The signs, symptoms, and effects of depression can be different for every person impacted. Learning about depression is one of the first steps towards getting better.
Learn about depression and mental health
Many people feel down from time to time, but it is important to not confuse feeling down with experiencing depression. Depression can cause a person to feel sad, lethargic, apathetic, and unmotivated, and can affect a person’s ability to function much more than occasional sadness does. People with depression can feel an inability to experience pleasure and can have an overpowering sense of sadness or numbness over long periods of time without any apparent circumstances in one’s life, such as the death of a loved one, that might have otherwise caused the onset of such symptoms.
Mental health professionals recognize a number of different types of depressive disorders, the most common of which are discussed below.
Major depressive disorder is diagnosed when a person experiences major depressive episodes, which are periods of at least two weeks where he or she can have a sad mood, a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, difficulty thinking or making decisions, weight and appetite changes, or thoughts of death.
Persistent depressive disorder is often more mild than major depressive disorder and occurs when a person experiences symptoms of depression continuously over a long period of time, as opposed to the pattern of distinct episodes seen in those suffering from major depressive disorder. These symptoms of depression can include depressed mood, changes in appetite, sleeping too much or too little, low energy, low self-esteem, poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, and feelings of hopelessness.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a collection of depressive symptoms that occur in the week before menses and dissipate in the week after menses. A person with this disorder may experience loss of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, feeling overwhelmed, and physical symptoms such as breast tenderness or swelling, joint or muscle pain, feeling “bloated,” or weight gain. Other symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder can include emotional swings, irritability, anger, depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, self-deprecating thoughts, and anxiety or tension, all of which are linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Despite the negative effects that depressive disorders can have on individuals, treatments are available that can help relieve symptoms of depression and bring color back into his or her world.
According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, approximately 7 percent of Americans are diagnosed with major depressive disorder in a given year, 2 percent are diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder, and 2 to 6 percent of women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Overall, women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely than men to be diagnosed with depressive disorders.
Causes and Risk Factors
Causes and risk factors for depression
Research suggests that a number of genetic and environmental factors can increase a person’s risk of developing depressive disorders. Some risk factors may include:
Genetic: People whose parents or siblings have depressive disorders are two to four times more likely to have depressive disorders, as compared to individuals without a family history of these conditions. In addition, certain genetically-influenced personality traits, such as neuroticism, can increase a person’s risk of having a depressive disorder.
Environmental: Experiencing adverse events during childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or separation or loss of a parent, is a strong risk factor for the onset of depressive disorders. Other stressors, such as a history of traumatic experiences or struggling with sociocultural aspects of sexual behavior or gender roles, can cause individuals with a genetic predisposition to be more likely to develop depressive disorders.
- Family or personal history of mental health disorders
- Personal history of childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect
- High degree of stress
- Elevated neuroticism
- Being female
- Presence of chronic or disabling medical conditions
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of depression
Although each of the depressive disorders have unique characteristics, virtually all depressive disorders include the presence of depressed mood and lack of interest or ability to experience pleasure. Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Loss of energy
- Restlessness or jitteriness
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
- Thinking or moving slowly
- Breast tenderness or swelling (premenstrual dysphoric disorder)
- Feeling “bloated” (premenstrual dysphoric disorder)
- Changes in weight
- Changes in appetite
- Psychomotor agitation or restlessness
- Joint or muscle pain
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death, including death by suicide
- Depressed mood most of the day
- Decrease in interest or pleasure in daily activities
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Effects of depression
People who struggle with depressive disorders may experience a number of negative effects across many areas of their lives. Some of these negative effects can include:
- Job loss and subsequent financial difficulty
- Relationship strain
- Separation or divorce
- Social isolation
- Pain and physical illness
- Poor occupational functioning
- Difficulty keeping up with basic self-care
- Death due to suicide
Depression and co-occurring disorders
Unfortunately, people who struggle with depressive disorders may also meet criteria for other co-occurring mental health disorders. The most common of these co-occurring disorders may include:
- Substance use disorders
- Borderline personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety disorders