Depression Signs and Symptoms

Are your Mood Engines running on Empty?

Did you inherit good mood genes or do you have depression signs and symptoms? Often ‘false moods run in families. Did you think your father was hard to be around on purpose or that your mother cried at any upset because she was so weak? We all know families where everyone is laid-back and others where no one can slow down; outgoing, cheery families and shy, quiet families; worried, perfectionistic, neatnik families and sloppy, low-energy families.

Have you known people who can handle stress, disease and strife and rarely become depressed, irritable or fearful? It’s because they have nicely balanced brain chemistry and eat right to maintain it. Luckily, genetic traits are not intractable and can be reprogrammed remarkably easily by amino acids and other nutrients and good nutrition. (3)

Depression has been up front and personal to me for the past six years. Therefore, I hope you will allow me to take a moment to share something that depicts how depression felt to me. If you have walked in these shoes, you may be able to relate.

"Oh, It's You Again - I know you!"

Like smoke through a keyhole, insidiously depression slips his foot through the crack in the door.
Bullying his way into the room, he pulls up a chair in the corner, lights a cigarette and exhales.
The dim, gray flickering light from the television reflects a heavy energy that hangs over you like the foul cloud of his stale smoke.
You barely notice as his more elusive sidekick, Loneliness, glides through the darkness and curls up beside you.
A convincing seductress, she purrs into your ear, imitating hurtful voices from your past.
Sadly, your own self derogative thoughts and words are even more convincing then hers.
Oh hello, it’s you again,” you mutter, “I know you.”

You feel pregnant with tears that you cannot shed;
For if you start, you fear you’ll never stop;
The only reason you get up each morning is to stop the negative thoughts;
You feel there is no reason to live, no reason to die-just no reason.

But, your options aren’t good. Antidepressants stamp down the edges of life;
Flat lined, you no longer feel the natural rise and fall of a rhythm that others feel;
You’ve lost all creativity-all inspiration;
You’re stuck in your own small corner of the universe, captive to an ego no longer romanced by the notion of miracles and magic.

Where did it go? Hope? The wonder of life?
You used to grab life by your teeth and shake the hell out of it.
There was a time when you watched in awe as life mysteriously unfolded right before your eyes.
Gone was the palpable magic of synchronicity; replaced by mediocrity and predictability.

Slowly the clouds slide onto the horizon;
A light drizzle in the distant fog tells you it’s coming closer.
You turn your back hoping that if you don’t see the approaching storm, it’ll disappear.
You know you’re in denial but you’re too tired to fight,
You surrender---again.

Even though most of us do not want to be labeled as depressed due to the social stigma that is often unjustly attached to this condition, it’s important to recognize and receive help in order to improve your mental health and how you function in your life. Depression can be masked by addictions, other disorders, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, and stress. Men in particular are inclined to attribute their depressed feelings to other causes. (2)

Even so, depression is not difficult to spot if you know that certain behaviors are red flags:

  • Withdrawal from activity, isolating yourself
  • Continual fatigue, lethargy
  • Observed psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Indecisiveness, diminished ability to think and concentrate
  • Lack of motivation, boredom, loss of interest in life
  • Feeling helpless, immobilized
  • Sleeping too much; using sleep to escape reality
  • Insomnia, particularly early morning insomnia (waking early and being unable to get back to sleep)
  • Lack of response to good news
  • Loss of appetite or binge eating
  • Ongoing anxiety
  • Silent and unresponsive around people
  • An “I don’t care” attitude
  • Easily upset or angered, lashing out at others
  • Listening to mood music persistently
  • Self-destructive behavior (including promiscuity)
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or Suicidal plans or ideation
  • Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt or worthlessness most of the time (2)

Depression is more than feeling blue once in awhile. One set of diagnostic criteria, adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly used to assess depression is known as SIGECAPS (Sleep, Interest, Guilt, Energy, Concentration, Appetite, Psychomotor and Suicide). (1)

    A) The patient has depressed mood (sad or empty feeling) or loss of interest or pleasure most of the time for two or more weeks plus four or more of the above depression signs or symptoms;
    B) Depression signs and symptoms don’t meet criteria for mixed episode (bipolar)
    C) Symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning;
    D) The depression signs and symptoms are not due to the physiological effects of a substance (drugs or alcohol);
    E) The symptoms are not better accounted for by bereavement. (1)

Psychological or Biochemical Depression?

Biochemical depression has certain symptoms that distinguish it from the depression stemming from negative life events. You may suspect that you are biochemically depressed if any of the markers listed below describes your depression:

  • You have been depressed for a long time despite changes in your life
  • Talk therapy has little or no effect, in fact, psychological probing-questions like “Why do you hate your father?” – leave you confused
  • You don’t react to good news
  • You awaken early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep
  • You cannot trace the onset of your depression to any event in your life
  • Your moods may swing between depression and elation over a period of months in regular rhythm (this suggests bi-polar)
  • Heaving drinking makes your depression worse (2)

See depression signs and symptoms for substance abuse.

Your Brain’s True and False Emotional Chemistry (3)

The following is a guideline that might help you recognize excessive or diminished neurotransmitters. This was taken from the book Mood Cures where you’ll find short tests that will further help you determine your chemical balances.

  • High in serotonin: positive, confident, flexible, and easy going
  • Low in serotonin: negative, obsessive, worried, irritable and sleepless
  • High in Catecholamines: energized, upbeat, and alert
  • Low in catecholamines: sink into a flat, lethargic funk
  • High in Gaba: relaxed and stress-free
  • Low in Gaba: wired, stressed and overwhelmed
  • High in Endorphins: full of cozy feelings of comfort, pleasure and euphoria
  • Low in Endorphins: cry easily during commercials and overly sensitive to hurt (3)



(2) by Joan Larson

(3) Mood Cures by Julia Ross, M.A.