In the United States, one in twenty people are experiencing a depressive episode in any given two-week period. Each person’s experience of the illness falls on a continuum that ranges from mild to severe. The illness usually develops gradually but sometimes it can “hit like a ton of bricks.”  Earlier treatment can head off a more serious episode.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Depressed or sad mood that will not go away, tired all the time, crying a lot
  • Loss of pleasure or enjoyment in any activity, loss of libido
  • Negative thoughts that won’t go away
  • Can’t get to sleep, stay asleep, or are waking up earlier than usual
  • Changes in appetite, significant weight gain or loss in a short period of time
  • Inability to concentrate, make decisions, or focus
  • Tasks that seemed easy before are now difficult to accomplish
  • Using alcohol, drugs, porn, social networks, TV, or video games to escape internal pain
  • Chronically irritable, short-tempered, or angry
  • Feeling hopeless and/or helpless about life or situations in life
  • Preoccupation with thoughts of death, feeling that life is not worth living, and/or that no one would care if you died. (If you are planning suicide go to the nearest emergency room or call emergency services in your area).

Additional Symptoms for Men

  • Violence or other abusive behaviors directed at loved ones
  • Reckless behaviors
  • Chronic anger or aggression problems
  • Believing ones self to be weak or less a man

Additional Symptoms for Women

  • Pre-menstrual moodiness that interferes with daily life
  • Depression symptoms after the birth of a child (see postpartum section)
  • Increased moodiness during the months/years just before menopause
  • In addition, watch for depression symptoms in adolescent girls at the onset of puberty

Depression Risk Factors

Having risk factors for depression does not necessarily mean an episode of depression will occur. However, the more risk factors the greater the risk for an episode. Early intervention via counseling can sometimes prevent a depressive episode. Risk factors include:

  • Prior depression experience (even in childhood or adolescence)
  • Personal history of alcohol/drug abuse or addictions of any kind
  • Family history of depression, alcohol/drug abuse, or addictions of any kind
  • History of childhood abuse or trauma (ex. accident, death of a parent, sexual abuse, etc.)
  • Marital, family, or significant other problems, domestic violence of any kind or severity
  • Few friends and/or an unsupportive or unavailable family
  • Financial duress, job loss, unemployment, underemployment
  • Serious or chronic illness (ex. heart disease, diabetes, cancer)
  • Being on medication for heart disease, high blood pressure, acne, birth control, etc. (Any medication that causes a change in mood should be brought to the attention of the prescribing physician)

Habits Of Thinking and Behaving That Are Also Risk Factors

  • Consistently viewing life from a “glass half empty” outlook (this is pessimism)
  • Tendency to see one bad event as affecting every other aspect of life
  • Tendency to interpret one personal flaw as a statement about your entire person
  • All or nothing thinking (ex. one is either perfect or a totally bad person)
  • A tendency to be overly self-critical

• A tendency to make decisions based on immediate feelings rather than a thoughtful examination of pros and cons and potential consequences