Symptoms of depression

Downcast, lack of drive, exhausted – these are common signs of depression. Find out more about the symptoms and causes. Our self-test will show you if you might be depressed.

29.10.2021 Daniela Schori 4 minutes

Depression influences our feelings, thoughts and behaviour. People suffering from depression experience low moods that can last for months. They feel hopeless, numb and exhausted.

In addition to the previously mentioned symptoms, physical complaints such as sleeping problems, headaches and exhaustion often arise – the symptoms of depression are diverse and individual. There is also the hidden masked depression, which only presents as physical symptoms. Only a specialist can diagnose it. Contact your GP.

Our depression test can give you an initial idea of whether you might have depression. You should note the following warning signs:

Self-test: am I depressed?

The test serves as an initial self-assessment: do I show the typical signs of depression? It’s important to take not only your current emotional state into account, but also to take a look back: over the last two weeks, how often were you affected by the following complaints? 

Main symptoms

  • Depressed mood
    I always feel downcast, even though there is no reason for it.
  • Loss of interest and lack of joy
    Activities that I normally like to do don’t make me happy anymore.
  • Lack of drive and getting tired quickly
    I get tired more quickly than usual and have no energy.

Additional symptoms

  • Reduced concentration and focus
    I can’t concentrate very well, and I find it hard to make decisions.
  • Reduced feeling of self-worth and confidence
    I feel insecure and don’t believe in myself.
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
    I blame myself and have unfounded or exaggerated feelings of guilt.
  • Pessimistic thoughts about the future
    I’m scared I’ll never get well again and have a pessimistic outlook
  • Suicidal thoughts
    I have thoughts about death or even about suicide.
  • Change in appetite
    I don’t have any appetite and am losing weight.
    I have an increased appetite and am gaining weight.
  • Loss of libido
    I’m not interested in sex anymore.
  • Sleep disorders
    I have trouble falling asleep and sleeping through the night.

Test result

How many of the statements apply to you? To diagnose depression, the following criteria apply: at least two main symptoms and at least two additional symptoms have to be present for two weeks or more.

Important: this test is just an initial indicator and does not replace a diagnosis. If you think you might be depressed – no matter your test result – please talk to your doctor about it. A personal consultation is an important tool for diagnosing depression.  

Alongside mental strain, depression can also cause physical complaints. These include:

  • General state of exhaustion
  • Stomach or digestive problems, such as constipation or diarrhoea
  • Headaches or back pain
  • Feeling of pressure in the throat or chest
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness and heart problems
  • Missed periods, impotence

Do women experience depression differently than men?

Generally speaking, the symptoms of depression are the same across all genders. However, there is a trend: men often tend to compensate for mental strain with sport, work or sex. They react in an irritated and aggressive way, towards themselves or other people, while women tend to feel guilty. Depending on their upbringing and cultural background, men find it harder to talk about mental health problems. These factors mean that depression is less frequently diagnosed among men, and later too, than among women – and that men more often commit suicide.

Mild or severe depression?

Mild, moderate and severe depression is determined depending on the number and manifestation of the symptoms. This is how doctors determine the degree of severity:

  • Mild depression: those affected suffer from at least two of the main symptoms and two additional symptoms. They feel impaired, but can keep up their social, domestic and work activities.
  • Moderate depression: two main symptoms and three to four further symptoms are present. The daily life of those affected is greatly reduced. It takes a great deal of effort to keep up with their normal activities.
  • Severe depression: a severe depressive episode is diagnosed when all three main symptoms (depressive mood, lack of drive, loss of interest) are present, and there are at least four other symptoms. Activities are limited.

Do you need tips for depression?

Our health consultation advisors will show you how you can recognise, prevent and treat depression. We’ll also help you find a recognised therapist.

Causes and triggers

Depression develops from a combination of a variety of influences. Triggers are often traumatic life events such as loss, invalidation or overload. The most frequent factors are:

The influence of genetic factors has been proven in numerous studies of families. But remember, the closer the relation, the higher the risk is for depression.

Life-changing experiences during childhood or adulthood make us more vulnerable and susceptible to depression. Traumatic events can even become linked to our genetic make-up.

Certain medications, drug and alcohol abuse can make us more susceptible to depression and even trigger it.

When the body can no longer cope with chronic stress, symptoms such as stomach problems, sleeplessness, tension or depression occur.

Vitamin B12, iron and folic acid deficiency can lead to anaemia, which can make depression more likely to occur. Vitamin D also has an influence on our nerve functions.

Depression takes many forms. Don’t wait until you have symptoms; the more active you are in tackling depression, the better treatment will go.

Read more

The most common types of depression
There’s not just one kind of depression. Alongside normal depression, there are also other types. You can find out more here.
October 29, 2021 4 minutes

Help for depression
Who treats depression? Which therapies and medications are used? Here’s how to deal with it.
July 1, 2022 4 minutes


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