Depression Symptoms

older man sitting on the floor looking sad while staring out the window

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Depressive disorder—also known as depression or major depressive disorder—is a psychiatric (mental health) disorder that affects your mood. Depression can cause a variety of emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms. 

A common misinterpretation about people with depression is that they are just sad. However, depression is more than having a bad day or going through a rough patch. People who have depression typically experience chronic symptoms, meaning they have symptoms for more than two weeks at a time. Symptoms can limit your ability to function and reduce your quality of life. 

Depression is a common, but severe mood disorder which affects nearly 280 million people globally each year. Knowing the symptoms can help you or a loved one receive necessary support and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. 

Emotional Symptoms

Each person experiences depression differently. Some people might only have a few symptoms that get better over time, while others have several symptoms that may get worse. Depression can also be hard to detect because some people may choose to hide their pain and feel their emotions in private. 

One of the hallmark types of symptoms people with depression experience are emotional symptoms—or, symptoms that affect your mood. These symptoms may include:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Anxious thoughts 
  • Hopelessness
  • Pessimism or a negative outlook on life 
  • Irritability 
  • Guilt
  • Frustration 
  • Restlessness 

Behavioral Symptoms

If you begin to experience emotional symptoms, it is common to also notice changes in your behavior—and that’s OK. Many people with depressive disorder may experience changes in their sleep schedules, appetite, and energy levels, among other aspects of your daily life. 

Behavioral symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that you used to enjoy 
  • Trouble concentrating on the task at hand 
  • Feeling like you have no energy 
  • Not having the motivation to exercise or move your body 
  • Difficulty making decisions 
  • Having a hard time remembering details 
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Sleeping too much 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urge to overeat 
  • Avoiding social situations and spending time with loved ones 
  • Thinking about or attempting self-harm or suicide 

Looking for Support?

If you are in crisis, or know someone who is, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or go to for a list of additional resources.


Physical Symptoms

Research suggests that there is a strong link between the mind and body. As a result, having depression may also cause physical symptoms. 

You may experience physical symptoms such as: 

  • Muscle aches or general body aches 
  • Fatigue or exhaustion 
  • Headache 
  • Digestion issues such as constipation or diarrhea 
  • Stomach pain or discomfort
  • Restlessness 
  • Slow movement or speech
  • Changes in your libido or sex drive
  • Unintentional weight loss or weight gain

Sometimes, it’s easier for you and your loved ones to notice physical symptoms before emotional or behavioral symptoms. If you begin to develop physical symptoms or pain, but have no underlying health conditions, it may be possible that depression is playing a role.

Depression Symptoms in Children

Symptoms of depression usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. But, children and younger teenagers can also have depression.

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that as many as 20% of young adolescents experience depression as teenagers, while up to 3% of children under the age of 13 have depressive symptoms. 

The most common symptoms of depression in children are sadness, irritable mood (or, “acting out”), and a loss of interest in their favorite activities. You may also notice that your child no longer wants to hang out with their friends, engage in their hobbies or extracurricular activities, or go to school.

If you are concerned about your child’s mood, you might consider talking to your child about how they’re feeling and asking what you can do to support them. If symptoms remain ongoing, it’s a good idea to talk with their pediatrician or another primary healthcare provider for advice and treatment options.

Difference in Symptoms Between Men and Women

Depression can also affect men and women differently. Research shows that depression is about twice as common in women and girls than it is in men and boys. More research is needed on the sex differences of depression, but early studies show that hormonal changes may increase your risk of developing depression.

Some studies also suggest that chronic conditions can increase your risk of developing mental health disorders. Women have a high risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, lupus, and some types of cancer. Just as emotional symptoms can cause physical pain, living with a chronic condition with painful symptoms can also affect your mental health.

When to See a Healthcare Provider 

Depression doesn’t discriminate, meaning everyone can experience hard days, sadness, and periods of grief. It’s OK to have these feelings. 

However, if you notice that your feelings are keeping you from being able to fully participate in and enjoy your life for long periods of time, it’s time to reach out for support and talk to your healthcare provider. 

Before going in for an appointment with your primary care provider or mental health professional, consider keeping a journal to document changes in your emotional, behavioral, or physical symptoms. This can help your provider notice any patterns in your lifestyle and help you find ways to manage symptoms and improve your well-being. 

If you or a loved one begin to have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please reach out for immediate medical care. 

A Quick Review 

Depression is a common but serious, mental health condition that causes a variety of emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms. Common symptoms of depression may include feeling extremely sad or hopeless, losing interest in your favorite activities, and experiencing changes in your sleep or eating habits. 

Depression can be difficult to experience. Please remember that it’s OK to feel your feelings as they are. The good news is that you can treat your condition and reduce the severity and frequency of your symptoms. 

To receive a diagnosis and treatment for depression, symptoms must persist for more than two weeks. If you notice changes in your mood or general well-being and your symptoms aren’t going away, it’s good practice to talk to a healthcare provider—whether that be your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Your provider can help you understand why you are having symptoms and find treatment options that improve your condition. 

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Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression.

  2. World Health Organization. Depression

  3. MedlinePlus. Depression.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Depression in children and teens.

  5. Office on Women’s Health. Depression.

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