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What Does Depression Look Like?

Not all people with depression have the same symptoms. Some people might only have a few, and others a lot. How often symptoms occur, and how long they last, is different for each person. 

Sadness is only a small part of depression. Some people with depression may not feel sadness at all. Depression has many other symptoms, including physical ones. If you have been experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms for at least 2 weeks, you may be suffering from depression: 

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood 
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism 
  • Easily annoyed, bothered, or angered 
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities 
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down” 
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions 
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping 
  • Appetite and/or weight changes 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts 
  • Persistent physical symptoms 
  • Feeling hopeless 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed 
  • Decreased energy 
  • Depressed or irritable mood most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Agitation
  • Tiredness and loss of energy
  • Difficulty staying focused, remembering, making decisions 
  • Constant physical symptoms that do not get better with treatment, such as headaches, upset stomach, and pain that doesn’t go away. 

What causes depression?


Many factors may play a role in depression, including genetics, brain biology and chemistry, and life events such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, an early childhood experience, or any stressful situation. 


Depression can co-occur with other serious medical illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Depression can make these conditions worse and vice versa. Sometimes medications taken for these illnesses may cause side effects that contribute to depression. 

  1. Genetics (family history): If a person has a family history of depression, he/she may be more at risk of developing it herself. However, depression may also occur in people who don’t have a family history of depression. There is some evidence that depression seems to run in families, but there is no single gene which causes depression. A family history of depression may increase the risk, but this may be because of difficulties the family has in coping, and it certainly does not mean that depression is inevitable.
  2. Chemical imbalance: The brains of people with depression look different than those who don’t have depression. Also, the parts of the brain that manage your mood, thoughts, sleep, appetite, and behavior don’t have the right balance of chemicals.
  3. Hormonal factors: Menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, peri-menopause, and menopause may all cause a woman to develop depression.
  4. Stress: Stressful life events such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a bad relationship, work responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents, abuse, and poverty may trigger depression in some people. An episode of depression can be ‘triggered’ by stressful things that happen in our lives, particularly events involving a loss of some kind - such as unemployment, leaving home, death of a family member or friend. Even an apparently happy event can also bring a sense of loss; for example, parents can feel they have 'lost' their son or daughter when they get married, even if they are very happy for them. If you have had to cope with a lot of changes or stressful events, one more may seem like the 'last straw'.
  5. Medical illness: Dealing with serious medical illnesses like stroke, heart attack, or cancer can lead to depression.
  6. Past experiences: which may be difficult or traumatic, such as losing a parent when very young, can affect your ability to cope with difficult situations. Children who experience abuse or lack of affection are also more at risk of experiencing depression in later life.

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