Major depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms that last for at least two weeks in a row, including sad and/or irritable mood (see symptom list), that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Disabling episodes of depression can occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.
Not everyone who is depressed or manic experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms and some many symptoms, also called warning signs. The severity of symptoms also varies with individuals.
Depression symptoms of major depression or manic depression
- Persistently sad, anxious, angry, irritable, or "empty" mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and/or weight gain
- Fatigue, decreased energy, being "slowed down"
- Crying spells
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and/or chronic pain
Children and adolescents with depression may also experience the classic symptoms described above but may exhibit other symptoms instead of or in addition to those symptoms, including the following:
- Poor school performance
- Persistent boredom
- Frequent complaints of physical problems such as headaches and stomachaches
- Some of the classic "adult" symptoms of depression may also be more obvious in children, such as a change in eating or sleeping patterns. (Has the child or teen lost or gained weight in recent weeks or months? Does he or she seem more tired than usual?)
- Teen depression may be characterized by the adolescent taking more risks, showing less concern for their own safety.
Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as do other illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Three of the most common types of depressive disorders are discussed below. However, remember that within each of these types, there are variations in the number, timing, severity, and persistence of symptoms.
Dysthymia is a less severe but usually more long-lasting type of depression compared to major depression. It involves long-term (chronic) symptoms that do not disable but yet prevent the affected person from functioning at "full steam" or from feeling good. Sometimes, people with dysthymia also experience episodes of major depression. This combination of the two types of depression is referred to as double-depression.
Another type of depression is bipolar disorder, which encompasses a group of mood disorders that were formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression. These conditions show a particular pattern of inheritance. Not nearly as common as the other types of depressive disorders, bipolar disorders involve cycles of mood that include at least one episode of mania and may include episodes of depression as well. Bipolar disorders are often chronic and recurring. Sometimes, the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual.
When in the depressed cycle, the person can experience any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, any or all of the symptoms listed later in this article under mania may be experienced. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. For example, indiscriminant or otherwise unsafe sexual practices or unwise business or financial decisions may be made when an individual is in a manic phase.
A significant variant of the bipolar disorders is designated as bipolar II disorder. (The usual form of bipolar disorder is referred to as bipolar I disorder.) Bipolar II disorder is a syndrome in which the affected person has repeated depressive episodes punctuated by what is called hypomania (mini-highs). These euphoric states in bipolar II do not fully meet the criteria for the complete manic episodes that occur in bipolar I.
For more information about this condition, please read the Bipolar Disorder article.
Mania symptoms of manic depression
- Inappropriate elation
- Inappropriate irritability or anger
- Severe insomnia or decreased need to sleep
- Grandiose notions, like having special powers or importance
- Increased talking speed and/or volume
Disconnected or racing thoughts
- Severely increased sexual desire and/or activity
- Markedly increased energy
- Poor judgment
- Inappropriate social behavior
Signs of Depression
Types of Depression