The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people. But as a general rule, if you're depressed, you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy.

The symptoms persist for weeks or months and are bad enough to interfere with your work, social life and family life.

There are many other symptoms of depression and you're unlikely to have all of those listed below.

Psychological symptoms

The psychological symptoms of depression include:

  • continuous low mood or sadness
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • having low self-esteem 
  • feeling tearful
  • feeling 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

The physical symptoms of depression include:

  • moving or speaking more slowly than usual 
  • changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased) 
  • constipation 
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • lack of energy
  • low sex drive (loss of libido)
  • changes to your menstrual cycle
  • disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning

Social symptoms

The social symptoms of depression include:

  • not doing well at work
  • avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
  • neglecting your hobbies and interests
  • having difficulties in your home and family life

Severities of depression

Depression can often come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people try to cope with their symptoms without realising they're unwell. It can sometimes take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.

Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:

  • mild depression – has some impact on your daily life
  • moderate depression – has a significant impact on your daily life
  • severe depression –  makes it almost impossible to get through daily life; a few people with severe depression may have psychotic symptoms

Grief and depression

It can be difficult to distinguish between grief and depression. They share many of the same characteristics, but there are important differences between them.

Grief is an entirely natural response to a loss, while depression is an illness.

People who are grieving find their feelings of sadness and loss come and go, but they're still able to enjoy things and look forward to the future.

In contrast, people who are depressed constantly feel sad. They don't enjoy anything and find it difficult to be positive about the future.

Read more about coping with grief and bereavement.

Other types of depression

There are different types of depression, and some conditions where depression may be one of the symptoms. These include:

  • postnatal depression – some women develop depression after they have a baby; this is known as postnatal depression and it's treated in a similar way to other types of depression, with talking therapies and antidepressant medicines
  • bipolar disorder – also known as "manic depression", in bipolar disorder there are spells of both depression and excessively high mood (mania); the depression symptoms are similar to clinical depression, but the bouts of mania can include harmful behaviour, such as gambling, going on spending sprees and having unsafe sex 
  • seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – also known as "winter depression", SAD is a type of depression with a seasonal pattern usually related to winter

Read more about diagnosing depression.

When to seek help

See your GP if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than two weeks.

A low mood may improve after a short time. Read more about low mood and depression.

Page last reviewed: 05/10/2016

Next review due: 05/10/2019