Depression warning signs

Depression affects people in different ways. If you recognise a trend of several of these warning signs then depression may be trying to move in on your life.

Look for a persistent trend

Most of these signs can also be a normal part of the ups and downs of everyday life and most people will have experienced some of these signs at some time.

However, if you can see a trend of several of these signs which have persisted over several weeks then take it seriously. Check ‘Am I depressed’ and then take appropriate action (see ‘Tackle Depression’ and ‘Get Support’).

Persistently sad, anxious or generally low mood

persistently sad anxious empty or generally low moodEveryone feels sad sometimes, has an anxious moment, or has a day when things feel a bit empty or low.

However, when depression invades it seems to keep you feeling persistently sad, low, anxious or empty. Some people feel a combination of these four feelings. Others feel predominantly one of them.


Loss of interest

loss of interestDo you find yourself saying “I can’t be bothered,” or “What’s the point?” about things you used to find interesting or engaging?

Depression thrives on cynical or ‘bored’ attitudes to life, and itself generates a sense of meaninglessness. This loss of interest can include loss of sexual interest, which can create strain in relationships, in turn allowing more room for depression.

Lethargy or decreased energy

lethargy or decreased energyDo you often feel unable to get up at the usual time? Or too lethargic to complete routine everyday tasks?

Or do you generally find yourself less able to maintain your usual activity levels? Depression may be sapping your energy and taking root as you succumb to lethargy.

Irregular sleep or change in sleep pattern

It is very common for depression to have an effect on sleep, leading to insomnia and sleep disruptions like early waking.

Sometimes there is a pattern of excessive sleep. Regular, sound sleep is essential for healthy functioning and sleep disruption is a particularly debilitating weapon in the depression arsenal.

Appetite or weight changes

appetite or weight changesRegular healthy eating is essential for general wellbeing.

Loss of appetite and weight loss, or sometimes overeating and weight gain, can be a sign that depression is interfering with the healthy eating habits essential for maintenance of healthy mood levels.

Increased tearfulness

increased tearfulnessCrying serves a very useful purpose – stress hormones are released through tears.

However, if you find yourself crying much more than usual for no clear reasons it may be a sign that depression is at work.


restlessnessDo you find it hard to settle down to a task, or to sit still for any length of time? Some people are naturally energetic, but depression can bring a troubling sense of restlessness and inability to focus.

Being constantly keyed up and over-alert in this way is very draining, in turn decreasing resistance to depression.

Poor concentration and difficulty making decisions

poor concentration and difficulty making decisionsDepression is often said to be a problem of disordered thinking, with “automatic negative thoughts” crowding the mind. Poor concentration and/or difficulty making decisions can be due to ‘blanking things out’ or may indicate the need to address the thinking habits which are allowing depression a foothold.

Hopelessness and pessimism

hopelessness and pessimismHaving a generally pessimistic outlook can feel like the “safe” approach in an uncertain world – “Well, at least that way I won”t be disappointed”.

However, depression thrives on this negative attitude, increasingly robbing you of hope and leaving its characteristic “empty” feeling instead.

Feelings of helplessness

feelings of helplessnessThere are many uncertainties in life and things that cannot be controlled, yet many cultures emphasise the importance of individuals having “control” over their lives. Having bad things happen and not being able to prevent them can then leave someone vulnerable to the generalised feeling of helplessness that depression feeds on and perpetuates.

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

feelings of worthlessness or- guiltDepression thrives on opportunities to promote over-harsh self-judgement and feelings of worthlessness and being of low value. It causes people to inappropriately blame themselves for experiences such as being badly treated or failing to meet unrealistic standards. This can lead to corrosive and unhelpful guilt.

Thoughts of death or suicide

thoughts of death or suicideDeath is said to be the most profound issue facing humankind, and it is natural that it should be contemplated on occasion. However, the excessive negativity caused by depression can lead to repetitive, unhelpful dwelling on death. Depression also reduces problem-solving ability and causes increasing ‘tunnel vision’, falsely making suicide seem like a solution to problems.

Repeatedly thinking about suicide can be very risky. It should be taken seriously and dealt with promptly.


Make an appointment to see a doctor or counsellor to discuss your concerns.

Next: Am I depressed?

Take Action

Depression checklist


How depression works
Consulting counsellors & doctors
Check suicide & self harm