Signs & symptoms of depression
The main symptom of depression is a sad, despairing mood that:
- is present most days and lasts most of the day
- lasts for more than two weeks
- impairs the person’s performance at work, at school or in social relationships.
Other symptoms of depression include:
- changes in appetite and weight
- sleep problems
- loss of interest in work, hobbies, people or sex
- withdrawal from family members and friends
- feeling useless, hopeless, excessively guilty, pessimistic or having low self-esteem
- agitation or feeling slowed down
- trouble concentrating, remembering and making decision
- crying easily, or feeling like crying but being not able to
- thoughts of suicide (which should always be taken seriously)
- a loss of touch with reality, hearing voices (hallucinations) or having strange ideas (delusions).
How does depression affect different populations?
Major depression can occur in 10 to 25 per cent of women—almost twice as many as men. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women, particularly during times such as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy and postpartum, miscarriage, pre-menopause and menopause.
Men with depression typically have a higher rate of feeling irritable, angry and discouraged. This can make it harder to recognize depression in men. The rate of completed suicide in men is four times that in women, although more women attempt suicide.
Some people have the mistaken idea that it is normal for older adults to feel depressed. Older adults often don't want to talk about feeling hopeless or sad or about losing interest in normally pleasurable activities or experiencing prolonged grief after a loss.
A child who is depressed may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or worry that the parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy and feel misunderstood. Because normal behaviours vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is going through a temporary “phase” or has depression.
Causes & risk factors
Genetic or family history of depression, psychological or emotional vulnerability to depression, biological factors such as imbalances in brain chemistry and in the endocrine/immune systems, or a major stress in the person's life may play a part in the onset of depression.
Depressive symptoms may be:
Adapted from Depressive Illness: An Information Guide © 1999, 2008 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- the result of another illness that shares the same symptoms, such as lupus or hypothyroidism
- a reaction to another illness, such as cancer or a heart attack
- caused by an illness itself, such as a stroke, where neurological changes have occurred.