Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of major depressive disorder?

Depression affects the individual’s entire well-being. There are physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of the disorder. For a diagnosis of major clinical depression, a combination of common symptoms must be present for two weeks.

Take five minutes to evaluate depression symptoms

The PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) is a self-evaluation to assess depression symptoms and monitor severity. To learn more about treatment options, please contact our admissio

The Signs and Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder, also referred to as clinical depression, is one of the most common mental health disorders worldwide. Every year, over 5% of the worldwide population suffers from an episode of major depression, and close to 7% of the United States population in a given year will suffer from the disorder.

This prevalent and serious health condition also costs the United States economy billions of dollars per year in lost productivity. People suffering from depression will often miss work, and depression is cited as one of the biggest causes of temporary work disability in the United States.

While the disease is prevalent and serious, major depressive disorder is also highly treatable. If left untreated, major depressive episodes can become more frequent and longer lasting.

Depression, negative emotions, and increased stress can lower the bodies immunity. The person may get sick more easily with upper respiratory infections, or complain of a general ‘unwell’ feeling.

Activities the individual would normally find enjoyable may be met with disinterest or outright disdain. Sometimes, the individual will refuse to attend important events.


Behavioral Symptoms

  • Lashing out at others
  • Crying for no reason or for reasons the person wouldn’t normally find sad or tragic.
  • Missing important events
  • Poor performance at work or in school
  • Forgetting or refusing to participate in self-care and normal hygiene routines
  • Self-harm
  • Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. For those with depression, sometimes the symptoms can be overwhelming, and they will choose escape with drugs and alcohol.

Physical Symptoms

  • Changes in eating habits—eating too much or too little. Some people will experience a significant increase or decrease in weight without active dieting or increasing their physical activity.
  • Changes in sleep patterns. Some will sleep too much, and others will have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and may develop insomnia.
  • Fatigue, despite how much the individual sleeps. People who have depression and oversleep with the disorder still feel tired despite how many hours of sleep they get.
  • Slowed movement or speech patterns. Individuals with depression will talk slower, or move slower. Sometimes, they will experience a ‘brain fog’ that makes their thoughts not as coherent and their thoughts may be slowed.
  • Random, unexplainable aches and pains, such as muscle tenderness and joint pain. Depression is considered a ‘whole-body’ disease and will cause random aches and pains with no discernible cause. These are called psychosomatic symptoms in the medical community.
  • Increased risk of infection

Emotional Symptoms

  • Pervasive feelings of sadness, worry, guilt, or shame
  • Irritability
  • Feeling restless
  • Lack of motivation
  • Hopelessness
  • Anhedonia—anhedonia is a lack of pleasure or joy from usually enjoyable activities.
  • Feeling empty or having a blunted emotional affect—some sufferers of depression will feel intense, negative emotions, such as anger or pervasive sadness. But others will experience the opposite effect. They will feel no emotions or extremely dulled emotions. This is called a blunted affect.
  • Rumination. Some sufferers of depression will experience rumination, which is persistent, intractable thoughts. Oftentimes, the thoughts center around feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness. Rumination will sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts, ideation, self-harm, and suicide attempts.

What are the treatment options?

Since major depression has a variety of signs and symptoms, is disruptive in many facets, and there is no ‘one cause’, treatment requires different and simultaneous forms. Talk or behavioral therapy in addition to medication is the most effective treatment method for depression sufferers.

The FDA has issued warnings for antidepressant prescriptions given to teenagers and children. Some can increase thoughts of suicide for this age group, but antidepressants are still the best treatment method for all sufferers regardless of age. With careful monitoring from family, doctors, and therapists, one can safely take antidepressants and recover from depression.

Despite the warnings, there are numerous, effective antidepressants on the market that are safe for this high-risk age group.

Talk and behavioral therapy help sufferers to monitor their emotions, develop awareness of their symptoms and triggers, and handle them more effectively.

With antidepressant medications, it typically takes two weeks for sufferers to notice any lessening of symptoms. This is because of the fundamental nature of how brain chemistry and antidepressants interact.

Antidepressants work by increasing certain neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood, motivation, and energy, and it takes a while for these chemical neurotransmitters to reach therapeutic levels.

Although major depressive disorder is painful and disruptive, with the right treatment and support system, sufferers can make a full and life-long recovery from the disease.

Watch Out For These Common Depression Symptoms

Depression is a blanket term for a set of mood disorders that affect at least 16 million people in the US each year. While each kind of depression can express itself uniquely, there is a substantial crossover in the symptoms of depression. Knowing these symptoms can help someone identify if they or a loved one is currently experiencing depression or a depression relapse. While depression can leave someone feeling hopeless, there are several effective treatment options.

Changes in Eating

One of the more common symptoms of depression is a change in eating habits. For some people, the sign itself is a sudden loss of appetite. These individuals start losing weight rapidly. For others, food becomes a kind of comfort zone, and they undergo dramatic weight gain in no time. Neither of these options results in a healthy long-term outlook for the person suffering from depression.


Another common depression symptom is anger or irritability. This manifestation often expresses itself as bad-tempered behavior with others over minor matters that would not have triggered a similar reaction before the depression. Of course, anger by itself is not enough. It must occur with several other implications before it becomes a symptom.

Sleep Changes

Depression often coincides with changes in sleep patterns. It is far more common among those who suffer some insomnia levels and those sleeping more than the recommended 8 hours a day. While changes in sleep patterns can indicate other problems in your life, such as new bodily pain or hormonal changes, it is often one of the frequent symptoms of depression.

Mental Changes

Depression does not just alter how you feel physically or emotionally. It also creates mental changes within you. Depression can leave a person’s mind sluggish and unresponsive. Just as bad, it can even develop real impairments to some of your mental abilities. For example, someone with depression might struggle with work issues that they once found simple. This despair can also impair memory recall and the ability to make new memories.

Altered Feelings

Probably the most recognizable symptom of depression within a person is the change to their personal feelings. They may experience intense sadness, hopelessness, or guilt daily. Depression sufferers routinely lose their sense of happiness from previously enjoyable activities, such as lifelong hobbies or exercise. In some extreme cases, they may even contemplate ending their own lives.


Depression treatment covers a lot of ground, from pharmacology to therapy. Some of the more common treatments include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Antidepressants – SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs, Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Electroshock Therapy

The good news is that the right combination of treatments for depression will help most people move into recovery.

Depression is ubiquitous and can affect people from all walks of life. The symptoms of depression, noted above, can help people figure out if they may need to speak with a physician or therapist about their feelings. It is also a highly treatable condition with talk therapies, medications, and even transcranial magnetic stimulation to help people reclaim how they used to feel about themselves and the life they used to live.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms of depression, Pulse TMS can help. Contact us at 310-878-4346 to see if our treatment options are right for you.

Updated on 2/1/21