What are the Symptoms of Depression

graphic of man lost in negative thoughts

January 4, 2022

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy…” [1]

Perhaps, what is more concerning is that Ireland has the highest rate of chronic depression in Europe.[2] Last year – 2018 – to mark World Mental Health Day today, Eurostat, the EU central statistics office highlighted that, “the statistics which indicate that in 2014, 7 % of the European Union (EU) population reported having chronic depression. Ireland had the highest share of its population reporting chronic depression (12 %) and double-digit shares”.[3]In effect, that means that one in eight Irish people have experienced depression in current times with women reporting higher rates than men do.

While some may think that depression is not a genuine health problem, according to the National Health Service in the UK (NHS) “it’s actually a real condition that affects around one in 10 people over the course of their lives. It affects people of all genders and ages – including children. Studies show that around 4% of children in the UK between the ages of five and 16 are depressed or anxious”.[4]

There are many symptoms of depression and these symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms of depression can persist for weeks or months and have both psychological and physical effects that can impact greatly on a person’s quality of life.

Psychological Symptoms of Depression include:


  • continuous low mood or sadness
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • having low self-esteem
  • feeling tearful /irritable mood
  • feeling worthless or guilt-ridden
  • feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • having no motivation or interest in things
  • finding it difficult to make decisions
  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • feeling anxious or worried
  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Physical Symptoms of Depression include:

  • changes in appetite or weight – either a loss or increase of appetite
  • constipation, i.e. digestive disturbances
  • unexplained aches and pains – feeling bodily uncomfortable
  • lack of energy, listlessness, sometimes exhaustion
  • low sex drive (loss of libido)
  • changes to your menstrual cycle for women
  • disturbed sleep – difficulty falling asleep, broken sleep, sleeping too much or insomnia

Social Consequences:

The psychological and physical symptoms of depression affect the social life of the person experiencing depression, for example, withdrawing from friends, isolating oneself, not participating in social activities, neglecting interests and hobbies. Depression affects work and family life, for example, not doing as well at work as usual and/or not enjoying family time and relationships.

Different Type of Depression:

There are different types of depression including:

  • Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depression, where there can be extremes of either very low mood or very high mood which is described as mania
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): “is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. Symptoms start in autumn and continue into the winter months, draining energy and increasing moodiness”[6]
  • Postnatal depression happens to some women after they have given birth and they experience symptoms of depression.
  • Recurrent depressive disorder: this involves repeated depressive episodes – during the episodes, there is a loss of interest and enjoyment in life. “Many people with depression also suffer from anxiety symptoms, disturbed sleep, and appetite and may have feelings of guilt or low self-worth, poor concentration and even medically unexplained symptoms”.[7]

Causes of Depression:

Depression does not have one single cause and there are many reasons why some people can experience depression. Depression can be a consequence of a loss, for example, a relationship, a job, a diagnosis of illness or bereavement. However, depression can be distinguished from grief, as grief is a natural response to the death of a loved one. Grief is a process whereas depression requires attention via diagnosis and treatment. Other causes of depression can be stressful events, giving birth, becoming a parent, loneliness, relationship difficulties, and family problems.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression:

There is no physical test or exam for depression. While many people will experience moments of sadness or unhappiness, depression is something more than this. A mental health issue needs to be addressed and requires treatment. The first step to take is to speak with a General Practitioner – your local doctor. Based on the doctor/patient conversation, the doctor will devise a treatment plan that may include some medication with recommendations for counselling or psychotherapy.

[1] – World Health Organisation: More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. See: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders
[2] – Article in Image Magazine 17 October 2018 by author Erin Lindsay: www.image.ie/author/erin-lindsay
[3]Eurostat statistics for depression in Ireland
[4] – https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mental-health/depression
[5]HSE: www2.hse.ie/conditions/mental-health/clinical-depression/symptoms
[6] – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
[7] – World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

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