Depression (Major Depression) – Symptoms and Causes (2023)


What is depression? Explained by an expert at the Mayo Clinic.

Learn about depression with Craig Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P., a Mayo Clinic clinical psychologist.

Hello, I'm Craig Sawchuk, MD, clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic. And I'm here to talk to you about depression. Whether you're looking for answers for yourself, a friend, or a loved one, understanding the basics of depression can help you take the next step.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness that don't go away. Unfortunately, there's a lot of stigma surrounding depression. Depression is not a weakness or a character flaw. It's not about being in a bad mood, and people suffering from depression can't just shake it off. Depression is a common, serious, and treatable condition. If you suffer from depression, you are not alone. It frankly affects people of all ages, biological races and genders, income levels and educational backgrounds. About one in six people will experience a major depressive episode at some point in their life, while up to 16 million adults experience clinical depression each year. There are many types of symptoms that make up depression. Emotionally, you may feel sad, depressed, irritable, or even listless. Physically, the body really slows down. Are you tired. Your sleep is often interrupted. It's really hard to motivate yourself. Your way of thinking changes too. It can be difficult to concentrate. Your thoughts tend to be much more negative. You can be very hard on yourself and feel hopeless and powerless. And even in some cases you have thoughts of not wanting to live. From a behavioral perspective, you simply want to withdraw and withdraw from others, from activities, and from day-to-day commitments. All of these symptoms work together to keep you trapped in a cycle of depression. The symptoms of depression are different for everyone. Some symptoms may be a sign of another disorder or medical condition. That's why it's important to get an accurate diagnosis.

What Causes Depression?

Although there is no single cause of depression, most experts believe there is a combination of biological, social, and psychological factors that contribute to depression risk. Biologically, we think of genetic predisposition or family history of depression, health issues like diabetes, heart disease or thyroid disease, and even hormonal changes that occur throughout life like pregnancy and menopause. Changes in brain chemistry, particularly changes in neurotransmitters like serotonin, which play an important role in regulating many bodily functions, including mood, sleep and appetite, are thought to play a particularly important role in depression. Socially stressful and traumatic life events, limited access to resources such as food, shelter, and health care, and a lack of social support all contribute to depression risk. Psychologically, we think about how negative thoughts and problem-coping behaviors like avoidance and substance use increase our susceptibility to depression.

The good news is that treatment is helping. There are effective treatments for depression, and you have the opportunity to find what works best for you. Lifestyle changes that improve sleep habits, exercise, and address underlying health issues can be an important first step. Medications such as antidepressants can be helpful in relieving depressive symptoms. Therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, teaches skills to better manage negative thoughts and improve coping behaviors to help you break out of cycles of depression. Whatever the cause, remember that depression is not your fault and can be treated.

(Video) Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

To help diagnose depression, your doctor may perform a physical exam, laboratory tests, or a mental health evaluation. These results help identify different treatment options that best suit your situation.

Help is available. You don't have to deal with depression alone. Take the next step and get closer. If you're hesitant to talk to a healthcare provider, talk to a friend or family member about getting help. Living with depression is not easy and you are not alone in your struggles. Always remember that there are effective treatments and supports to help you feel better. Want to learn more about depression? Visit Be careful.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may find it difficult to go about your normal daily activities and at times you may feel that life is not worth living.

Depression is more than just a bout of sadness, it's not a weakness and you can't just "break" through it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don't get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, talk therapy, or both.

Depression care at the Mayo Clinic


Although depression can only occur once in a lifetime, people often have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, almost every day, and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, crying, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Outbursts of anger, irritability, or frustration, even about unimportant things
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies, or sports
  • Sleep disorders, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue and lack of energy, so that even small tasks require additional effort
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • anxiety, excitement or restlessness
  • Slow thinking, speaking, or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, obsession with past failures, or self-blame.
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurring thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For many people with depression, the symptoms are often severe enough to cause obvious problems with activities of daily living, such as work, school, social activities, or relationships with others. Some people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

Symptoms of depression in children and adolescents

The general signs and symptoms of depression in children and adolescents are similar to those in adults, but there may be some differences.

(Video) Major Depressive Disorder | DSM-5 Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment

  • In younger children, symptoms of depression may include sadness, irritability, clinging, worry, pain, truancy, or being underweight.
  • In adolescents, symptoms may include sadness, irritability, feeling negative and worthless, anger, poor performance or school attendance, misunderstanding and hypersensitivity, use of recreational drugs or alcohol, overeating or sleeping, self-harm, loss of interest. during normal activities and avoidance of social interactions.

Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults

Depression is not a normal part of aging and should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, depression in older adults often goes undiagnosed and untreated, and they may be reluctant to seek help. Symptoms of depression may be different or less obvious in older adults, such as:

  • memory problems or personality changes.
  • pain or physical pain
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, or loss of interest in sex not caused by a medical condition or medication
  • They often want to stay at home rather than go out to socialize or do new things.
  • Thoughts or feelings of suicide, especially in older men

When to the doctor

If you feel depressed, make an appointment with your doctor or psychotherapist as soon as possible. If you resist treatment, talk to a friend or family member, a health care professional, a religious leader, or someone you trust.

When to get emergency help

If you think you may harm yourself or attempt suicide, call US 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Also, consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call your doctor or psychologist.
  • Contact a suicide hotline.
  • Get in touch with a close friend or loved one.
  • Consult a minister, spiritual leader, or someone else in your faith community.

If you have a loved one who is suicidal or has attempted suicide, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do it safely, take the person to the emergency room at your nearest hospital.

More information

  • Treatment of depression (major depression) at the Mayo Clinic
  • Male Depression: Understanding the Problems
  • Mental breakdown: what does it mean?
  • Grief and depression: is there a connection?

Request an appointment at the Mayo Clinic

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(Video) Signs of Major Depressive Disorder


It is not known exactly what causes depression. As with many mental disorders, a variety of factors may be involved, such as:

  • biological differences.People with depression appear to have physical changes in the brain. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may help identify the causes.
  • brain chemistryNeurotransmitters are natural brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Recent research suggests that changes in the function and effects of these neurotransmitters, and how they interact with the neurocircuitry involved in maintaining mood stability, may play an important role in depression and its treatment.
  • HormoneChanges in the body's hormonal balance can be involved in the development or triggering of depression. Hormonal changes can occur during pregnancy and in the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum), as well as from thyroid problems, menopause, or other conditions.
  • Inherited Traits.Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have the condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.

More information

  • Treatment of depression (major depression) at the Mayo Clinic
  • Marijuana and Depression
  • Vitamin B-12 and depression
(Video) Major Depressive Disorder - Diagnosis Criteria, Symptoms, and Treatment

risk factors

Depression often begins in the teens, between the ages of 20 and 30, but can occur at any age. More women than men are diagnosed with depression, but this may be partly because women are more likely to seek treatment.

Factors that appear to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression include:

  • Certain personality traits such as low self-esteem and over-reliance, self-criticism or pessimism.
  • Traumatic or stressful events such as physical or sexual abuse, death or loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or financial problems
  • Blood relatives with a history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, or suicide
  • Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or having developmental differences in genital organs that are not clearly male or female (intersex) in a situation of lack of support
  • History of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • alcohol or recreational drug abuse
  • Serious or chronic medical conditions such as cancer, stroke, chronic pain or heart disease
  • Certain medications, such as some high blood pressure medications or sleeping pills (talk to your doctor before stopping medication)


Depression is a serious medical condition that can have serious consequences for you and your family. Depression often worsens if left untreated, leading to emotional, behavioral, and health problems that affect every area of ​​your life.

Examples of complications related to depression include:

  • Being overweight or obese, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes.
  • pain or physical illness
  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • Anxiety, panic disorder or social phobia
  • Family conflicts, relationship difficulties, and work or school problems
  • Social isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.
  • Self-mutilation, like cutting yourself
  • Premature death due to illness

More information

  • Treatment of depression (major depression) at the Mayo Clinic
  • Depression and Anxiety: Can I Have Both?


There is no sure way to prevent depression. However, these strategies can help.

  • Take steps to manage stressstrengthen their resilience and boost their self-esteem.
  • communicate with family and friends,especially in times of crisis to help you get through the bad times.
  • Get treatment at the first sign of a problemto prevent depression from getting worse.
  • Consider long-term maintenance therapyto prevent recurrence of symptoms.

By Mayo Clinic staff

(Video) Depression - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

14. October 2022


1. Major Depressive Disorder | Clinical Presentation
2. Depression Explained (Major Depressive Disorder)
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3. Major Depressive Disorder
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4. Understanding Depression: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
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5. Clinical Depression Signs & Symptoms (& How It's Diagnosed)
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6. Major Depressive Disorder - Symptoms & Treatment


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