Spotting the symptoms

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition and although there are common symptoms they can and do vary from person to person. Indeed, if you talk to any two depressed people about their feelings, you might think they were describing two entirely different conditions.

“One person might not be able to summon the energy to leave the house, while another might feel agitated and restless. One might feel extremely sad and burst into tears easily, while another might snap at the slightest provocation. One has no interest in food while another can’t keep their hands out of the biscuit tin,” says Amelia.

Depression can also have physical symptoms. For example, headaches, stomach pains, loss of libido and lack of energy can all be signs of depression and low mood, especially in people who are unwilling or unable to recognise that they are depressed.

“This is not that surprising as mind and body are inextricably linked,” comments Amelia. The brain controls every function in the body so what is going on mentally is bound to have a physical impact,” she adds.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists if at least five of the following apply to you almost every day over a two-week period you may be depressed.


  • Are unhappy most of the time
  • Have no interest in life and find it hard to enjoy things
  • Find it hard to make decisions
  • Can’t cope with the things that you used to be able to cope with
  • Feel tired, restless and/or agitated
  • Have no appetite and are losing weight
  • Have sleep problems
  • Are not interested in sex
  • Are low in self confidence
  • Feel useless and hopeless
  • Avoid others
  • Feel worse at a particular time of day, usually in the morning
  • Have suicidal thoughts

A low mood can quickly turn into depression when it becomes frequent, persistent and begins to seriously affect work and relationships. If this sounds familiar or if you find yourself frequently bursting into tears, losing your appetite, and are sleeping badly, you should see your GP as soon as possible. Experts usually judge the severity of depression by assessing the number of symptoms and the degree to which they impair on daily life.

Over the years many attempts have been made to slot types of depression into different boxes but no single classification system has held sway for long.

The most common types according to the experts are often referred to as:

Mild You have some symptoms and find it takes more effort than usual to accomplish what you need to do.
Moderate You have some symptoms and find they often keep you from accomplishing what you need to do.
Severe You have nearly all the symptoms and find they almost always keep you from accomplishing daily tasks.

Source: Understanding depression, health report from Harvard Medical School

Establishing the causes >