How do I know I am in depression?

Some background, some drama

Sadness or downswings in mood are normal reactions to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression" to explain these kinds of feelings, but depression is much more than just sadness. The normal ups and downs of life mean that everyone feels sad or has "the blues" from time to time. But if emptiness and despair have taken hold of your life and won't go away, you may have depression. Depression makes it tough to function and enjoy life like you once did. Just getting through the day can be overwhelming. But no matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better.

Do’s and Don’ts

Understanding the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment of depression is the first step to overcoming the problem. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide and help you to know if you are in depression.


  • Understand the relations between depression and anxiety. Determining the primary problem can help treat it.
  • Examine your persistent moods. People suffering from depression frequently experience sadness, emptiness or hopelessness.
  • Identify thoughts of death, self-harm or suicide. Major depression or anxiety often causes morbid thoughts.
  • List any activities you've abandoned or no longer find fun. Have you stopped spending time with friends?
  • Identify other changes in your energy level and mood. Are you restless, unable to concentrate and extra irritable? Are you tired and unable to perform routine tasks?
  • Keep an eye out for incessant crying or appetite changes.
  • Get mysterious aches and pains diagnosed. A medical condition is likely at fault and depression is a likely possibility.
  • Understand the typical causes of depression, such as trauma, grief, genetics or stress.
  • Ask for help. Realize that your feelings of helplessness are part of your disorder, not reality and that isolation feeds those feelings.
  • Find a support group.
  • Address the cause. Try to deal with it directly as well as treating your depression.


  • Don't dismiss your depression if none of these causes/symptoms apply. Sometimes, a cause may be difficult to identify.
  • Don’t trivialize depression. It is a serious issue and should not be left untreated.
  • Don't expect to do everything you normally can. Pace yourself and set a realistic schedule.
  • Don't believe all of your negative thinking, such as blaming yourself, feeling hopeless or expecting to fail. This thinking is part of depression. These thoughts will go away as your depression lifts.
  • Don’t make big life decisions during a depression. Put off doing things that you find too difficult at the moment.
  • Don’t have drugs and alcohol. Both make depression worse.
  • Don’t get discouraged. It'll take time for your depression to lift fully. But treatment works for almost everyone.

Last words

Depression is not a trivial thing. It is a real illness that should be treated and cared for just like any other illness. Just because depression isn't necessarily physical does not mean that it is something that can be overcome through sheer willpower. Depression is a real medical condition, not something to feel ashamed of because you don't think you have a reason to be sad. Seek help and treatment.

Sources and citations