Depression Symptoms: More Than Just the Blues

Are you feeling sad and blue, or are you depressed? There is a difference. Learn how to recognize the signs of depression.

Everyone gets the blues now and then. You expect to feel sad after a beloved pet dies, you break up with your boyfriend or lose your job. Feeling down is a normal response to such a loss. But in time, that mood lifts and you get back your energy and enjoyment of life.

For people who have major depression, the joy doesn't return. They feel flat and exhausted. They may not eat or sleep well. It's as though they're locked in a dark room, alone and hopeless.

About 19 million Americans suffer from major depression each year. Yet about one in three people with depression don't seek treatment, and only about one in 10 get the treatment they need.

Depression is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness. It's a medical condition, and it's often a long-term problem. It may start in young adulthood, but it can strike at any age. It's more common in women, but many men also have depression.

Experts believe depression is caused by an imbalance of the brain chemicals that affect mood. You're more likely to have depression if other people in your family have had it. It can also be brought on by a stressful life event, such as getting a divorce or having a serious illness.

How can I know if it's depression?
You may have depression if you have five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or more:

  • Feel sad or empty most of the time.
  • Have lost interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy.
  • Sleep less or more than normal.
  • Have lost or gained weight without trying.
  • Feel restless.
  • Feel tired or sluggish.
  • Have trouble concentrating or making decisions.
  • Feel worthless or guilty.
  • Have thoughts of death or suicide. If you are thinking about hurting yourself, call 9-1-1 for immediate help.

If you think you might have depression, talk to a doctor right away. Treatment can help.