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Symptoms and Diagnoses


Dr. Jerman
Generally, if a person has five or more symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, they will be diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Mr. Willis, can you tell us more about symptoms of depression and how depression is diagnosed?

Mr. Willis
Sure thing, Dr. Jerman. Not everyone who has clinical depression experiences every symptom, but in order to be diagnosed, one of the symptoms must be depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in most activities that were previously enjoyed. Depressed mood may be described as feeling sad or empty.

Other common symptoms that may accompany a depressed mood or loss of interest include:

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes, and
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

While the severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms may vary, all symptoms tend to create significant distress or impairment in day-to-day functioning. Distress and functional impairment negatively affect relationships, work, and recreational activities.

It's important to keep in mind that it's common to experience one or more of these symptoms from time to time. Feeling sad after a breakup, for instance, is an expected reaction. When symptoms persist for more than two weeks, however, or if they have a significant effect on your ability to function, it's time to seek help.

If you are having thoughts of self-harm, you should seek help immediately. If you don't know where to turn for help, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.