Depression is one of the most common issues addressed in psychological counseling. According to the American Psychiatric Association, up to 25% of women and 12% of men suffer from Major Depressive Disorder in their lifetime.
When symptoms are more severe and persistent, the individual is said to be suffering from clinical depression. As there is often a neurochemical (brain chemistry) component to this sort of depression, such individuals commonly make use of both psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. Many individuals, however, suffer much less severe depressive symptoms, and antidepressants are not necessarily essential to the treatment process in these cases. In such situations, the patient works with the therapist to examine the causes and effects of his or her symptoms and patterns.
Whether an individual suffers from a clinical depression or only manifests milder features of depression, the symptoms are very similar in quality. These symptoms are presented in the following Depression Self-Evaluation Checklist, adapted from the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV TR.
Depression Self-Evaluation Checklist
Over the past two weeks have you been bothered by any of the following symptoms?
- Sad or empty mood
- Loss of pleasure in activities you normally enjoy
- Weight loss or weight gain, diminished or increased appetite
- Sleep difficulties, too much or too little sleep
- Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Indecisiveness, or diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If you answered Yes to five or more of the above, you may very likely be suffering from depression.
Depressed individuals commonly report a general lack of energy or motivation, along with significant changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns. Pervasive feelings of sadness and guilt are often experienced, sometimes accompanied by sudden fits of crying or irritability. The libido (sex drive) is often affected by an episode of depression, temporarily diminishing the individual's desire and even ability to have sex. Activities the individual has typically enjoyed, such as hobbies or other special interests, are experienced as somewhat flat and less fulfilling while depressed. Not all of these symptoms are necessarily experienced by a depressed person, nor do they necessarily interfere with that individual's daily life in a dramatic way. Many individuals, in fact, may experience a somewhat chronic sense of boredom, dullness or low energy, without even realizing they are likely suffering from some form of depression.