Written by Shannon,
9 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Jen Miller, PMHNP-BC
10 Minute Read
Although feeling a little bit down every now and then is a common part of everyday life, feelings of hopelessness and despair that seem inescapable may be a sign that you are struggling with depression.
Depression is more than just occasional sadness or sadness that happens in response to the obstacles of life — depression can actually change the way you think, feel, and function, and it can greatly impact your ability to complete, and enjoy, daily activities.
Depression can also interrupt your life when it comes to work, school or study, eating and sleeping habits. It may also affect relationships with friends, family, and loved ones, and day-to-day tasks can begin to feel very overwhelming.
However, depression is a treatable mental health condition and there are ways that you can feel better and get better.
The first step towards feeling better is learning more about both the causes and symptoms of depression so that you can better understand what is happening, and when it’s time to seek professional help.
Different Types of Depression: What You Should Know
Before talking about what some of the most common symptoms of depression are, it may be helpful to review the different types of depression and what they can entail:
- Major depressive disorder is also known as major depression or clinical depression, and it entails intense feelings that last for more than two weeks and that interfere with daily life.
- Bipolar depression is characterized by alternating periods of low moods followed by periods of very high energy, known as manic periods. The low periods often leave patients feeling sad, hopeless, or lacking energy.
- Perinatal and postpartum depression are both related to childbirth, with perinatal being depression that occurs around birth and postpartum depression being that which occurs following birth. Perinatal and postpartum depression are often referred to as one and the same, and can occur in the months leading up to, as well as the year after, childbirth.
- Persistent depressive disorder is also known as dysthymia, and the symptoms of this disorder are generally less severe than those of major depressive disorder but are experienced for two years or longer.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome, and it thus impacts women in the days or weeks that precede the start of their menstrual cycle.
- Psychotic depression can cause severe depressive symptoms as well as delusions or hallucinations. Delusions are beliefs in things which are not based in reality, and hallucinations entail seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there.
- Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that usually starts in the late fall or early winter and subsides in the spring and summer.
Having a more complete understanding of these different forms of depression may help you better identify which disorder you may be dealing with. If you know you are struggling but are having trouble figuring out what you are struggling with, you should consult your provider to talk about seeking help for depression.
Common Symptoms of Depression
Depression can cause a range of symptoms, and depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe depending on the day and on each person’s individual situation.
Symptoms of depression can include:
- Feeling sad or being in a sad mood that does not go away
- Experiencing a loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
- Experiencing changes in your appetite such as an increased appetite or loss of appetite, and associated weight loss or weight gain
- Having difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Experiencing fatigue and a loss of energy
- Performing more purposeless physical activity than before, such as leg bouncing, pacing, handwringing, or an inability to sit still
- Having slowed movements or speech
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Having a hard time thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Having thoughts of death or suicide
Generally, symptoms of depression need to last for at least two weeks in order for a diagnosis to be made, and they must interfere with your ability to go about your life.
An important note is that you should seek help promptly if you frequently find yourself thinking about death, suicide, or self-harm.
How to Take a Depression Screening Test
A reliable step towards determining whether you have depression is to take a free depression screening test, which can often be found online.
However, not all online depression screening tests are created equal. Be sure to take a depression screening test offered by mental health professionals, such as the test provided in Brightside Health’s free mental health assessment.
Other organizations such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) also offer reputable self-assessments you can easily access online.
These self-assessment tools should not be used in place of a formal evaluation by a healthcare professional. Rather, they can help you determine whether you should seek professional help.
No matter what you need, Brightside will be with you every step of the way from your initial assessment through implementing your treatment plan. With Brightside, medication can be delivered to your door in most states, and you have unlimited access to evidence-based therapy, science-backed approaches, and expert psychiatric providers and therapists.
Here at Brightside, we work hard to bring you the depression care you deserve, right from the comfort of your own home.
What Is a Depression Screening Test?
A depression screening test is a questionnaire that helps check for the symptoms of depression. Unlike other medical tests that measure empirical data such as your blood pressure or your hormone levels, a depression screening uses subjective questions to determine whether you are at risk for depression.
One of the most common depression screening tests is the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). The PHQ-9 is a list of 9 questions about symptoms such as your energy levels, your appetite, loss of interest in favorite activities, trouble concentrating and other common symptoms of depression.
Instead of giving binary “yes” or “no” responses, the responder will assign a frequency to each question ranging from “not at all” to “nearly every day,”
What Do My Results Mean?
Depression cannot be diagnosed from a screening test alone. This is especially important to keep in mind if you are performing a self-assessment online. These results are a guide for future action, and you cannot diagnose yourself with depression.
The ADAA-recommended course of action is to take your depression screening test results to a healthcare professional to discuss them.
Your results and the answers you provide can be used by healthcare professionals to better describe your current mindset and anticipate your needs.
If your responses indicate that you may be experiencing the symptoms of depression, you will likely receive a recommendation for additional evaluations that can lead to a diagnosis of depression.
Who Should Take a Depression Screening Test?
The USPSTF recommends that all adults regularly screen for depression. Depression is an extremely common condition, with over 7 percent of adults in the U.S. experiencing at least one major depressive episode.
While you may notice that you’ve had changes in your appetite or persistent feelings of sadness, many people are unaware that these symptoms could be signs of depression. Regular depression screening tests can help you stay proactive in your mental health and address issues you may not even realize are affecting your daily life.
People who have recently been diagnosed with health conditions like cancer or heart disease should also screen for depression, as many patients with other health conditions concurrently experience major depressive disorder (MDD) or some other form of depression.
Even if the screening does not indicate that you may be experiencing the symptoms of depression, it’s beneficial to stay in touch with your emotional well-being and learn how to monitor for the symptoms of depression if they do arise in the future.
How Depression is Treated
There are several different approaches to treatment for depression, and a combination of approaches may be most effective in some cases.
Depression is commonly managed through the use of antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, atypical antidepressants, or tricyclic antidepressants.
Finding the right medication for you may require a process of trial and error, and you may need to test out several different medications before you find one that works well for you.
Once you start taking medication, you should carefully follow your provider’s instructions as well as any instructions on the drug label, and avoid taking too much or too little of your medication at one time. You should also take care to take your medication at the appropriate time of day every day, and if you miss a dose and your next dose is approaching, you should only take the next dose and skip the missed dose.
Psychotherapy, such as the scientifically-proven cognitive behavioral therapy, is another treatment for depression, and it involves working together with a licensed therapist to identify your symptoms, and to learn strategies to help decrease these symptoms and develop coping strategies to help you when these symptoms may arise again in the future.
The Bottom Line
Feeling sad or down every once in a while is a fairly normal part of everyday life, but if your sad feelings leave you feeling hopeless or in despair and they do not go away, you may actually be struggling with depression.
There are many different forms of depression, including major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder, and building a better understanding of these types of depression may help you start to realize specifically how you are struggling.
Symptoms of depression can include changes in your appetite, changes in your eating or sleeping habits, slowed movements and speech, fatigue and loss of energy, and experiencing a loss of interest and pleasure in activities that you used to love.
The symptoms of depression can vary and range from mild to severe, and they may differ from person to person.
If you think you are struggling with depression, reach out to a professional today with Brightside.