Depression; Diagnosis, Types, Causes and Treatments

Updated: Apr 1

20% of the global population experiences at least one depressive episode before turning 18. Women are two times more likely to have clinical depression. Over 50% of depressed people do not get the help they need. The risk of suicide rises to 20 times in depressed individuals as opposed to non depressed ones.

Signs And Symptoms Of Depression?

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, also called anhedonia

  • Restlessness or irritability

  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting

  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue

  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts

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For a diagnosis of clinical depression, most or all these symptoms must be present for at least 2 weeks, and affect your socio-occupational functioning. Mental health professionals often ask people to complete questionnaires to help assess the severity of their depression. The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, for example, has 21 questions. The scores indicate the severity of depression among people who already have a diagnosis. The Beck Depression Inventory is another questionnaire that helps mental health professionals measure a person’s symptoms.

How Depression Symptoms Vary With Gender And Age

Depression In Men

Depressed men are less likely to acknowledge feelings of self-loathing and hopelessness. Instead, they tend to complain about fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and loss of interest in work and hobbies. They’re also more likely to experience symptoms such as anger, aggression, reckless behaviour, and substance abuse.

Depression In Women

Women are more likely to experience depression symptoms such as pronounced feelings of guilt, excessive sleeping, overeating, and weight gain. Depression in women is also impacted by hormonal factors during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. In fact, postpartum depression affects up to 1 in 7 women.

Depression In Teens

Irritability, anger, and agitation are often the most noticeable symptoms in depressed teens—not sadness. They may also complain of headaches, stomach aches, or other physical pains.

Depression In Older Adults

Older adults tend to complain more about the physical rather than the emotional signs and symptoms of depression: things like fatigue, unexplained aches and pains, and memory problems. They may also neglect their personal appearance and stop taking critical medications for their health.

Depression Is Different From Sadness or Grief/Bereavement

The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being “depressed”. But being sad is not the same as having depression. Grief and depression are different in important ways:

  • In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased most of the time.

  • In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.