Some depressive symptoms are easy to spot, but here’s how to identify the ones you could be missing
While many of us can feel down from time to time, depression is very different. Many of those who experience depression can become withdrawn, and feel low for weeks or months. But these aren’t the only symptoms.
With more than 300 million of us now suffering with depression worldwide,1 it makes sense to become aware of the signs of depression in yourself and others.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Some common symptoms of depression include:2
- ongoing low mood
- lack of interest in normal life
- becoming withdrawn
- lack of energy/fatigue
- feeling hopeless or useless
- getting irritated with loved ones
However, there are a number of lesser-known warning signs – including physical and mental symptoms – that may be harder to spot.
Five less well-known signs of depression
1. Dull aches and pains
Pains in the joints, limbs or back can be a sign of depression. A 1994 study investigated the connection between 15 common physical symptoms and mental health conditions. Scientists found 60% patients who reported nine or more unexplained physical symptoms also had a treatable mood disorder.3
2. Inability to make decisions
If you find yourself taking longer to make your mind up over a simple question, or you feel as though you’re always making the wrong decision, this could point to a mental health issue.
A study published in Cognitive Therapy and Research in 2011 confirmed that those with depression find it difficult to make basic decisions, while a lack of decision-making skills meant they often made poor decisions too.4
3. Issues in your sex life
A recent dip in your love life, or even losing your sex drive altogether, can be a common sign of depression. American researchers found that people who have depression are far more likely to have a lowered libido.5
But other sexual symptoms of depression include problems with arousal – either vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction – and a reduced ability to achieve orgasm in both men and women.6
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4. Tummy troubles
Your mind and your gut are closely connected. A study of 6,500 teenagers by the University of Basel discovered a link between depression and digestive disorders.7 Those who had suffered from depression in the past were more likely to develop gastrointestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or stomach ulcers.8
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5. Memory problems
Forgetfulness may be more than just a symptom of getting older. A 2018 study of older adults published in American Academy of Neurology linked memory problems with depression.9 Those who experienced greater symptoms of depression also had a reduced ability to remember past experiences and events clearly.
What to do next
If you have experienced any of the symptoms of depression over the past few weeks, make an appointment with your GP. Spotted them in a partner or family member? Talk to them about your concerns, and offer to go with them to see their doctor.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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1. World Health Organisation. Depression. Available from: http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
2. NHS Choices. Clinical depression. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/
3. Kroenke K, et al. Physical symptoms in primary care. Predictors of psychiatric disorders and functional impairment. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7987511/
4. Leykin Y, et al. Decision-Making and Depressive Symptomatology. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3132433/#CR9
5. Phillips RL Jr, Slaughter JR. Depression and sexual desire. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10969857
6. Kennedy SH, Rizki S. Sexual dysfunction, depression, and the impact of antidepressants. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19512977
7. Tegethoff M, et al. Chronology of Onset of Mental Disorders and Physical Diseases in Mental-Physical Comorbidity – A National Representative Survey of Adolescents. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0165196
8. As Source 7
9. Al Hazzouri AZ, et al. Greater depressive symptoms, cognition, and markers of brain aging. Available from: http://n.neurology.org/content/90/23/e2077