Symptoms and signs of depression

Depression encompasses a number of symptoms and signs, beyond simply having a sad or depressed mood. These include changes in emotion, thoughts, behaviour, and the way the body is regulated.[1]

Depression can have a deeply negative impact on family and work life, the ability of a person to look after themselves and any coexisting medical conditions.[1]  In fact, depression can impose on all aspects of a person's life.[2]

The symptoms of depression may range from mild to severe, and may be intermittent or persistent.[3] They are thought to be clinically significant when they persist for two weeks or more, and interfere with general activities of daily living.[4]

Symptoms of depression

Possible symptoms of depression may include:[1-3,5]

  • A sad or depressed mood
  • Inability to experience pleasure or enjoyment (also known as 'anhedonia')
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Apathy or lack of interest
  • Slowness in thoughts and actions, for example a slumped posture
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Change in sleep patterns or the occurrence of nightmares
  • Reduced confidence levels; abnormal or inappropriate guilt or feelings of worthlessness
  • Poor concentration or indecisiveness
  • Reduced libidoSexual drive. (sexual desire)
  • A greater tendency to experience physical complaints, such as generalized aches and pains, headaches, or symptoms affecting multiple organs
  • Abnormal thoughts of death or suicide.

A small proportion of people with severe depression may experience delusions and hallucinations. Such experiences are a major risk factor for suicidal attempts. Furthermore, depression may increase the risk for developing a drug or alcohol problem.[2]


  1. Toney SD. Identifying and managing depression in women. J Manag Care Pharm 2007; 13(9)(suppl S-a): S16-22.
  2. accessed January 6, 2010.
  3. Peveler R, Carson A and Rodin G. ABC of psychological medicine: Depression in medical patients. BMJ 2002; 325: 149-52.
  4. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. (DSM-IV-TR). 2000. Arlington, VA.
  5. Remick RA. Diagnosis and management of depression in primary care: a clinical update and review. CMAJ 2002; 167: 1253-60.