How to spot the major signs of depression

Major signs of depression

It is possible for people with depression or those exhibiting depressive symptoms not to be clinically depressed.

Depression, much like any other mental health disorder, has its own set of incorrect truths and beliefs – some of which only add to the stigma of this mental health condition.

What is Depression?

According to mental health professionals, depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest.

Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that over 264 million people suffer from depression globally; making this depressive disorder a pandemic in its own right.

Symptoms of Depression

Since some of the signs and symptoms associated with depression can be similar to other mental health conditions – mental health professionals must be thorough when examining patients.

Feeling sad vs depression.

Firstly, it’s normal to feel blue sometimes – having an off day now and then is part of the human experience.

It’s not realistic, even for the most positive people among us to be happy all the time.

Non-clinically depressed people might feel down due to external life events such as:

  • Losing a job
  • Going through a romantic breakup
  • The car breaking down
  • Being stressed at work

Although these life stressors aren’t pleasant and can lead to depression if they become chronic- people suffering from depression don’t require specific life events to occur to experience low mood.

The black hole that is synonymous with depression appears, usually without a trigger.

Symptoms of depression

Some of the key symptoms linked to depression include:

  • Increased fatigue and sleep problems.
  • Feeling hopeless or having a hopeless outlook.
  • Loss of interest in the things you once enjoyed (such as loss of sex drive, lack of interest in hobbies, etc.)
  • Anxiety involves feeling restless and tense; some people might also experience rapid heartbeat and heavy sweating.
  • Inability to control emotions.
  • Changes in appetite – such as eating too much or not enough.
  • Irritability.
  • Having suicidal thoughts.

What are the different types of depression?

Those who suffer from depression may experience different depression symptoms compared to others.

The type of depression that one person experiences are different for everyone – for example, someone may complain of aches and pains, while another person complains of low self-esteem.

A mental health professional diagnoses conditions based on symptoms and at times, it can be hard to tell specific symptoms apart since they are so similar.

Types of depression

There many different types of depressive disorder, including:

#1. Clinical depression

When people get diagnosed as clinically depressed – it is their doctor that usually gives the diagnosis.

During the appointment, health information and treatments get discussed, and in some cases, a follow-up appointment gets arranged.

#2. Recurrent depressive disorder

A doctor diagnoses someone with the recurrent depressive disorder when a person has had two depressive episodes. 

The physician might also say that the attacks are either mild, moderate or severe.

#3. Depressive episode

Physicians use the term ‘depressive episode’ when formally diagnosing someone with depression – again; they may use names like mild, moderate or severe when referring to the type of depressive episodes a person is experiencing.

#4. Dysthymia

This mental health condition is when a person experiences persistent mild depression for over two years – Dysthymia gets referred to as persistent depressive disorder or chronic depression.

#5. Manic depression

The term manic depression is now called bipolar disorder – this mental health condition is not the same as depression; however, people with bipolar disorder experience episodes of depression as part of the illness.

Other depressive disorders

Other depressive disorders include:

  • Psychotic depression
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Prenatal or postnatal depression

What is the #1 cause of depression?

Major depression and severe depression emerge for a multitude of reasons.

Moderate depression symptoms may also be similar to those found in a depressive disorder, although it’s difficult to know what signs of depression one might feel from one day to the next.

Risk factors

Researchers and mental health professionals have identified several causes of depression, which involve:

  • Brain chemistry and environmental factors
  • Certain medications
  • Having a substance use disorder
  • Bad nutrition
  • Stress
  • Genetic factors

Data shows that between 10-15% of the population will experience clinical depression at some point throughout their lifetime.

Environmental factors

It’s almost impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of depression.

However, recent research surrounding the Covid 19 outbreak, for instance, suggests that environmental factors, as well as highly stressful situations, have the potential to trigger depression.

Brain chemicals

Many people with depression may also have a chemical imbalance in the brain, according to scientific research.

For example, if any of the brain’s neurotransmitters which are responsible for regulating mood become imbalanced, this may trigger depression. 

Some of these chemicals include:

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Norepinephrine

Practically, having too much or not enough of these neurotransmitters may cause depression.

Certain medications

In cases where people have a specific health condition such as a thyroid condition, diabetes, chronic pain or cancer – depression rates tend to be higher as living with a chronic illness is one of the causes of major depression.

It appears that the connection between illness and depression is a double-edged sword. 

The stress of having a chronic illness may trigger depression, and specific physical diseases such as Addison’s disease and liver disease can cause significant depression symptoms.

Substance use

Addiction is rarely the root cause of depression; addiction is a symptom of depression.

People self-medicate through drugs, alcohol and prescription medications to alleviate any unpleasant thoughts and feelings such as suicidal thoughts and self harm ideas.

Depression can make people participate in all kinds of self-destructive behaviours – substance use is one of them.

Unfortunately, drug use contributes to depressive disorders, and certain prescription medications also get linked to depression.

Therefore, those at risk of depression must seek medical advice and support before taking any medication and treatment.

Bad nutrition

A lousy diet causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the body, which are known to cause symptoms of depression.

Data shows that diets low in omega-three fatty acids or those with an imbalanced amount of omega six to omega-three get linked to surging levels of depression.


Stress is another major factor in depression – as stressful life events cause an increase of cortisol to occur in the body, which may affect the serotonin levels causing depressive symptoms to emerge.

When stressful life events occur – a person’s ability to cope may diminish, leaving them with feelings of overwhelm.

Genetic factors

Data shows that people with a family history of depression are more prone to developing the same condition at some point throughout their life.

Statistics suggest that the health condition, depression is 40% determined by genetic factors.

Although it is unclear exactly what type of genes play a role in depression- data use suggests that different genes contribute to the condition – more research is currently getting done to understand how the genes function to develop more effective treatments.

What is the most effective treatment for depression?

Fortunately, depression is treatable, and there are plenty of treatment options available to those who suffer from this debilitating mental health condition.

When seeking professional help – people get overloaded with information and content – and although it’s helpful to know your options, it can, at times, be confusing.

Below are some of the treatment options available to those seeking help and support from depression:


Psychotherapy is known as ‘talk therapy’ and has various approaches and methods.

Broadly, psychotherapy allows someone who might be experiencing complicated feelings, thoughts, and emotions to get aired in a safe and encouraging environment.

Many psychotherapists specialize in treating depression and draw on multiple disciplines, which helps to create a more individualized approach – one that gets based on specific needs.

There are many different types of therapy, most of which fall under ‘psychotherapy’. Fortunately, mental health research shows that any form of psychotherapy is helpful when treating depression.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy or CBT is known for changing specific thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs that are maladaptive, all of which may be causing the symptoms of depression.

Through CBT sessions, an individual learns to challenge any negative self-beliefs and adapts to new ways of thinking and behaving, allowing a person to adopt better coping mechanisms for the future.

Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a popular form of treatment that explores how depression gets connected to a person’s past experiences.

During therapy sessions, an individual learns how their depression may be related to:

  • Past experiences
  • Unhealed wounds
  • Unresolved conflicts

Therapy aims to help a person with any unresolved issues to be free to move forward with their life.

Other treatments

There are plenty of other treatment options available to treat symptoms of depression, such as:

  • One to one therapy sessions
  • Family or couples therapy
  • Supportive counselling and residential treatment
  • Medication prescribed by a mental health professional or GP
  • Support groups

Getting in touch

If you feel as though you are displaying any of the warning signs of depression mentioned above, it might be time to get help and support from one of our specialists at Tikvah Lake Recovery.

Living with a health condition such as depression doesn’t have to be a way of life – there is help and support available – which will help you to not only understand your depression but eventually reach a long-term resolution.

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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