How do you know if you’re depressed? What does it mean to have depression? If you’re wondering if you’re “technically” depressed, as defined by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), you’ll need to consult your doctor or a mental health professional. But in the video below, we’ll look at the symptoms of depression, as well as the symptoms of depression with anxious distress. Anxious distress is a subtype of depression that also involves symptoms of anxiety.
Whether we’re feeling depressed, or actually meet the diagnostic criteria for depression, getting to know these symptom can help us understand what’s going on and make sense of how we’re feeling. And then in the videos coming up, we’ll look at how to manage these symptoms and relieve depression so we can start feeling better.
Am I Depressed? How Do I Know If I Have Depression?
This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.
So how do we know if we’re depressed? This video isn’t going to be a quiz you can take that will diagnose whether or not you have depression, that’s a little more complicated than we can cover in a video and should involve a conversation with your doctor or mental health professional. Instead we’re going to focus on the various symptoms of depression—what they mean, and how they manifest themselves or what they look like in everyday life—to help you understand depression a little better, and to explore what you might be experiencing if you are depressed. And then in videos that i have coming up, we’ll look at various ways to manage these symptoms that can help relieve depression.
Now let’s look at the symptoms of depression. The two main symptoms of depression are a depressed mood, and a diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities. And we need to experience at least one of these two main symptoms most of the day nearly every day.
So what does a depressed mood mean? It’s defined as feeling sad empty hopeless or appearing that way to others. And sometimes we may not even feel sad because when we’re really depressed often we don’t feel much of anything, we’re just kind of numb and detached from our emotions, and so we may not even feel sad because we’re not really feeling anything at all.
And although this isn’t part of the official symptoms of depression, we often feel our moods and emotions in our bodies. And so when we have a depressed mood we often experience specific physical symptoms or sensations. For example, if you were to ask me how i know that I’m feeling sad, i think the main way is that it’s just this feeling i get in my body that’s kind of hard to describe, but when I’m sad i usually have this feeling. And even if I’m not particularly aware of being sad if i notice this feeling in my body it signals to me that, oh i guess i am feeling sad right now.
And so when we’re feeling sad or have a depressed mood there are a number of common physical symptoms or sensations we might feel in our bodies such as: a lump in our throats that never seems to go away; or feeling choked up; or a feeling of dread or heaviness in the pit of our stomachs; or an uncomfortable feeling in our chests, the sort of thing that might be described as a broken heart. And these are just a few examples but it’s really common to feel our depressed moods in our bodies, whether it’s one of these symptoms or one of countless others.
And while we’re talking about emotions, i also want to mention irritability and anger, which aren’t technically symptoms of depression in adults. But often when we’re depressed we can feel really irritable. We don’t have a lot of patience and we may be quick to anger or have angry outbursts that we don’t have when we’re not feeling depressed. And this can often be a sign of depression in men, or anyone who isn’t used to expressing sadness, and their depressed mood comes out in irritability and anger instead.
And then the other main symptom of depression is diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities. Things we used to like doing and look forward to just don’t interest us anymore. We don’t feel like hanging out with our friends. And activities and hobbies that we used to enjoy seem pointless. We don’t want to do them anymore, and when we do do them, they’re not as enjoyable as they used to be.
Now there’s an important distinction to make here between lack of interest in these activities and lack of pleasure from these activities. When we’re depressed we’re often not interested in doing anything, because we feel so lousy so unmotivated so fatigued and maybe even just the thought of doing something is overwhelming: it’s too much effort; it’s just going to make me feel worse. But often these activities still do give us some pleasure. It may be diminished pleasure but usually doing something feels better than not doing anything at all.
and this is a really important point because one of the most effective treatments for depression is called behavioral activation. And this involves very gradually at a pace that isn’t overwhelming taking part again in activities that used to give us some pleasure. And when we do this we usually find that they still give us some pleasure more than we expected even if it’s not as much as they used to. And I’m not going to talk more about this here but it is a focus of some of my other videos about how to treat depression.
And the next symptom is significant weight loss or weight gain. We can often lose weight when we’re depressed. We can lose our appetites and we just don’t feel like eating. And some of this is related to what we just talked about: food just doesn’t interest us anymore. We don’t enjoy eating, and we don’t want to have to make anything or even decide what to order. We just don’t care. We don’t want to bother.
On the other hand we may start gaining a lot of weight. Maybe we’re not that active and we don’t burn as many calories as we used to. We can spend a lot of time just sitting around in front of the TV eating out of boredom. And emotional eating is common we start eating to try to make ourselves feel better. And maybe sometimes it helps a bit but it doesn’t last, so we eat more. And a lot of our comfort foods are high in calories, so it’s easy to gain weight when we’re depressed.
The next symptom is insomnia or hypersomnia. When we’re depressed it can be difficult to sleep. And there can be a vicious cycle between insomnia and depression. Insomnia isn’t just a symptom of depression, if we’re not getting enough sleep it can lead to depression. And even when we’re not depressed lack of sleep has a negative impact on our moods, and it makes everything harder. And so if we’re already depressed, not getting enough sleep just makes everything worse and contributes to our depression.
Or we can experience hypersomnia, which involves either excessive daytime sleepiness or prolonged night-time sleep. When we’re depressed we can be tired and sleepy throughout the day. We can feel like we need to take naps all the time, sometimes even in the middle of work, or even in the middle of a conversation with someone. We’re just too tired and we need to sleep. And when we wake up we may not even feel any less sleepy than we did before.
Or we can spend a lot of time in bed and when we wake up go right back to sleep again. Either way hypersomnia can make it hard to keep up with regular routines and schedules, interfere with our ability to work and maintain relationships and friendships and just make it hard to get through the day.
The next symptom is psychomotor agitation or retardation, psychomotor just being a fancy term for movement. Psychomotor agitation refers to feeling really restless, fidgety, unable to sit still, pacing, hand-wringing, leg twitching and so on. Whereas with psychomotor retardation we’re slowed down and lethargic. We’re really sluggish and our speech can be really slow. It can take much longer to just get up from a chair and make our ways across a room. And it can take for ever to get a sentence out.
And then there’s fatigue or loss of energy. When we’re feeling depressed it’s not just our moods that are depressed but our energy levels as well. We can really feel our depression physically. We can feel like there’s a big weight on us and everything feels so hard like it’s just so much work to do anything. And this fatigue and lack of energy can feed into a loss of interest in doing activities . We’re just not up to it; it’s too much effort; we’re too tired; we don’t have the energy. And one of the reasons behavioral activation, which i mentioned earlier, is helpful is that when we feel so fatigued and have no energy doing, just a little bit can help give us a little more energy. And so behavioral activation counters not just our lack of interest or pleasure in activities, but it can help get our energy levels up a bit.
Next are feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt. And these feelings are generally accompanied by lots of negative thoughts: I’m worthless; I’m useless; I’m such a loser; I’m a stupid piece of crap; you’re such an idiot; you’re just a waste of oxygen. Or I’m just a burden. I ruin everything. Why did i do that? I shouldn’t have said that. It’s all my fault. I’m a terrible person. I make everything worse. I can’t do anything right.
These feelings of worthlessness and guilt and the related thoughts are symptoms of being depressed but they also contribute to depression. It’s hard to stop feeling depressed when we’re constantly berating ourselves with all of these negative thoughts and telling ourselves all of these horrible things about ourselves. And so one of the main ways we treat depression is to target these thoughts and change the way we’re thinking so it’s not so negatively biased. And when we do this we start to feel better and less depressed. And i have a number of videos that cover techniques to help us do this and again you’ll find all of them in my free self-help course for depression.
And then there’s a diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness. When we’re depressed it can be hard to focus on what we’re doing. We lose track of conversations. We watch TV but aren’t really paying attention and can’t follow what’s going on. If we try reading we end up going over the same page again and again without taking anything in. And doing work or studying can seem impossible: it’s too hard to think; we can’t concentrate; and we just can’t get anything accomplished.
And decisions can be agonizing. We go back and forth for what seems like forever, repeatedly changing our minds, asking other people what we should do ,and constantly seeking reassurance. And in the end we often can’t bring ourselves to make any decision. Or if we do make a decision we keep second guessing ourselves, and changing our minds, and not wanting to commit to anything because we’re so worried we’re going to make the wrong decision. And even trying to make the smallest decisions can seem overwhelming.
And the final symptom is recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide. When we’re depressed thoughts of death can seem comforting. Maybe we can’t stand feeling this way any longer and we feel so hopeless and helpless the thoughts of death are the only way we can imagine all of this pain finally being over. And so the idea of dying and thinking about death can bring us some relief.
And so we can have thoughts like: i just wish i were dead; everyone would be better off without me; if i don’t wake up tomorrow it would be a relief. And while thoughts of death shouldn’t be taken lightly, they’re extremely common when we’re depressed. And while general thoughts about death and dying like these usually aren’t dangerous, if you have any concerns that you might harm yourself you should share them with someone who can assess your risk.
Now suicidal ideation involves thoughts or ruminations about self-harm and the possibility of ending our lives. And in terms of level of risk of suicide, suicidal ideation can range from just general thoughts about taking our lives without a specific plan; thoughts about ending our lives with a specific plan but a plan we don’t have the means to carry out right away; and thoughts about ending our lives with a plan that we could carry out now.
so most people who have suicidal thoughts don’t go on to make suicide attempts. But suicidal thoughts should always be taken seriously. And especially if you’re having thoughts about taking your life and have a specific plan, then you should share these thoughts with someone who can make sure that you’re safe. And if you’re ever concerned you might harm yourself please call a crisis support line or emergency services or go to the hospital or urgent care.
So that’s the end of the list of symptoms of depression. But depression is often accompanied by a lot of anxiety and so there’s a subtype of depression called depression with anxious distress. And depression is accompanied by anxious distress somewhere between 65 and 75 percent of the time. And so it’s more common than not to experience anxiety along with depression.
And the symptoms of anxious distress are: feeling keyed up or tense; feeling unusually restless, which is somewhat related to the psychomotor agitation symptom of depression; and then there’s difficulty concentrating because of worry. And we’ve already noted that difficulty concentrating in general is one of the symptoms of depression. And the fear that something awful may happen, which is a common symptom of anxiety: when we’re anxious we tend to worry a lot and we imagine the worst case scenarios. And finally there’s the feeling that we might lose control of ourselves.
So these are the symptoms of depression and depression with anxious distress. If you have some of these symptoms you may be depressed, or you may just feel depressed without meeting the specific criteria for a diagnosis of depression. But let’s talk about diagnosis for a minute. For a lot of people getting diagnosed with depression can be a relief. It’s reassuring to be able to put a name on how we’re feeling, and it’s an acknowledgement that what we’re experiencing is real: there’s a reason we’re feeling this way; and it can be a validation that what we’re going through isn’t all in our heads.
Depression is an actual medical condition that happens to be highly treatable, but sometimes people are devastated to learn that they have depression, partially because of the stigma of mental health issues, and also because it can make us feel like failures for letting ourselves get depressed, or weak because we can’t just pull ourselves out of it. We’re crushed because we’ve never thought of ourselves as someone who would have mental health issues.
And so if we fall into the second group we need to try to not see depression as a label on ourselves and who we are as people, but just as a label that describes the collection of symptoms we’re experiencing. Because that’s what a diagnosis of depression is. It’s a name for this group of symptoms that are commonly found together but whether we’re technically depressed or just have symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of Depression
- A depressed mood (feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or appearing that way to others)
- Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or hypersomnia (daytime sleepiness or prolonged sleep at night)
- Psychomotor agitation (feeling restless, fidgety, can’t sit still) or psychomotor retardation (feeling slow or sluggish)
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or a suicide attempt or a plan to commit suicide
Additional Symptoms of Depression with Anxious Distress
- Feeling keyed up or tense
- Feeling unusually restless
- Difficulty concentrating because of worry
- The fear that something awful may happen
- The feeling that we might lose control of ourselves
Just because you have some of these symptoms doesn’t mean you’re depressed. We can often feel depressed and have symptoms of depression without meeting the diagnostic criteria for depression. So if you think you’re depressed and would like a diagnosis, consult your doctor or mental health professional. And if you’re suicidal or think you might harm yourself, please talk to someone who can help. And if you’re in need of immediate assistance, please call a crisis support line, emergency services, or go to the hospital or urgent care.
If you have any questions or comments, you can leave them on the YouTube video page.