Symptoms and Signs of Depression Symptoms and Signs

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 5/20/2022

Doctor's Notes on Depression Symptoms and Signs

Depression is a persistent mood disorder. Signs and symptoms last weeks (not a day or two) to years if not treated. A major depressive episode is defined by its symptoms as follows: at least 2 weeks of at least five of the following:

  •  feeling sad or blue,
  • crying spells,
  • loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities,
  • appetite and/or weight has significant increase or decrease,
  • sleep pattern changes (less or more sleep),
  • agitation or irritability,
  • fatigue or loss of energy,
  • a tendency to isolate from friends and family,
  • trouble concentrating,
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt,
  • and thoughts of death or suicide (a medical/psychiatric emergency).

Children and teens may show additional signs or symptoms. Children may show poor school performance, boredom, headaches and stomachaches while teens may show increased risk-taking like driving recklessly, using alcohol and/or other drugs and engaging in unprotected or promiscuous sex. There are many variations of depression (for example, bipolar, postpartum, situational, and others).

The exact cause(s) of depression are unclear but genetics, physical, and psychological factors in combination are the likely triggers for depression in an individual.

What Are the Treatments for Depression?

Three major treatments are available to treat depression: therapies, medications, and medical procedures. The majority of patients are treated with a combination of therapies and medication; severe depression may need additional procedure(s).

You should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to be pregnant as that influences medication choices. You and your doctors may need to try several combinations of therapy and medicines to determine the best plan to use.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.