Signs and symptoms of depression | Education Support

Signs and symptoms of depression

Depression is a common mental health problem that causes people to experience low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
  • More women are affected by depression than men (World Health Organisation 22 March 2018)

There is a distinct difference between depression and what Freud called “ordinary unhappiness” which means the usual sadness and low mood we may all experience at times.  Depression is where these feelings happen for extended periods and are debilitating.

The impact of depression causes changes in the chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.  Neurotransmitters send messages from one nerve cell to another in the brain and when depressed these can reduce.  These include serotonin which is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body as well as contributing to our wellbeing and happiness. 

What causes depression? 

A variety of things can cause depression such as: 

  • Difficult or challenging life events like death, loss, divorce, redundancy and a variety of others
  • Difficult or challenging childhoods including abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), overly critical parenting, separation from parental figures and many others.  Many child development experts think that child development, even for those with ‘good enough’ parenting can be fraught
  • Periods of serious stress or anxiety
  • Having a baby (people who suffer with perinatal depression often experience depression prior so are more at risk)
  • The impact of physical or mental illness
  • Feeling lonely or with few close relationships or people to support
  • Side effects of certain medications or drugs
  • Medical conditions like B12 deficiency, limes disease, hepatitis, glandular fever, HIV, and some cancers

Signs or symptoms of depression

  • Low mood or feelings of sadness or loneliness or hopelessness over an extended period of time
  • Loss of appetite or comfort eating
  • Turning to negative habits to deal with difficult feelings like alcohol, drugs and pain killers
  • Not enjoying things that would have previously been enjoyable
  • Impatience, easier to get frustrated
  • Quick to anger or get in a mood
  • Withdrawing from relationships or social situations
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of loss of agency or feeling out of control and unable to solve problems
  • Increase in catastrophising or other errors in thinking
  • Loss of caring for self of others so not washing or shaving etc.
  • Cry easily or uncontrollably
  • Poor sleep or over sleeping

When we are depressed our thoughts or our internal monologue are often highly negative. Often this is even hidden from our consciousness so we are just left with the feeling of being depressed rather than being aware of what we are telling ourselves. 

Here are some typical thoughts that cause us to feel depressed:

  • I am rubbish, useless or stupid (labelling where we jump from something that has happened to an overall character assassination)
  • It is always going to feel like this, I am never going to feel better (all or nothing thinking where we take how we currently feel and then magnify this onto our whole lives)
  • It is going to be catastrophic or a nightmare (catastrophic thinking where we predict things being worse than they are)
  • They think I am useless (mind reading where we project onto others how we feel about ourselves without knowing if this is what they do think)
  • I did a terrible job or it is all to do with my awful headteacher(blaming self or others where we metaphorically kick ourselves or others when things go wrong)

What can you do?