Common Symptoms of Clinical Depression

Warning Signs You May Be Depressed

While only a qualified medical or psychological health provider can diagnose depression, there are certain warning signs that can help you identify whether you or someone you care about is suffering from the disorder. 

In addition to the following symptoms, other factors that doctors will look at in diagnosing a person with major depressive disorder include whether the symptoms have lingered for at least two weeks, whether they have caused the person significant impairment in his or her life, and whether the symptoms might be better explained in some other way, such as substance abuse, medication side effects, a medical illness or another mental disorder.

In order to accomplish this, a doctor might ask you questions about your medical history, observe your appearance and behavior, and/or run certain laboratory tests. Work together to determine a diagnosis and find the best solution for lifting your spirits.

Low Mood

Anxious woman sitting on couch, staring into space
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A person with a depressed mood may report feeling "sad" or "empty," or may cry frequently. Having a low mood is one of the two core symptoms which is used to diagnose depression.

Decreased Interest or Pleasure

The second core symptom of depression is a decreased interest or pleasure in things that were once enjoyed. A person exhibiting this symptom will show markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, daily activities.

Significant Weight Change

Significant changes in weight (a gain or loss of 5 percent or more in a month) while not attempting to gain or lose may be indicative of depression. In children, this may also present as a failure to make expected weight gains.

Sleep Disturbances

Sleep disturbances including difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, feeling sleepy despite a full night's rest, or daytime sleepiness can indicate depression.

Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation

Depression can be the cause of agitation, restlessness, or lethargy that affects a person's daily routine, behavior or appearance. ​These symptoms can be evident in body movements, speech, and reaction time. Some describe the diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions as "brain fog."


Deep fatigue or a loss of energy is a symptom of depression that can cause patients to struggle functioning as they previously did. This can manifest itself as feeling sleepy or having difficulty concentrating, as well as a lowered threshold for physical exertion. 

Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt

A​ depressed person may feel inappropriately guilty about things they have no control over. This feeling results from a sense of having betrayed one's values, but in depressed patients is often distorted as a result of faulty thinking. Feelings of guilt can lead to shame and even self-harm. 

Thoughts of Death

A depressed person may have frequent thoughts of death and suicide, although they may or may not have an actual plan for carrying it out.