How To Identify Common Depression Symptoms

Depression Symptoms

Depression symptoms are caused by one of the most common mental health illnesses in the world. In the United States, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability for people ages fifteen to forty-four, and in any given year, about seven percent of U.S. adults will suffer from a depressive episode. In addition, depression increases the risk of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction through the act of self-medicating.

While it is a common misunderstanding among non-professionals that depression is merely one, all-encompassing term, the disorder is more nuanced. There are several different types of depression, and while there are clusters of symptoms that are stable across each type, certain subsets will have specific symptoms attributable to them.

Types of Depression

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder has a sudden onset and depression symptoms must last for at least two weeks for a definitive diagnosis. Symptoms are extremely disruptive, and the longer it goes untreated, the higher the risk for suicide.


Characterized as a lower-grade form of major depressive disorder, dysthymia tends to last for several years. Sufferers may often take on a negative, pessimistic personality and outlook. Because the symptoms of depression are not as pronounced, sufferers can go a long time without treatment.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD is a major depressive episode triggered by periodic and seasonal changes in weather and sunlight. Most who are prone to SAD experience it in the winter months when sunlight is low, but there are rarer forms where people get it during the spring and summer with increased sunlight and warmth.

Psychotic Depression

This is a rare type of depression where the individual is suffering from depressive symptoms in addition to hallucinations and delusions. Drugs and substance abuse must be adequately ruled out for a definitive diagnosis, since some drugs can cause bizarre thoughts and beliefs.

Postpartum Depression

A major depressive episode caused by the birth of a child. Plummeting and fluctuating hormone levels coupled with the normal stress of caring for a newborn can cause postpartum. Postpartum and the following PMDD are the reasons why women are more likely to suffer from depression than men at some point in their lives at a ratio of 2:1.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

PMDD causes women at the start of their menstrual cycle to experience depressive symptoms. Symptoms tend to clear as hormone levels change, then peak again. PMDD is extremely disruptive and can be alleviated with hormonal birth control.

Common Symptoms of Depression

  • A general, pervasive feeling of sadness and lack of motivation
  • Lethargy, malaise, and fatigue
  • Thoughts of guilt or shame
  • Slowed movements and speech
  • Random, unexplained aches and pains
  • Changes in sleep patterns — trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or insomnia
  • Withdrawal
  • Lack of interest in usual activities — may miss work or school
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts
  • Emotional numbness
  • Irritability
  • Crying for no reason
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Self-medication

Do depression symptoms lead to self-medicating?

People suffering from mental disorders like depression are at an increased risk of self-medicating and experiencing the harm that comes with that. Self-medication is the act of using illicit drugs, alcohol, or the off-label abuse of prescription drugs to alleviate depression symptoms. 27% of substance and alcohol abusers have co-occurring depression.

Drug addiction with co-occurring depression is particularly concerning for loved ones and healthcare professionals for several reasons. Drug addiction compounds and worsens the symptoms of depression while also adding its own unique risks to the mix.

With drug addiction, sufferers are at increased risk of legal troubles, physical health complications, and further disruption in their family life and careers. Also, drugs can cause psychotic breaks, hostility, an increased risk of accidents, and a lack of impulse control.

What are the risks of resulting drug abuse?

Government surveys indicate that for those treated for depression in an inpatient setting, the rate of death by suicide is four percent. For a person with depression who is already experiencing suicidal thoughts, adding in a substance which further impairs their ability to make rational decisions exponentially increases their risk of attempting suicide.

If a person presents in a clinical setting with co-occurring drug addiction and depression, the person must undergo detox first. Without it, symptoms and the underlying, specific causes of the person’s depression cannot be fully understood and therefore, treated effectively. Once the drug dependence is broken, the depression can be addressed, and a custom-made treatment plan can follow.

Treatment options for Depression Symptoms

Depression is a multifaceted disease and the entire range of causes and risk factors isn’t fully understood yet. Furthermore, each individual case comes with its own set of unique circumstances, triggers, and events, requiring individualized custom care and treatment.

Once any co-occurring drug addiction is addressed and treated, individuals will need the care and attention of trained therapists, doctors, and social workers for their treatment plan. Family and loved ones must be involved as well. Depression sufferers need a strong, informed support system to prevent relapse and make a full recovery.

Therapy, in the form of talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, is effective for helping depression patients cope with symptoms and develop better coping mechanisms and emotional responses to negative stimuli.

While incredibly important and effective, therapy cannot be the only treatment option. Pharmacological options must also be explored and administered.

SSRIs and SNRIs are among some of the most common prescription treatment options for depression. Light therapy has been found to be effective for SAD sufferers, and for intractable cases, electromagnetic and electro convulsive therapy is still administered and proven effective.

When confronting someone with depression, offer emotional support and non-judgement. Most depression sufferers are already experiencing shame and guilt. Since depression will make the person lethargic, sapping their energy and motivation, consider composing a list of resources for them. Offer to accompany them to appointments and therapy sessions.

If the individual is making overt suicidal threats or threats of harming others, immediately call 911. Also, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is available 24/7 and staffed with caring, dedicated professionals who can offer support and resources for depression sufferers and their loved ones.

Get Help Now

If you or a loved one are struggling with Depression, or a co-occurring substance abuse issue, please contact our admissions team today for a free and confidential assessment.