June 15, 2024

Severe Depression Symptoms

Most people go through some form of depression or the other occasionally.  A specific incident or event or even a change in diet can cause the onset of the “blues”.  However, these emotions often pass and people go back to their daily lives.  But sometimes, this sadness or depression can become strong and almost permanent and that is when it can be categorized as severe depression.

This mental disorder is officially known as major depressive disorder and commonly called major depression.  It is characterized by several common symptoms.

The Most Common Symptoms of Severe Depression

While different studies have pointed to several symptoms that go into a person diagnosed as being severely or majorly depressed, the following ten are considered to be the top or most important common symptoms:

Persistent Feelings of Sadness

There are incessant feelings of emptiness and sorrow.   Most of the time there is no apparent reason for these feelings.  It is just a general feeling of sadness.  This symptom may sometimes manifest itself most strongly in older adults who are trying to cope with growing old as well as being severely depressed.  Even small things can move them to tears.

Strong Feelings of Pessimism and Worthlessness

This can be coupled at times with guilt but in general, the person feels useless and not worthy of praise or achievement. Stretched a bit more, such feelings can translate into self- loathing too.

Significant Reduction in Energy and Interest Levels

This includes reduction of interest in sex, activities of normal life and any interests whatsoever.  In young adults, this can also manifest itself by way of them seeking to be alone and shunning all forms of social interaction.

Loss of Ability or Difficulty Remembering and Recalling Things

Sometimes even the mundane things that one has been doing everyday can become difficult to recall. This symptom is even more common with people who have melancholic depression.

Sleep Disorders

Individuals who have this symptom find themselves sleeping too much or not at all with insomnia.  Insomnia is said to affect around 80 percent of people who suffer from depression.  The other side of the coin – hypersomnia – affects around 15 percent and causes them to sleep excessively.  Sleep loss has physical and mental ramifications and depression is exhibited through this symptom as well.

Eating Disorders

This symptom can manifest itself by a person over eating or having a severe loss of appetite.  Depressed people often lose weight rapidly because they have stopped eating.  Depressed people find no pleasure in food so can simply stop eating.

Suicidal Thoughts

The individual with this symptom can be filled with thoughts of killing oneself.  Some people with severe depression may often talk about it but not all do.  This can also include talking about death.  In children and younger adults, this could include thoughts and talking about hurting oneself and hurting others too.  Bipolar Disorder I also known as manic depression can also cause such strong thoughts.

Chronic Health Problems

This could include headaches, back aches and even stomach pains that resist all attempts at medication. In young children, symptoms of depression are sometimes accompanied by disorders, like ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.


This is indicated by general listlessness and an inability to apply oneself to even the smallest of tasks with perseverance.  In some cases, such intense restlessness can cause the depressed person to become extremely agitated as well.


A feeling of overwhelming fatigue can be a major symptom of severe depression.  Lethargy is a common symptom of depression and affects every aspect of life.  Depressed people have great difficulty in finding energy for the common chores and activities of life.

One important point is that these symptoms manifest themselves very differently in different people.  It is not necessary that everyone suffering from depression will exhibit all the symptoms listed above.

Symptoms of Severe Depression in Men and Women Often Differ

Men and women tend to exhibit the signs and symptoms of depression in very different ways.  Not only do they differ in the symptoms pertaining to depression, but they may also deal with it in significantly different ways.

Depressed Woman

The primary causes for a severe depressive episode in men stem from sources or factors like their jobs, diet problems, thoughts of being retired and divorce.  The cause of severe depression in women tends to be due to issues like pregnancy, poor body image, and a marked tendency to over-think things.

Men who are depressed are higher suicide risks than depressed women.  Men also tend to develop heart conditions when suffering from depression.  The rate of depression in men may be higher since they may also have an inability to talk about it. Culturally, men are told to “suck it up” or “get over it” which can only make depression worse for them to handle.

It is also estimated that depression affects twice as many women as men.  In the U.S., around 6 percent of men have a depressive disorder and around 12 percent women suffer from.

For more information on depression in men, click here.  For more information on depression in women, click here.

Causes and Risk Factors of Severe Depression

The following list contains some of the main causes and risk factors that can lead to depression.

• Abuse and being bullied or teased by peers

• Domestic conflict like divorce, quarrelsome parents

• Hormonal imbalances can also cause depression

• Women sometimes may experience depression during the time of their monthly period.

• Chemical or biological imbalances in the body or the brain.

• Genetic predisposition – if a close relative has a depressive disorder the greater the risk

• Social conditions like loneliness at school or the workplace or even in the neighborhood that people live in.

• Age related depression is also a cause. Teenagers suffer from depression for reasons related to school. Older people may suffer because they are dealing with old age related infirmities. Young adults might be facing the stress of looking after a career, juggling home and career and even paying bills. The simple process of aging can also be a cause depression.

• Personality can also be a cause for depression when people suffer from feelings of low self esteem, lagging behind in a highly competitive atmosphere and an inability to deal with life’s trials.

• Economic factors can also be a cause for depression.  Often, the state of economy or the loss of jobs can cause depression. Traumatic events in personal and social lives are also a risk factor for depression. Even an event like the terrorist attacks on 9/11 can have its effects on the human psyche.

• A disconnect from reality is another reason and risk factor for depression.  This could mean having a warped view of one’s own capabilities, a mistaken impression of the view of other people when it comes to oneself and even a distorted recollection or sense of one’s own life and its events.

If You Think You Have Severe Depression

If you think are severely depressed contact your doctor or health care provider for a medical diagnosis.  Do not self diagnose yourself over the internet.  If you think you have it, get help.  The risks of an incorrect diagnosis or treatment are too great if you do have severe depression.

Risks of Not Treating Severe Depression

If left untreated severe depression can lead to physical illness such as heart disease and is thought to play a role in the development of other illnesses as well.   People who have severe depression have a greater risk of committing suicide than those who do not have it.  It is important that if you think you or a family member have severe depression that you get help immediately.  Treatment is available that can help you feel better about yourself and life again.


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