Adult Depression Signs & Symptoms

Depression can be hard to spot. Learn about the warning signs & symptoms to watch for.

Understanding Depression

Learn about depression

Classified as a mood disorder that is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and general loss of interest in the world around, depression is a common, but serious, mental health condition. Not only does depression affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, but it can also lead to a number of physical and emotional problems. All of the symptoms associated with depression have the ability to greatly impact an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis and may eventually cause an individual to feel as if life is no longer worth living. In most cases a person will require the help of a mental health professional in order to manage symptoms and overcome this debilitating disorder.


Depression statistics

Depression is one of the common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting one in seven adults and one in fifteen senior adults over the age of sixty-five. Furthermore, women are 70% more likely to experience depression than men.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for depression

While many medical disorders have an identifiable cause, understanding what causes the development of depression is more complicated because one exact cause has not yet been discovered. Most experts believe that depression is the result of the combination of genetic, social, and environmental influences working together. The following explanations describe in more detail how a person develops a depressive disorder:

Genetic: It is estimated that forty percent of individuals who have depression have family members who have also struggled with this mental health condition. This suggests that depression is, in fact, inherited. However, the exact genes for depression have yet to be identified.

Environmental: Environmental factors have long been known to play a significant role in the development of mental health conditions, like depression. For example, individuals who have experienced traumatic events, such as the loss of a love one, have financial problems, or have gone through some type of childhood trauma are more likely to develop depression than others.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Having a chronic illness or chronic pain
  • Loneliness
  • Lack of social support
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Personal history of drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Family history of depression or other mental health condition
  • Family or personal history of substance use and/or abuse
  • Exposure to abuse, trauma, or chronic stress
  • Experiencing an abrupt and unexpected change in life

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of depression

The presence of depression is going to vary person-to-person, however there are a number of signs and symptoms that are commonly experienced by those who are struggling with this mental health disorder. Some individuals will have symptoms that are so severe that it is clear to those around them that something is wrong, while others may just generally feel unhappy without really understanding why. Some of the symptoms of depression include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • No longer wanting to participate in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Engagement in reckless behavior
  • Angry outbursts
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Inability to manage responsibilities
  • Unwarranted outbursts of emotion
  • Missing work

Physical symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of energy
  • Change in sleep patterns (e.g. insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty forming and storing memories
  • Problems concentrating
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Impaired decision-making abilities
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Overly critical of oneself
  • Anger
  • Self-loathing
  • Anxiety
  • Guilty feelings
  • Changes in temperament
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Increased irritability
  • Intense sadness


Effects of depression

With proper treatment and support, the symptoms associated with depression can be managed. However, when left untreated these symptoms can take a tremendous toll on a person’s life. The negative consequences are those that can result and can impact virtually all aspects of a person’s life. The following are a variety of effects that can potentially occur if depression is not properly treated:

  • Development of another mental health condition
  • Development of substance use disorder
  • Family conflicts
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Compromised immune system
  • Difficulties performing responsibilities at work
  • Weight gain
  • Multiple physical health concerns
  • Social isolation
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Depression and co-occurring disorders

While depression can occur on its own, it more often than not occurs alongside another mental health disorder. The following are a list of mental health disorders that can co-occur with depression:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Dementia
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders

I was diagnosed with depression 1 year ago and had weekly sessions with my Harbor Oaks therapist whom is the most supportive and understanding person. Without her and the rest of the staff I would not be who I am today.

– Former Patient
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