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Depression symptoms

A continuous low mood is just one possible symptom of depression.

Left untreated, symptoms of clinical or major depression may get worse and last longer.

Recognising the symptoms of depression is often the biggest hurdle in seeking medical advice and to the diagnosis and treatment of depression.

What are symptoms of depression?

Symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Depression: Recognising the physical symptoms

Most of us know about the emotional symptoms of depression. But you may not know that depression can cause physical symptoms, too.

In fact, many people with depression feel pain or other physical symptoms. These include:

  • Headaches. These are fairly common in people with depression. If you already had migraine headaches, they may become worse if you're depressed.
  • Back pain. If you already suffer with back pain, it may get worse if you become depressed.
  • Muscle aches and joint pain. Depression can make any kind of chronic pain worse.
  • Chest pain. Obviously, it's very important to get chest pain checked out by an expert right away. It can be a sign of serious heart problems. But chest pain is also associated with depression.
  • Digestive problems. You might feel queasy or nauseous. You might have diarrhoea or become chronically constipated.
  • Exhaustion and fatigue. No matter how much you sleep, you may still feel tired or worn out. Getting out of the bed in the morning may seem very hard, even impossible.
  • Sleeping problems. Many people with depression can't sleep well anymore. They wake up too early or can't fall asleep when they go to bed. Others sleep much more than normal.
  • Change in appetite or weight. Some people with depression lose their appetite and lose weight. Others find they crave certain foods - like carbohydrates - and put on weight.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.


Many depressed people never get help, because they don't know that their physical symptoms might be caused by depression. Sometimes doctors miss the symptoms too.

These physical symptoms aren't "all in your head". Depression can cause real changes in your body. For instance, it can slow down your digestion, which can result in stomach problems.

Depression seems to be related to an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain. Some of these same chemicals play an important role in how you feel pain. So many experts think that depression can make you feel pain differently than other people.

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