Signs of Depression

Because there are many different types of depression, the signs of depression can vary. This article discusses typical signs of depression and the differences in signs of depression in children, teenagers, and the elderly. Learn more info on the signs of depression here.

Individually, most, if not all, of the signs of depression can also signal other disorders, illnesses, or conditions. For this reason, in most cases there must be multifaceted observation or observation over time to be sure that one is seeing depression and not another issue. Complicating the issue, is the fact that some types of depression manifest with contradictory symptoms. This article lays out the situation in order to help clarify.

Signs of Depression Can Be “Normal”

It is important to note that there are two types of depression: one, non-pathological depression, is a normal response to the run-of-the-mill negative happenings of life that most people experience once in awhile or once in a lifetime. Sooner or later, most of us will not get a job we apply for, get a grade lower than we’d hoped for, or experience a romantic break-up. It is normal to experience a short period of depression after such an event. In a situation such as this, it would be abnormal not to experience any changes whatsoever in one’s emotions and behavior. It is when depression drags on well after most people typically recover, involves more serious symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts or attempts, or comes about with no overt cause that one should become concerned.

The Typical Signs of Depression

Not all depressions are alike. But there are some typical signs of depression, so let’s enumerate those first:

  • sadness
  • negative feelings about oneself, including worthlessness and guilt
  • negative feelings about the future, including pessimism and hopelessness
  • loss of interest in life and activities
  • mental confusion and indecision
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • insomnia and fatigue

Each of these symptoms, taken alone can be a signal of a completely different condition, or indeed, simply a response to a situation in life. For example, the first three could come about through premenstrual syndrome. Loss of interest in life and activities could occur as a person was coming down with the flu. Mental confusion and indecision could be the result of too much to drink or not enough sleep. Loss of appetite and weight loss can occur during the early weeks of pregnancy. And insomnia and fatigue can result form stress.

Moreover, people with other types of depressive disorders may exhibit contradictory symptoms. For example, a person with bipolar disorder - when in a manic phase - is likely to feel exuberant, sure of him- or herself, destined for a great future, and so excited about participating in life that s/he doesn’t want to ever go to sleep. S/he may feel so mentally attuned that s/he doesn’t want to take medications because it will take the edge off of his or her brilliant thoughts. A person with atypical depression is likely to have an increased, rather than a depressed appetite, gain rather than lose weight, and oversleep, rather than sleep too little.

For more information about the various types of depression and their individual symptoms, see the article “Depression Symptoms.”

Missing Signs of Depression in Certain Populations

Certain populations present confusions in trying to diagnose depression because other issues present with similar or identical symptoms.

Signs of Depression in Children and Teenagers

It can be difficult to tell a sulking child from a depressed child. Sulking is normal as an occasional behavior in childhood; depression, aside from reacting to a sad life event, is not. Similarly, the years of adolescence with their hormonal changes and the first ventures into romantic relationships and related issues (like rejection) typically manifest with some moodiness. So does teen depression.

Signs of Depression in the Elderly

Symptoms of depression in elderly people can be confused with a variety of other issues that are often found in the same population. Loss of appetite, fatigue, and difficulties with sleeping can simply be part of the aging process, as can progressive difficulty performing what had been normal daily activities for the person.

In addition, there can be confusion between depression and other disorders. The mental confusion and sluggishness may be confused with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Other ailments that have some symptoms in common with depression include arthritis, cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and thyroid disorders.


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