What Are the Top 5 Symptoms of Depression?

Reviewed on 4/30/2022
Woman with depression looking outside the window
The top five symptoms of depression may include persistent sadness or “empty” mood, loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or guilt; difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering; and thoughts of harming yourself, death or suicide, or suicide attempts.

Depression (also called clinical depression, major depression, or major depressive disorder) is a mood disorder that negatively impacts how a person feels, thinks, acts, and copes with everyday life. 

The top 5 symptoms of depression may include: 

  • Persistent sadness or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering
  • Thoughts of harming yourself, death or suicide, or suicide attempts
    • If you or someone you know are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Other symptoms of depression may include: 

  • Feelings of hopelessness 
  • Pessimism
  • Persistent anxiety
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Irritability
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Restlessness or difficulty sitting still
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight 
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that are not relieved with treatment

What Causes Depression?

There is usually not just one cause of depression. Clinical depression is an imbalance in brain chemistry, but the cause is often a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Risk factors for developing depression include:

  • Genetics: depression often runs in families
  • Personality type
    • People who are easily overwhelmed, have low self-esteem, pessimistic, tend to worry a lot, are perfectionists, or are very sensitive to personal criticism
  • Environmental factors
  • Brain changes
    • Differences in neurotransmitters or hormones, and activity in parts of the brain 
  • Certain illnesses 
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Some medications

What Is the Treatment for Depression?

Even severe cases of depression can be treated, though it can take time, and trial and error to find the right treatment for each patient. 

Treatments for depression include: 

  • Medications
  • Psychotherapies
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
    • Problem-solving therapy
  • Brain stimulation therapies
    • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) 
    • Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)
    • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) 
  • Light therapy
  • Alternative approaches 
Reviewed on 4/30/2022
Image Source: iStock Images