How do you know if you’re sad or going through depression? When do common feelings develop into a serious mental disorder and how do you recognise it? Hopefully, this page will help you answer some questions about the symptoms of depression and what you can do to manage them once you understand what they are. This article includes information about depressive symptoms and depression criteria, links to online clinics that offer consultations about depression and a commonly used depression symptoms test, called MADRS.
Let’s begin by looking at the symptoms of depression. When you learn about depressive symptoms, you’ll realise that two people with the same diagnosis can have very different experiences of the condition. As you’re taking the online depression test, you’ll probably recognise some of the symptoms immediately and other symptoms will seem unfamiliar to you.
To make it easier to understand depression, we can divide depressive symptoms into 3 categories:
- Physical symptoms,
- Mental symptoms
- and Social symptoms.
Physical symptoms: A person with physical symptoms might experience changes in appetite and weight, making slower movements or speaking more slowly than usual, lacking sexual drive and sleeping too much or too little. Waking up too early in the morning or having trouble falling asleep at night are common indications of disturbed sleep.
Mental symptoms: A person with mental symptoms might experience low mood or sadness that don’t disappear for weeks or months, feeling hopeless and helpless, feeling excessively guilty, having low self-esteem even when performing tasks that the person is good at, being irritated at other people or having difficulty tolerating them, lacking motivation and interest in things that usually make the person happy, having difficulty making decisions and concentrate, feeling excessively anxious or worried and having thoughts about death or self harm.
Social symptoms: Social symptoms include having trouble completing work assignments, isolating oneself and avoiding contact with friends, neglecting hobbies or interests and experiencing more conflicts at home than usual.
Naturally, most people with depression experience symptoms from all three of these categories. Also, it’s common to have a few of the symptoms without going through an episode of depression. A diagnosis of depression includes nine, well-defined symptoms and eight additional conditions. In the next paragraph, you’ll learn all about them.
How do I know if I’m depressed?
So, what are the symptoms of depression? People often say things like “I feel so depressed” or “that’s depressing”, but the truth is that depression is a well defined mental disorder, including nine different symptoms. Worth noting is that it’s not enough to experience the symptoms to be diagnosed with depression. There are several depression criteria to consider. Keep on reading to get the full picture.
- Depressed mood: Feeling blue most of the day, nearly every day.
- Loss of interest and pleasure: Markedly reduced interest/pleasure in all (or almost all) activities most of the day.
- Changed appetite or weight (eating more or less than usual).
- Sleep disturbance (too much or too little).
- Moving more slowly than usual or making meaningless movements due to anxiety (for example twisting your hands).
- Lacking energy: Feeling tired nearly every day.
- Feeling excessively guilty and/or worthless.
- Having difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions.
- Having suicidal thoughts or sometimes wishing you were dead.
Let’s continue with the depression criteria. It’s not enough to experience some of the symptoms to receive a diagnosis of depression. The following conditions also apply:
- The person experiences at least 5 depressive symptoms.
- One of the symptoms ‘Depressed mood’ or ‘Loss of interest and pleasure’ is present.
- The depressive symptoms have been present for at least two weeks.
- The depressive symptoms cause suffering or affect the person’s ability to work, interfere with relationships or other important aspects of life.
- The symptoms can’t be explained by a physical illness or substance abuse.
- The symptoms can’t be explained by another mental disorder.
- The person has never experienced a manic or hypomanic episode.
As you can imagine, depression can be tricky to recognise and diagnose because there are so many symptoms and criteria to consider. The next paragraph includes a commonly used online depression test, which can give you an indication of the severity of your depressive symptoms.
Take a depression symptoms test
You can use this depression symptoms test, called MADRS-S, to get an overall view of your mood. MADRS stands for Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale and it’s developed to measure depressive symptoms. There are 9 questions, each with a few statements of how a person might feel. The statements express different levels of discomfort, from no discomfort at all to maximum discomfort. You choose the statement that best represents how you have been feeling over the past 3 days. Don’t think too hard. Instead, try to answer the questions quickly.
Remember, questionnaires can’t provide you with a complete diagnosis. The result is more like a guideline.
The test usually takes 5-10 minutes to complete. Download the Flow – Depression app to take the test.
Your result on this questionnaire can be divided into one of 4 categories; no depression, mild, moderate or severe depression. Higher scores indicate more severe depression.
Did you take the test? The different scores on the depression symptoms test can tell you something about the severity of your depressive symptoms. But remember, this is just an indication of how you feel, not a diagnosis.
Scores on a MADRS online depression test:
- Score 0-12: No or minimal depression. This score implies that you don’t have a clinical depression and that you reported minimal depressive symptoms. It’s common to have a few symptoms, without having a depression.
- Score 13-19: Mild depression. This score indicates that you have mild depressive symptoms.
- Score 20-34: Moderate depression. This score implies that you have moderate depressive symptoms.
- Score >34: Severe depression. This score implies that you might have severe depressive symptoms. Even though the test score is just a guideline, it’s strongly recommended that you contact a medical doctor or a licensed psychologist.
Are there different kinds of depression?
Being depressed can mean many things. Sometimes, depression is not visible to other people. The depressed person carries symptoms around like a terribly heavy backpack, but still manages work and relationships. Sometimes, depression is apparent for others and the symptoms make it impossible for the depressed person to manage life in the usual way. The severity of depressive symptoms can be divided into 3 categories: mild, moderate and severe depression. Here’s a short explanation:
In the case of mild depression, all criteria for depression are met, but the depressed person can still keep up with everyday chores, work and social relationships. The depressive symptoms are not always apparent to other people. Even though this is the mildest form of depression, it’s more than just feeling blue temporarily. The symptoms, such as feeling down and lacking energy, don’t disappear like you would expect them too if you were just experiencing ordinary sadness or fatigue. It’s important to try to treat your symptoms because mild depression can progress into more severe forms. The good news is that mild symptoms are the easiest to treat. Talk therapy or psychotherapy is recommended for this type of depression. Also, making a few lifestyle changes can have significant impact on your depressive symptoms and actually get you out of depression. Read more about this: 5 ways to treat depression without medication and How to treat depression on your own
In the case of moderate depression, there are more symptoms present and they tend to be more severe than in the case of mild depression. The depressed person experiences difficulty keeping up with work and everyday life. The symptoms are usually severe enough to cause problems in her/his social life too. If you recognise this level of depression, it’s highly recommended that you seek treatment as soon as possible. Psychotherapy and antidepressant medication are common treatment options for moderate depression. The next paragraph includes links to healthcare professionals and numbers that you can call. At-home brain stimulation is another way to treat moderate symptoms. If you’re not interested in talk therapy or medication, or if you’re looking to combine different types of treatments, you can read more about the brain stimulation treatment from Flow Neuroscience here. Also, there are many things you can do at home to treat depressive symptoms: 5 ways to treat depression without medication and How to treat depression on your own
In the case of severe depression, the quality of life is greatly reduced and the depressed person can’t keep up with everyday life and daily chores. This is typically a level of depression that makes it a challenge to get out of bed in the morning and very difficult to perform common household chores. It probably affects all social relationships. Usually, it’s associated with an intense experience of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts or plans. If you recognise these depressive symptoms, please, contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible. The next paragraph provides you with links and numbers that you can call. Remember, depression is a treatable condition and there are many different treatment options available.
How do I know if I have depression or not?
An online depression test is not enough to make sure you have a diagnosis. The only way to receive a diagnosis of depression is to contact a healthcare professional, such as a physician or clinical psychologist. You need the help from a professional to make sure all of the criteria for depression are met. There are some clinics who provide remote consultations with health care professionals via video messaging through their apps. It means that you can receive the first consultation at home, without having to visit a clinic. Here are two of the most popular online clinics:
If you feel the need for support and don’t know what to do, one option is to call a “helpline”. You get to talk to another person and they can guide you towards different kinds of treatments. Depending on where you are located in the world, there are different numbers you can call. Click here to view a list of different helplines.
Why am I depressed?
Depression can have many different causes. Usually, it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors. This means that a depressed person’s relatives are at a higher risk of becoming depressed and, in most cases, he or she also experiences difficult life events before becoming depressed. These life events can be anything from separations, losses and conflicts to big changes in life, such as moving or starting a new job. This is also true for environmental changes, for example when the weather changes from summer to autumn or from winter to spring. Hormones are another thing that can trigger depression. That’s why the risk is higher in the first few weeks after child birth.
So, depression has many possible causes and sometimes it seems like depression comes out of nowhere. We can never fully prevent symptoms from affecting us, but there are many things we can do to stop symptoms from worsening at an early stage. There are several evidence based treatment options for depression.