Main Symptoms of Depression

Moments of discouragement and sadness occur to everyone and are part of life. The problem arises when this feeling of emptiness is hard to disappear, disrupting his usual activities and taking away the pleasure of living.

If social events and friends no longer interest you as before, you are exhausted all the time, feel useless and the simple wait for the day is intolerable, you may be suffering symptoms of depression.

In this article we will cover the main symptoms of depression, including the types known as major depression, dysthymia and reactive depression.

Depression symptom
Depression symptom

Signs and symptoms of depression

Depression is a disease that can manifest itself in different ways and with different severities. There are several types of depression, the most common being the major depression (major depression) and chronic depression, also known as dysthymia. Other common types of depression are bipolar disorder, seasonal depression, reactive depression, atypical depression, postpartum depression, and minor depression.

Extreme sadness is the most typical symptom of depression, although the disease may cause various other physical and psychological symptoms. The main characteristic of depression is that the symptoms are persistent and are able to interfere with daily activities, work and relationships.

Unfortunately, there is no single symptom that serves as the definer of the diagnosis of depression. Even deep sadness can occur in situations other than depression. In addition, there are cases of atypical depression in which the patient does not refer to sadness, but rather a set of other physical and psychological signs and symptoms.

He is deceived into thinking that depression is a disease of strictly psychological symptoms. Many people do not recognize that they are depressed because they do not link their physical symptoms, such as tiredness, diffuse pains in the body, changes in appetite, insomnia, etc., to depressive disorder. There are studies that show that up to one-third of patients who seek medical attention for physical symptoms actually have symptoms of depression.

Major depression

Major depression is the most common type of depression and is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the patient's ability to relate to others, work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy activities that were previously considered enjoyable.

We all go through moments of sadness, discouragement and loneliness, especially after losses, as in the death of relatives or the end of relationships. Depression, however, is distinguished from these situations by being persistent and disabling. Depression also does not need a sad fact to emerge, the patient can go on to present depressed mood for no apparent reason.

Major depression usually presents at least five of the nine symptoms listed below, one of which is necessarily sadness or loss of interest in daily activities. Symptoms should be daily and present for more than 2 consecutive weeks.
  • 1. Sadness for most of the day, particularly in the morning
  • 2. Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
  • 3. Significant changes in appetite and/or weight (may be increase or decrease)
  • 4. Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • 5. Agitation or lethargy
  • 6. Fatigue or persistent lack of energy
  • 7. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • 8. Inability to concentrate and indecision
  • 9. Recurring thoughts about death or suicide

Major depression is a recurrent disease. Most patients after a first episode have a recurrence rate above 40% in the first two years. In patients with two episodes, the risk of recurrence within five years is approximately 75%. Up to 1/3 of patients treated for a major depressive episode will have an incomplete recovery, maintaining persistent symptoms or dysthymia.

Signs of major depression severity

People with severe major depression have one or more of the following characteristics:
  • Plans of suicide or homicide
  • Psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations
  • Catatonia, which is the inability to move or speak normally
  • Ability to judgment affected, putting yourself and others at risk
  • Inability to care for oneself, including refusal to eat liquids or food

People with severe major depressive disorder usually need hospitalization for psychiatric treatment.


Dysthymia is a mild form of depression, but prolonged, present for at least 2 years. Sometimes the patient is only diagnosed after many years of illness, with the symptoms of dysthymia being confused with the personality of the individual. This fact is very common in children. In the adult, it is common for the patient not to remember when it was the last period in which he was without depressed mood.

Depressive mood in dysthymia is present for most of the day, for several days throughout the month. The dysthymic patient spends more days with depressed mood than with normal mood. In addition to the feeling of prolonged sadness, dysthymia is usually accompanied by two or more of the following symptoms:
  • 1. Appetite decreased or increased
  • 2. Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • 3. Lack of energy
  • 4. Low self-esteem
  • 5. Difficulty concentrating
  • 6. Discouragement or lack of perspective in life

In dysthymia the symptoms are not as numerous and intense as in major depression. Periods free of symptoms may occur but are short. 10% of patients with dysthymia end up developing into major depression.

Reactive depression

Reactive depression, also called adaptive disorder, is a condition that occurs in response to an identifiable emotional stress. The stressful fact may be unique, such as the ending of a relationship, or multiple, as daily pressures of life or work.

Reactive depression is a disorder that causes anxiety and depressed mood, but does not present criteria for the diagnosis of major depression. Therefore, the name adaptation disorder is more appropriate than reactive depression.

Adaptive disorder is different from the sadness that occurs in mourning.

The characteristics of the adaptation disorder are as follows:
  • Depressed mood that occurs in response to an identifiable stressful factor in the last three months.
  • Excessive depressive mood in addition to what would be expected by the nature of the stress factor.
  • Impaired social, academic or professional functioning.
  • Resolution of symptoms within a period of six months after the end of the stressful event.

It is important to note that a major depression picture can be triggered by an emotional event. To be considered adaptive disorder, the patient may not meet criteria for other psychiatric problems, such as dysthymia or major depression.

Bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder, formerly called manic-depressive psychosis, have periods of mania (feeling overly euphoric, impulsive, irritable, or irrational) and periods of major depression.
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