should not serve as a means of self-diagnosis or a substitution for actual psychotherapy. The information on this site is for informational purposes only. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression it is advised that you see your doctor or therapist for an evaluation. If you are having active thoughts of suicide please call either 1-800-SUICIDE, 911 or visit