Signs & Symptoms of Depression

Oasis Behavioral Health Hospital helps individuals in Chandler, AZ diagnose and treat their mental health & addiction disorders.

Understanding Depression

Learn about depression

Depression is far more than a case of the blues following a stressful life event, such as a breakup or getting fired from a job. This serious, yet treatable, mental health disorder colors everything in a depressed individual’s life. Certainly changes in mood are a normal part of life, but people who have depression are struggling with far greater challenges. Depression distorts the way a person sees him or herself, his or her life, and those around the person. People who have depression often have a negative, pessimistic point of view and cannot imagine that any problem can be solved in a positive way. There are several forms of depression that can affect both children and adults, including:

Major depression is characterized by severe symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to sleep, work, eat, study, and enjoy his or her life. Some people only have a single major depressive episode while others have several throughout his or her lifetime.

Dysthymia is a depressive disorder that is characterized by long-lasting symptoms that do not lead to serious disability, but that do keep a person from functioning well or feeling good. Many individuals who have dysthymia also experience episodes of major depression throughout their lifetime.

With proper therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication management, depression can be treated. Unfortunately, despite the high rates of success in treating this disorder, studies indicate that only two out of three people with depression will seek or receive proper treatment.


Depression statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that one in every 10 adults in the United States has depression. As many as one in 33 children and one in 8 teenagers also have clinical depression. Approximately 2.5% of children in the United States struggle with depression. It is more common in boys under the age of 10, but by age 16, girls have a greater risk of developing depression.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for depression

Researchers in the field generally believe that depression is not the result of a single cause or risk factor; rather it is a combination of genetic, physical, and environmental risk factors working together to cause this disorder. The most commonly cited causes and risk factors for depression include:

Genetic: It appears that certain types of depression do run in families; children, teens, and adults who have a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with depression are at greater risk for developing this disorder. However, many people have developed depression without any notable family history.

Physical: Depression is a disorder of the brain. Brain imaging studies, such as MRIs and CT scans, have found that the brains of people with depression look different than those without depression. Notably, the areas of the brain associated with mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behaviors appear differently; however, this does not indicate the reason for the depression. Additionally, the imbalance of certain neurotransmitters of the brain, especially serotonin and dopamine, may be involved in the development of this disorder.

Environmental: The impact of stressful life events or past traumas may trigger depression in certain, susceptible people. The greater the stresses and traumatic events, the greater the likelihood that depression will develop.

Risk Factors:

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Chronic, unremitting pain
  • Sleeping problems
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Child abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, verbal
  • Child neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • Grief
  • Social isolation

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of depression

Depressive disorders will differ in symptomatology based upon age, gender, co-occurring disorders, substance abuse, and differences in each individual’s personality. Examples of various symptoms that a person suffering from a depressive disorder may experience can include:

Behavioral symptoms of depression in adults:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Irritability and frustration that is out of proportion to the situation
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Crying episodes

Behavioral symptoms of depression in children:

  • Clinginess to parent or caregiver
  • School refusal
  • Poor school attendance
  • Poor scholastic performance
  • Being extremely sensitive
  • Irritability and anger
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Avoidance of social interactions
  • Crying
  • Vocal outbursts
  • Reduction in the ability to function at home, with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and other interests

Physical symptoms of depression in adults:

  • Changes in appetite – some may overeat while others do not eat at all
  • Correlating changes in weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns – hypersomnia or insomnia
  • Slowed speaking, thinking, or body motor movements
  • Exhaustion / lack of energy
  • Medically unexplained problems such as headaches or back pain

Physical symptoms of depression in children:

  • Eating or sleeping too much
  • Being underweight
  • Generalized aches and pains that do not respond to treatment

Cognitive symptoms of depression in adults:

  • Challenges maintaining concentration
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Challenges making decisions
  • Trouble recalling things

Cognitive symptoms of depression in children:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired thinking

Psycho-social symptoms of depression in adults:

  • Feelings of worthlessness, sadness, unhappiness
  • Excessive guilt
  • Feeling “empty” inside
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Fixation on past failures
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying, and suicidal behaviors

Psycho-social symptoms of depression in children:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Feeling misunderstood
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts


Effects of depression

While depression is a highly treatable mental disorder, all too often, it goes untreated and unmanaged. If left untreated or undiagnosed, depression can cause significant impairment in the lives of all affected by this disorder. The effects of untreated depression can include:

  • Difficulty performing well in school, leading to lower educational levels (in children and teens)
  • Excess weight or obesity which can lead to many physical health problems, including cardiovascular disease
  • Interpersonal struggles, family problems, and challenges at work or school
  • Alcohol or substance abuse and addiction
  • Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and/or social phobia
  • Social isolation
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Premature death and disability

Co-Occurring Disorders

Depression and co-occurring disorders

Many people who have depression also have other types of mental health disorders. The most common co-occurring, co-morbid disorders include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Chronic medical conditions
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