Depression entails much more than just feeling somber or unhappy. To help you discover all symptoms of depression, we dedicated an article to the deeper meaning of the symptoms of depression. You can namely find the recognized symptoms of depression on numerous websites, but what do these symptoms entail? How does one interpret them?
To give an overview of the symptoms of depression, we have based this article on the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) stating the symptoms of depression which we then describe more thoroughly. The DSM is a diagnostic manual, used by American insurance companies in order to be able to set the 'diagnosis' depression. This manual is used by most psychiatrists for setting a diagnosis, too.
We hereby want to state that a 'diagnosis' of depression should not affect your input in healing. If you have just 4 symptoms while the DSM says you need 5 for a diagnosis, you should not blindly focus on this, but instead know that you can take steps to healing anyway. You can treat your suffering, with or without a diagnosis.
In this article, we will divide up the psychological symptoms of depression and physical symptoms of depression, so that you get a clear image of how the body and mind are connected.
Psychological symptoms of depression
When you read the word 'irritability', you might not immediately think of depression. Yet, irritability is very common in depression. You are less patient when things do not go the way you want them to and you will respond in an irritated manner more quickly. In depression, you can get mad about anything. There does not need to be a rational cause for your irritability. For example, you can get mad because of something you saw on TV. This irritability is sometimes referred to as 'feelings of indignation'. Irritability seems to become a habit.
In many cases, people are irritable because they have the feeling that there is no place for them in their environment or that their needs are not taken into account. Even though you might think that 'you are not worth anything', you still want people to pay attention to you and for them to make space for you. If you then feel that there is no place for you to be in, or that there is an imbalance between how much someone listens to you versus how much they listen to someone else, irritability can be created.
Feelings of guilt and anxiety
It seems like everything is your fault. Everything which goes wrong in your life and the lives of loved ones is caused by your faults. Sometimes you know that you have absolutely nothing to do with something, but still, someone or your brain will make you believe that it is your fault either way.
If you are depressed, you experience extreme feelings of guilt and anxiety. After a while, you start feeling anxious because you feel like you need to pay attention to what you say and do. If you do not do this, you will probably do something wrong and be blamed.
If you have depression, it is not easy to see things from a relative perspective, and you find criticism much harder to deal with than you are supposed to find. Is this your fault? No, because you can see criticism as a bucket. You are being criticized, and in a depression the bucket of criticism is already full, meaning nothing can be added. The depression then makes it so that you do not properly integrate or accept the new criticism. Here, it is useful to look for another coping style. A coping style is a way in which you deal with things which happen in your life. Therapy can help with this.
If you are depressed and thereby experience depressed symptoms, you will often feel apathetic. Apathy is the feeling you get when you feel empty. It feels like you do not feel any emotions and like things do not reach you anymore.
This is not a nice feeling, because it makes it so that you do not experience any joy anymore. It seems like all your feelings have been shut off and been replaced with a feeling of emptiness.
Negative thoughts about yourself/low self-esteem
One of the most important symptoms of depression is low self-esteem. You will find it difficult to deal with criticism and feel irritable because you cannot deal with extra criticism nor integrate this when you have low self-esteem.
If you are depressed, you often have a list of everything you want to change about yourself. This list seems to go on and on, which of course does not promote a positive self-image.
It is so that most people would like to change certain things about themselves, but in depression the amount of things you want to change is extreme. You can hardly see anything positive about yourself, but finding negative things is very easy. You feel worthless. For example, you find yourself to be ugly, unattractive, stupid, uninteresting, ...
You are no longer yourself, have a list with negative qualities and dwell on them. This results into a self-doubt so that you do not feel sure of yourself anymore. When you are depressed, you often need approval from others, as you no longer know what you do right and what you do wrong. This need for reassurance is often so large that people cannot help you with this anymore, meaning you will feel even more insecure.
This is a vicious cycle, which is not always easy to treat. Insecurity, in turn, will cause feelings of guilt and anxiety, because you are unsure about your own decisions.
Combining this insecurity with other symptoms of depression, it can be so that you prefer to remain in the background so that nobody sees or notices you. You do not like being in the spotlight and often want to 'be left alone'.
Thinking that everything is useless
If you experience symptoms of depression, you feel like there is nothing you can do about the way you feel. You believe that you are not strong enough anyway so that you do not try to do anything to change your situation. You feel like everything is useless.
This feeling is something you might experience when it comes to certain things you 'have' to do, such as working or studying, brushing your teeth, etc. You often do not see how these are useful, meaning you will not want to do these things. Doing something you do not like or do not find useful will not make you happy, so the depression will end up in a vicious cycle.
The thought is often: "What does it matter, it has no use anyway". The result of this is that you feel unmotivated and do not want to do anything anymore.
If you are depressed, you will often experience memory and focus problems. Because you are constantly worrying or exhausting your brains with thoughts about 'what you did wrong', your brain will not have a lot of energy left for focusing.
You will notice that, for example at school or at work, you cannot give your full attention to anything, meaning tasks take way longer than normal to complete, or that you make more mistakes in them.
Following a conversation or doing things in your spare time, too, can be difficult. Because your brain is exhausted, almost anything what requires cognitive effort becomes too much after a while. An example is keeping a conversation going. This can become difficult after a while because you are so tired.
This is one of the most important symptoms of depression, which often starts off a vicious cycle in depression. If you feel depressed, it can be so that you think for a long time about things which might be your fault, or what you could have done better, because you want to avoid making these 'mistakes' in the future. After a while, you can also start thinking in advance about how to deal with certain situations so that you can avoid making 'mistakes'.
It does not stop there. When you worry, you will not find answers to these questions, as your thoughts go too quickly. They are so fast that they skip the solution centers of your brain, meaning you cannot find a solution. Because you do not find a solution, you will think more often and longer, meaning the worrying keeps going.
After a while you can no longer see differences between your thoughts, leaving you with one main thought: 'You cannot do it'.
Putting off decision-making
You will often put off making decisions if you are depressed because you do not feel capable of making decisions. The thoughts 'I cannot do it' and 'I only make mistakes anyway' and 'everything that goes wrong is my fault' will make it so that you are unsure of your decisions and therefore put off making them.
Also, you do not feel like doing anything in a depression because you feel like you 'cannot do anything successfully anyway'. All situations end in the same way: you worry on your couch about whether you have made mistakes, and what you could have done better.
Your thoughts are slow or seem to lie still when you are depressed. Together with an apathetic feeling you will feel like you cannot think of anything anymore. Your brain is so full and it does not bring you anywhere. However, you are still convinced of the idea that everything is your fault and that you cannot do anything right, but meanwhile you would rather not think about anything anymore.
When you have reached this phase your mind has already been exhausted by the worrying, meaning there is no energy left. If someone then asks you what you are thinking, your answer will often be 'nothing'. You do not want to think about anything anymore and do not see why you should.
Doubting the meaning of life
In depression, you can lose your sense of meaning in life, as you do not see the use of certain things anymore. You think: "It will not change anymore, my life is useless". Sometimes, these thoughts can lead to suicidal tendencies.
Physical symptoms of depression
Headache and other complaints of pain
Headaches often occur after you have been depressed for a while. If there are symptoms of depression present, the headache is nearly always there. Headaches will develop after a while as a symptom of depression because you worry a lot. By worrying you exhaust your brain, meaning you cannot think clearly anymore and get a headache.
Headaches or even migraines can pose a common problem in youths and adults. From research, it has even become clear that girls in their teenage years, who develop depression, have increased chances of also developing a migraine. Our brain is delicate and is often the first to suffer consequences from symptoms of depression.
Other than our head, other body parts can also ache as a result of symptoms of depression. These complaints could present themselves in the following ways, for example:
- Feeling of pressure on the chest
- Feeling of having a rock on your heart
- Knots in your stomach
- Heart palpitations
When you experience symptoms of depression, you will also notice that falling asleep is no longer as easy as it used to be. Either you have issues falling asleep, or you continuously wake up during the night. These two symptoms can also occur in combination. Because your body cannot get into a state of rest and you continue worrying, many people with depression experience effects on their sleeping rhythm.
Sleeping issues will shorten your nights and give you the feeling of not being well-rested. Maybe you try to solve this, but this for many people leads to even more worrying behavior. Here, too, we notice a vicious cycle, because sleeping issues can cause worrying and vice versa. Some people will also have the reflex of staying in bed more, because they are tired. This can also lead to other symptoms of depression, namely not wanting to do anything anymore.
Problems with eating
Problems with eating are among the most common symptoms of depression. In problems eating we include both over-eating and not wanting to eat anything. Whichever one you experience, this often is an unhealthy balance which can lead to other problems.
These issues eating can also have a negative influence on your depression. If you eat more, you might not feel happy about your body after a while, as you have gained weight. This can negatively influence your self-image.
If you eat more because you are depressed, you might feel relieved for a while. You feel a bit better for a moment. This feeling does not last, however. So it is not a solution to start eating more, to fight depressed feelings. This will only have a negative influence after a while.
A constant feeling of tension, because things are expected of you, can cause stress. This is also a symptom of depression. Why you experience tension can differ from person to person. Generally, people with depression have the feeling that they cannot do what is expected of them. That makes them feel tense or stressed, because they want to meet all expectations anyway.
It can even be so that you are tense when you are on your own. You remain tense, because you feel like you are under pressure. Some symptoms of this tension include:
- Increased heart-rate
- Bodily aches
- Sweaty hands
- A smothered feeling
Because of this constant feeling of tension, you might start to experience other bodily aches after a while. The tension namely makes you tense your muscles, which will start to hurt after a while. Aches that you might experience can include a feeling of pressure in the chest or stomach complaints. Headache, too, is a result of constant tension in your body.
Loss of energy
As we discussed before with the symptom of sleeping issues, loss of energy can be experienced in a depression. Symptoms of depression often result in a loss of energy. A combination of not wanting to do anything, tension, and low self-esteem, for example, can lead to loss of energy. When you experience such a loss of energy, you notice that you do not want to do any activities. You would like to stay in bed all day.
Because you experience constant tension, there is a chance that you do not like to do things with your friends anymore. You are afraid of being judged. because some people with depression worry about everything they did wrong after an activity, it is not fun for them to do these activities anymore. If you recognize this, you are likely to take the road of least resistance, meaning you stay at home. You then namely do not need to worry about doing anything wrong, and thus eliminate the chance of worrying about the activity.
Maybe this seems like a good way of eliminating worrying, meaning your brain can rest for a while However, we notice that many people start worrying about other things rather than experiencing rest.
Slowness or unrest
Except for the other symptoms of depression, it can be so that you experience slowness or unrest in your motor functions. It can be so that you respond more slowly physically in situations, or that your reflexes are slower. This can also go to the other extreme. You can have the feeling like you cannot sit still or that you cannot control your body properly. Your body goes into some type of overdrive, meaning you feel like you are no longer in control.
Symptoms of slowness in motor functions could include the following:
- Staring straight ahead for hours on end
- Losing your sense of time, while you do not do anything.
Symptoms of unrest, when your body is in overdrive, could include the following:
- Not being able to sit still
- Talking very quickly.
- Making quick motions with hands and feet
This unrest is also sometimes called an agitation of motor functions.
Less or no need for sex
This, too, is one of the more common symptoms of depression. Your libido can reduce extremely when you are depressed. You namely do not feel well and would like to just stay in bed all day. You do not feel good about yourself either, meaning it is difficult to fully open up towards your partner. With this, we mean both psychologically and physically. This can cause a reduced libido or less need for sex.
Symptoms of depression: a free depression test?
If you want to know which of the following symptoms apply to you, you can take our free depression test here. This test explains more to you about your personal situation and what you can do to treat these symptoms of depression.