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How to spot the warning signs and symptoms of depression

by Amanda Collins

There is no shame in having depression. Anyone can get it, no matter what your age, sex or race. But the great news about it, is that depression is not a life sentence. It is a totally treatable health condition, which just like a cold or flu, can be cured.

Importantly, the sooner you spot the signs of depression and get help, the quicker you can begin the journey back to health.

signs of depression

Spotting depression

The tricky thing about depression is that, unlike a terrible flu, there usually are no physical signs that you have it. You won’t have a runny nose or a chesty cough to loudly announce that you are suffering.

It can also affect different people in different ways, so one person’s depression will not always look like another person’s depression. For instance one person may feel tired and angry a lot, while another may cry and feel hopeless all the time.

Depression is also very sly. It can creep up on people slowly over many years, or it can suddenly slam into someone.

What to look for

Because depression is so sneaky, we’ve compiled a list of signs to look out for which will help you identify whether you, or someone you care about, might be suffering under its weight.

Before we hit the checklist, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between being sad over an event, and depression. To be depressed a person must have experienced several of the below symptoms for two weeks or more.


  • Hopelessness. You believe that things are terrible, that life will never, ever get better, and there is nothing anyone can do to change it.
  • Negative thinking. Most of your thoughts have a negative spin. You see every situation negatively. You may spend a lot of time feeling guilty or focusing on the past.
  • Irritability and anger. Things that never bothered you before are now a real issue. You are really irritable and angry and you can’t seem to control it.
  • Self-loathing and worthlessness. You really don’t like yourself, and you constantly tell yourself just how worthless and unlovable you are. You may spend countless hours thinking “Why did I say that?”, “Why did I do that?” or “I am so stupid”.
  • Feeling overwhelmed. Everything seems to be a struggle, it’s like you’re climbing a mountain with a 200kg backpack on. You can’t cope with daily life.
  • Meaninglessness. It feels like there is a big empty hole inside of you. You cannot seem to find meaning anywhere.
  • Sadness. You are sad all the time and you can’t stop feeling this way no matter what you do.
  • Restlessness. You can’t relax. There’s no specific reason, but you feel as if you are constantly on edge.


  • No interest and withdrawal. You have lost interest in life. You used to love going out, whether to a cafe, the beach or a party, but now you don’t. You just want to stay home on the couch for weeks on end. You have little interest in seeing your friends, in spending time with your family, or in doing things that you used to enjoy.
  • Can’t concentrate. You used to be able to focus on tasks, but now you can’t force yourself to concentrate on anything.
  • Things are harder. Tasks that you once breezed through, even simple ones like washing the dishes, now seem like they are huge obstacles.
  • Withdrawal. You withdraw from friends and family. You may ignore phone calls, emails and texts in a bid to just be alone.
  • Nothing gets done. You are not getting anything done. Your work may be lagging, and your house may be bursting at the seams with jobs that you used to get done easily, but that now pile up one on top of the other.
  • Hitting the booze. You are drinking more alcohol more often, or you may be taking risks that normally you wouldn’t.
  • So very tired. You are exhausted all the time. Your mind and your body just want to shut off and you find you are dragging yourself through the day.
  • Sleep issues. Either you sleep all the time, or you find it nearly impossible to drift off and no amount of counting sheep or deep breathing is helping you to fall asleep.
  • Changes in appetite. Either you find yourself eating all the time even when you’re not hungry, or you have stopped eating and just have no desire to put food in your mouth.


  • Weight loss or gain. You have put on or dropped a lot of weight over a short period of time.
  • Aches and pains. You have pain in your body that you can’t explain. There’s nothing “wrong” with you physically, but you are really sore and achy.
  • Neglecting appearance. You can’t bring yourself to shower, brush your teeth or change your clothes. It’s too much, and you just can’t.

What to do now

If you think that you may be depressed, find out more here. This post will help you to understand what you’re going through, and will show you where to get help.

Alternatively, if you think someone you know may be suffering depression, click here to find out how to get help.

Are you interested in counselling?

A career in counselling is both rewarding and life changing. Get the skills and knowledge you need to guide people through life’s challenges with a Diploma of Counselling from Open Colleges. Study online, in your own time and at your own pace and change lives.

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