Top Depression Symptoms

The following are the nine symptoms which are used in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose Major Depressive Disorder.

Depressed Mood

Anxious woman sitting on couch, staring into space
Echo/Cultura/Getty Images

A person with a depressed mood may report feeling "sad" or "empty" or may cry frequently.  Having a depressed mood is one of the two core symptoms which is used to diagnose depression.  A person must have at least one of these two core symptoms in order to be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.

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. 

In addition to having at least one of the core depression symptoms, a person would need to have at least five other depression symptoms from this list in order to meet the diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder.

Weight Changes

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

Sleep Disturbances

Either insomnia or sleeping too much may be a symptom of depression.

Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation

The person may be observed to be either agitated and restless or physically slowed down in their speech and movements.


Deep fatigue or a loss of energy is a symptom of depression.

Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt

A depressed person may feel that they have no value or they may feel inappropriately guilty about things they have no control over.

"Brain Fog"

A depressed person may have a diminished ability to think, concentrate or make decisions.

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.

Other Factors in Diagnosing Depression

In addition to these 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.

Continue Reading