Although men, women, and teenagers can experience the same depression symptoms, the illness often has different signs in each of these groups.
Unlike regular feelings of sadness that pass relatively quickly, depression is a clinical illness in which negative emotions last for weeks or longer.
It’s one of the most common mental illnesses people experience, affecting an estimated 350 million people across the globe, according to the World Health Organization.
Depression is treatable, and it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of the illness so that you can get help as soon as possible.
Signs of Depression in Adults
Depression doesn’t affect all people in exactly the same way, but the illness is associated with a number of possible symptoms, which include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Frequently feeling irritated, anxious, frustrated, or angry
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, helpless, or guilty
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Changes in appetite and eating habits
- Inability to concentrate, remember details, or make decisions
- Sleep disturbances, such as sleeping more than usual or insomnia
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable
- Unexplained body aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Thoughts of death and suicide
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or movement
- Reckless behavior
- Substance abuse
Depression in Men
Although men and women can experience the same symptoms of depression, there are important differences in how often they report specific symptoms, according to a 2013 report in the journalJAMA Psychiatry.
Men with depression are more likely than women to report the following signs of depression:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Risk-taking behavior
Depression in Women
Women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Other sources, including the 2013 JAMA Psychiatry report, state that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.
Women with depression are more likely to report the following symptoms:
- Sleep problems
- Loss of interest
Teenagers experience the same symptoms of depression as adults, but these changes in mood and behavior are sometimes mistaken as a normal part of puberty or adolescence.
Other signs of depression in teenagers can include:
- Obsession with death, such as poems and drawings that refer to death
- Criminal behavior, such as shoplifting
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Sudden sensitivity to criticism
- Drop in grades or school attendance
- Risky behavior, such as unsafe sex and reckless driving
- Drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Irrational or bizarre behavior
- Sudden, dramatic changes in personality or appearance
- Giving away belongings
Complications of Depression
Experiencing and surviving an episode of major depression puts you at risk for more episodes in the future.
Half of people who recover from their first episode of depression will eventually have one or more additional episodes later in their life.
Additionally, 80 percent of people who have experienced two episodes will go on to have additional episodes, according to a 2007 report inClinical Psychology Review.
Up to two-thirds of all suicides are associated with clinical depression, according to the health information resource A.D.A.M.
Depression can negatively affect your personal relationships and work life.
It may also raise your risk of developing heart disease or obesity, having a heart attack, or experiencing a sharp decline in mental function in old age.
Depression Tests and Diagnosis
There are a number of online tools and self-tests to determine whether you may be depressed and need to seek help, but only your doctor can diagnose clinical depression.
Before diagnosing major depression — the most common type of depression — your doctor will conduct exams and tests to rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms, such as thyroid issues, brain tumors, sleep apnea, or vitamin deficiencies.
These efforts may include a physical examination and blood tests, as well as a discussion about your medications, some of which may cause depressive symptoms.
Your doctor will also ask in-depth questions about your mood and feelings, and may ask you to fill out a questionnaire.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, you must meet specific criteria to be clinically diagnosed with major depression.
You must have experienced at least five of the following nine symptoms for at least two weeks, and these symptoms must have significantly impaired your ability to function in your daily life:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood for most of the day
- Loss of interest or pleasure in once-enjoyable activities
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Restlessness or slowed movements, speech, and thoughts
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Other forms of depression have other specific diagnostic criteria.
- Depression; World Health Organization.
- L. A. Martin, H. W. Neighbors, and D. M. Griffith (2013). “The Experience of Symptoms of Depression in Men vs Women.”JAMA Psychiatry.
- Depression In Teens; Mental Health America.
- Recognizing teen depression; MedlinePlus.
- S. L. Burcusa and W. G. Iacono (2007). “Risk for Recurrence in Depression.” Clinical Psychology Review.
- Depression: Possible Complications; New York Times/A.D.A.M.