Depression is not just "feeling blue," nor is it just "in your head." Depression certainly does affect mood: clinical depression involves a depressed mood and/or a loss of interest in or enjoyment from activities on most days, for most of the day for at least 2 weeks. Feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, or anxiety can occur. However, symptoms of depression may not be limited to your emotions.
You may have heard of behavioural/cognitive depression symptoms. People with these symptoms experience changes in the way they are able to think, concentrate, and remember information. They may have difficulty making decisions, have self-doubt about decisions they've made, or avoid situations in which they must make a decision. They may also exhibit changes in their behaviour, such as avoiding social and work activities. Personal care such as grooming may also decrease.
Some people may experience physical symptoms, which they may think are not related to depression. However, these symptoms are linked to depression. Physical symptoms of depression include:
- problems with sleep: sleeping more than usual or not getting enough sleep
- changes in appetite or weight: a decrease or increase in appetite, or significant weight loss when you're not on a diet, or significant weight gain
- fatigue or decreased energy: feeling lethargic or constantly tired
- unexplained aches and pains: stomach pain, headache, neck and back pain, or muscle aches that have no known physical cause
Traditionally, physical symptoms have not been immediately recognized as being symptoms of depression, leading doctors to delay the recognition and diagnosis of depression. About 50% of people with a depressive episode do not get a diagnosis of depression when they visit their doctor.
However, doctors are increasingly recognizing that physical symptoms are the chief complaint for many people with depression. In fact, a survey involving several countries found that 69% of people with depression reported only physical symptoms as the reason for visiting their doctor.
It's important to let your doctor know of all your symptoms so that they can make a proper diagnosis. To learn more about how doctors diagnose depression based on your symptoms, click here. Talking to your doctor is important, since depression is a common and serious condition that may be successfully treated. Your path back to the things you love starts with a diagnosis and treatment plan from your doctor.
Your symptoms of depression are unique to you. Your experience of depression may be very different from the experience of another person with depression. You may have symptoms that are similar, you may experience one type of symptom to a greater degree, or you may have symptoms that another person with depression doesn't have at all. If you think you or a person you know may have depression, use the Depression Symptom Checker, which provides a list of some of the possible symptoms a person with depression might experience.
Remember that only a doctor can make a proper diagnosis of depression based on your symptoms, and then recommend a treatment that will be right for you. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available to treat depression - treatments that work on both the emotional and unpleasant physical symptoms of depression.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. To help you start the discussion, use the Doctor Discussion Guide.