Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Depression

Understanding Depression

Learn More About Depression

Depression is more than a simple case of the blues or feeling down in the dumps; it is a serious, yet treatable, mental illness that causes symptoms that affect nearly every area of a person’s life. People who have depression may feel sad and worthless most of the time. They may have trouble getting out of bed to go to work or school. Major depression affects the way in which a person thinks, feels, and acts, and people who have major depression tend to have trouble completing daily activities. Depression can affect anyone at any age and can have extremely negative effects on a person’s life if not properly treated.

Due to the increasing awareness of depression, the stigma of having the illness has been reduced, allowing many people who need treatment to feel comfortable getting the help they need in order to lead the life they want. Treatment for depression usually includes a combination of antidepressant medications, self-care practices, and various therapeutic modalities.


Statistics of Depression

Depression affects many people in the United States. This illness affects about 18.8 million adults in the U.S. This means that nearly one in every 10 adults in the U.S. has depression. Estimates indicate that about one in 33 children and one in every eight teens have depression. According to the White House Conference on Mental Health, depression is the cause for over two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides each year in the United States.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Depression

Researchers in the field have yet to determine the exact cause for depression, but it is believed that a culmination of genetic, physical, and environmental risk factors trigger depression in some people. The most commonly accepted causes and risk factors for depression include:

Genetic: Depression is known to run in families, so those who have a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has depression are at greater risk for developing the disorder than those without a similar family history. However, depression can occur in those without a family history.

Physical: Neuroimaging studies of people suffering from depression have found structural differences within the brain; however researchers have yet to determine the significance of these differences. Additionally, it is believed that an imbalance in neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers in the brain, plays a role in the development of depression.

Environmental: Certain highly stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one, high periods of stress, or financial problems, can trigger depression in certain people.

Risk Factors:

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Being female
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • History of anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, or PTSD
  • Certain personality traits, including low self-esteem, being overly dependent upon others, being self-critical, or having an overall pessimistic outlook on life
  • Certain types of medications
  • Diagnosis of a serious or chronic illness such as cancer

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

As depression affects different people in different ways, there are a number of symptoms and signs that may be exhibited in someone who is struggling with depression. Depressive episodes tend to vary based upon individual makeup, life experiences, co-occurring disorders, and age. The most common signs and symptoms of depression may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety, agitation, restlessness
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities
  • Avoidance of social interactions
  • Self-harm
  • Anger and irritability
  • Clinginess
  • Excessive worrying
  • School refusal
  • Poor attendance at school
  • Poor scholastic performance

Physical symptoms:

  • Eating too much or too little
  • Unexplained physical complaints, such as back pain or headaches
  • Slowed body movements
  • Sleep disturbances, like insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Being underweight, especially in children and teens

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Slowed thinking
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Challenges making decisions
  • Memory problems

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or unhappiness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Fixation on past failures
  • Blaming oneself for things one is not responsible for
  • Frequent thoughts of death
  • Feeling negative and worthless
  • Feeling misunderstood and overly sensitive


Effects of Depression

Depression is a very serious mental health disorder that can negatively impact an individual and his or her family in many ways. Untreated depression can lead to many consequences, including emotional, behavioral, and health problems. Complications of untreated depression can include:

  • Excess weight, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease
  • Alcohol and drug use and addiction
  • Anxiety, panic disorder, social phobia
  • Family conflicts, relationship problems, and work or school problems
  • Social isolation
  • Self-harming behaviors, such as cutting
  • Suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, completed suicide
  • Premature death from medical complications

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders & the Complexity of Depression

Depression often occurs with another mental disorder. The most common co-occurring, co-morbid disorders include:

  • General anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Borderline personality disorder
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