What are the symptoms of depression?

There are many signs and symptoms of depression, but everyone’s experience will vary.

Common symptoms of depression

Below we cover some common signs and symptoms of depression

  • anxiety
  • stress
  • psychotic symptoms
  • self-harm and suicide
  • the risk of isolation
  • depression as a symptom of other mental health problems

“I had constant low mood, hopelessness, frustration with myself, feeling like I could cry at any moment.”

Common signs of depression

Here are some common signs of depression you may experience.

  • How you might feel
  • down, upset or tearful
  • restless, agitated or irritable
  • guilty, worthless and down on yourself
  • empty and numb
  • isolated and unable to relate to other people
  • finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
  • a sense of unreality
  • no self-confidence or self-esteem
  • hopeless and despairing
  • suicidal.

How depression may change your behaviour

  • avoiding social events and activities you usually enjoy
  • self-harming or suicidal behaviour
  • difficulty speaking, thinking clearly or making decisions
  • losing interest in sex
  • difficulty remembering or concentrating on things
  • using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
  • difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
  • feeling tired all the time
  • no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
  • physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
  • moving very slowly, or being restless and agitated.

“It felt like I was really tired, all the time. I had no energy or emotion about anything.”

The risk of isolation

Sometimes it can be hard to talk and explain your thoughts and feelings to others. You might find it difficult to talk about your depression and instead you might cut yourself off from other people. The more overwhelming your symptoms, the more isolated and lonely you might become.

Without treatment and support, depression can have an impact on your relationships, work, finances and overall health, so it’s important to get help as early as possible. See our pages on treatment and support for more information.

“It feels like I’m stuck under a huge grey-black cloud. It’s dark and isolating, smothering me at every opportunity.”

Anxiety

It’s very common to experience depression and anxiety together. Some symptoms of depression can also be symptoms of anxiety, for example:

  • feeling restless
  • being agitated
  • struggling to sleep and eat.

“I flit between states of anxiety and depression. At times, each seems to fuel the other.”

Can depression be a symptom of other mental health problems?
Depression can be a part of several mental health problems, such as:

Psychotic symptoms

If you are experiencing severe depression, you might also experience some psychotic symptoms.

These can include:

  • delusions, such as paranoia
  • hallucinations, such as hearing voices.

If you experience psychotic symptoms as part of depression, they’re likely to be linked to your depressed thoughts and feelings. For example, you might become convinced that you’ve committed an unspeakable crime.

These kinds of experiences can feel very real to you at the time, which may make it hard to understand that these experiences are also symptoms of your depression. They can also be quite frightening or upsetting, so it’s important to seek treatment and support.

You might feel worried that experiencing psychotic symptoms could mean you get a new diagnosis, but psychosis can be a symptom of depression. Discussing your symptoms with your doctor can help you get the right support and treatment.

Self-harm and suicide

If you are feeling low, you might use self-harming behaviours to cope with difficult feelings. Although this might make you feel better in the short term, self-harm can be very dangerous and can make you feel a lot worse in the long term. See our pages on self-harm for more information.

When you’re feeling really low and hopeless, you might find yourself thinking about suicide. Whether you’re only thinking about the idea, or actually considering a plan to end your life, these thoughts can feel difficult to control and very frightening.

If you’re worried about acting on thoughts of suicide, you can call an ambulance, go straight to A&E or call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 to talk.

See our pages on how to cope with suicidal feelings for more information.

bipolar disorder

  • borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other personality disorders
  • schizoaffective disorder.

If feelings of low mood or suicidal thoughts are the reason you first speak to your doctor about your mental health, your GP might offer you treatment for depression without realising that you are also experiencing other symptoms.

If you think you’re experiencing other symptoms, you can talk to your doctor about this to make sure you’re getting the right treatment to help you. See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for information on how to make sure your voice is heard, and what you can do if you’re not happy with your doctor.

Coping with virus outbreak

Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current Coronavirus (COVID-19), can be scary and can affect our mental health.

While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times.

Tips while at Home

  1. Plan your day We are all adjusting to a new, rather strange, way of life. This can be a risk to our mental wellbeing. As tempting as it might be to stay in pyjamas all day, regular routines are essential for our identity, self-confidence and purpose. Try to start your day at roughly the same time you usually would and aim to set aside time each day for movement, relaxation, connection and reflection.
  2. Move more every day Being active reduces stress, increases energy levels, can make us more alert and help us sleep better. Explore different ways of adding physical movement and activity to your day and find some that work best for you. Even at home, there will be lots of ways to exercise and keep your body moving. Read our guide on keeping active and visit Every Mind Matters for some ideas to get you started.
  3. Try a relaxation technique Relaxing and focusing on the present can help improve your mental health and lighten negative feelings. Try some different meditation or breathing exercises to see what helps. For example, sometimes we can be so tense that we do not even remember what being relaxed feels like. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches you to recognise when you are starting to get tense and how to relax. A range of relaxation techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation are available from the NHS
  4. Connect with others Staying at home, especially if you live on your own, can feel lonely. Find creative ways to keep in touch with co-workers, friends, family, and others to help you (and them) feel more connected and supported. Explore ways of connecting that work for you, whether that’s by post, over the phone, social media, or video-chat. This could be anything, from sharing a cup of tea over video, playing an online game together, or simply sending a supportive text-message.
  5. Take time to reflect and practice self-compassion Make time every day to reflect on what went well. It's important to recognise your successes and the things you are grateful for, no matter how small. Consider keeping a gratitude journal each day where you could write two or three of these things every night before you go to bed. Mindfulness techniques may also help you focus on the present rather than dwelling on unhelpful thoughts (though they may not be helpful for those experiencing more severe depression). We have a number of relaxation and other digital exercises on our website.
  6. Improve your sleep Feelings of uncertainty and changes to daily life may mean you have more difficulty sleeping. There is a lot you can do to improve your sleep. Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even at the weekend if you can, and try to get some natural sunlight (by opening your curtains and windows) where possible. This helps to regulate your body clock which can help you sleep better. Wind down before bed by avoiding using your phone, tablet, computer or TV for an hour before bedtime.