How To Know If You Are Depressed: 11 Signs To Notice And When To Get Help

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated July 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects approximately 5% of adults around the world. Despite being a common mental health disorder, a person can have some of the symptoms of depression but not realize they are experiencing depression. Since depression, which is different from bipolar disorder, affects people differently, it can be difficult to know what to look for and when to seek help. 

It can be common to feel sad or lonely at times, especially when dealing with life challenges or personal loss, but when such feelings become overwhelming and affect your emotional and physical well-being, they may be signs of depression. 

Below, we’ll discuss depression in detail and look at nine signs that may indicate it’s time to get help.

You don't have to struggle with depression in silence
The symptoms of depression can affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. Common depression symptoms include trouble sleeping, appetite changes, and problems concentrating.

They can affect how you think, what you do, and how you feel physically. A person experiencing depression may not feel motivated to do their usual activities. They may experience persistent sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness; decreased energy; loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed; or a desire to isolate themselves from others. Relationships with family, friends, and coworkers may also be affected.

Someone experiencing symptoms of depression may not take care of themselves as they normally would. The way they think about their health, such as managing chronic problems like arthritis, diabetes, or high blood pressure, may leave them feeling discouraged. When a person living with depression feels hopeless, self-care may become less of a priority, which can increase personal health risks. 

Nine signs to notice when feeling depressed

When you feel depressed, you may experience multiple symptoms of depression. Such feelings are often persistent, and it’s typically not easy to shake them off. The presence of symptoms can vary from person to person, and their severity can vary as well.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the following are nine symptoms of depression:

  1. Depressed mood. Some people may report a depressed mood, or this may be observed by those around them. 

  2. Loss of interest or withdrawal from activities. Many individuals who are living with depression may experience a lack of enjoyment of activities they used to look forward to, such as hobbies or time with friends. 

  3. Significant appetite and weight changes. Individuals experiencing depression may eat more or less than normal, which can result in weight fluctuation (more than 5%). These changes may occur unintentionally.

  4. Sleep disturbances. Some experience insomnia or sleep too much (hypersomnia).

  5. Fatigue or low energy. Many people lack interest in doing regular activities because they don’t have the energy. A lack of proper rest may lead to feeling agitated or anxious. 

  6. Inability to concentrate. Some people experiencing depression having trouble focusing on tasks and activities. Some also experience difficulty making decisions and remembering things.

  7. Feelings of worthlessness or unjustified guilt. A person with depression may experience low self-esteem or blame themselves for things that aren’t their fault.

  8. Psychomotor changes. These changes could involve either agitation or slower movements or speech.

  9. Thoughts of death or suicide. In some cases, a depressed person shows or experiences symptoms before self-harm* occurs. Warning signs that an individual may be at risk for suicide include talking about wanting to die or having no reason to live, discussing feelings of hopelessness/unbearable pain, giving away important possessions, tying up loose ends, increasing substance use or risky behavior, and a experiencing a sudden switch in mood or behavior.

According to the DSM-5, if you experience five or more of these symptoms (two of which must be numbers 1 and 2) daily, most of the day, for two weeks or more, you may be experiencing depression. (The exceptions are criteria 3 and 9, which don’t necessarily have to be present daily and most of the day.)

Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, depression may appear differently in men than in women. They may engage in more risky behaviors, such as substance use, as a way to escape their feelings. They may also express more anger and irritability.

Determining if you have depression may involve reviewing your history with a doctor or mental health professional. A doctor will likely want to know what symptoms you’ve experienced, for how long, the severity, and if mental illnesses run in your family. 

They may also want to know if you have a history of drug or alcohol use before determining a diagnosis and treatment options.

They will want to know what physical and mental health symptoms you’ve experienced, for how long, the severity, and if mental illnesses run in your family. They may also want to see if you have a history of drugs or alcohol. Your doctor or mental healthcare professional can then determine a diagnosis and help you to explore treatment options.

Why does depression happen?

Depression may not have a single identifiable cause. Researchers believe that genetics, brain chemistry, stressful events, medical conditions, and medication can be factors related to depression. Grieving the loss of a loved one may lead to depression, as can living conditions such as homelessness, poverty, or violence. Hormone changes or unknown medical conditions may also contribute to changes in mood and depression.

Circumstances such as changes in weather (seasonal affective disorder, or SAD), thyroid problems, poor sleeping habits, social media overload, or poor family relations are other possible factors that can contribute to depression. Finally, some people may experience depression with no readily apparent cause. 

Why it’s important to know the signs

Some people may feel depressed for a prolonged period and not realize that depression is taking a toll on their lives. Depression is more than just sadness on a bad day. A person experiencing depression may find if difficult to get out of a downward spiral. It can get harder to get things done due to a lack of energy and difficulty concentrating. It may also be challenging for a person with depression to see themselves in a positive light. 

Recognizing the warning signs of depression may allow you to get help and break the cycle. When you feel persistent symptoms of depression, you may feel stuck in a downward spiral. Recognizing the signs can be a start in the right direction toward relief and recovery.

You don't have to struggle with depression in silence

It is crucial to notice the signs because they raise your emotional awareness. It is the perfect time to reassess your mental and physical health. Taking good care of yourself includes recognizing the state of your emotional health so you can take advantage of options to help you feel better. You don’t have to live feeling depressed every day because there are people who care and want to help.

How to get help when feeling depressed

While some may consider taking a free depression test or quiz online to gain insight, there can be more productive ways to learn about your feelings and how to manage them. You can contact your doctor and talk to them about your symptoms. Your doctor may conduct a detailed assessment, including a physical exam and blood testing to rule out medical concerns and to narrow down the types of depression.

Keep in mind that these actions are not considered a depression test, but they are significant in diagnosing depression. Sometimes doctors refer patients to a mental health specialist to explore additional treatment options based on their symptoms.

Therapy has helped millions of children and adults with depression. In-person therapy sessions may include one-on-one talk sessions and support group sessions with peers. Medication is available to help control emotions. Online therapy sessions are and convenient while letting you choose when to do sessions based on your schedule. Therapy is a comprehensive way of dealing with your emotions while learning practical methods to help you reach goals and improve your mental health.


Once you’ve recognized signs and how they have affected your life, it is time to take the first step to feel better by reaching out. It is common to feel uncomfortable or fearful when considering getting help, but you are not the only person who feels this way. Asking for help for health conditions like depression is never a sign of weakness but rather a sign that you’re willing to learn, grown, and give things a try.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
You don't have to face depression aloneGet started