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Symptoms of depression

3-minute read

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health condition which can affect a person's ability to function.

Depression can affect people differently depending on their age, gender, personality traits and cultural background. Some people may find it hard to speak about feeling depressed and may focus on physical symptoms instead.

Anyone who has felt down and sad for more than 2 weeks and has experienced several of the following symptoms is advised to visit a doctor or mental health practitioner.

Emotional symptoms of depression include:

  • feeling sad, down or empty for most of the day, nearly every day
  • loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • becoming withdrawn from friends or family
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • suicidal thoughts
  • crying for no reason.

Physical symptoms of depression include:

  • low energy, fatigue and reduced activity
  • insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite or weight
  • increased sleep or appetite (atypical depression)
  • trouble concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • slowed body movements, thinking or speech
  • difficulty sitting still, pacing or hand-wringing
  • diminished sex drive
  • back pain or headaches
  • feeling sick and run down
  • digestive problems.

Symptoms of anxiety are also common in people with depression, as the 2 conditions often occur together.

Depression symptoms in younger people

Symptoms of depression in young children or teenagers are similar to adults, but there are some differences. Young children may have difficulty expressing that they feel depressed, but may appear irritable, have unexplained aches and pains, lose interest in playing with friends, or have trouble concentrating at school.

Signs of depression in teenagers include avoidance of social interaction, falling performance at school, and reduced or excessive sleep. Teenagers with depression may also have behaviour changes such as anger and acting out, increased risk-taking (such as driving or sexual relationships) and drug and alcohol abuse.

Depression symptoms in older people

Depression is often undiagnosed in elderly people, as their symptoms may be misinterpreted as being due to physical illness or losses experienced in old age. Suicidal thoughts in older people should be taken seriously, as older men have a high rate of suicide linked to depression.

Not sure what to do next?

If you or someone you know are finding it difficult to manage mental health issues, try healthdirect’s symptom checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).


DSM (Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depressive disorder and depressive episodes,), Mayo Clinic (Depression (Major depressive disorder)), beyondblue (Signs and symptoms)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2017

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