7 Symptoms Never to Ignore If You Have Depression

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

  • Nearly 21 million adults in America experienced at least one episode of depression over the past year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Depression can be caused by a medical condition like cancer, certain medications, sensitivity to seasonal light levels, giving birth, or having a family history of mood disorders.

    Depression might make you feel sad or hopeless, and in its more serious forms can provoke suicidal thoughts. If you have been diagnosed with depression, you should stay alert to changes in your condition and watch for these depression complications that should never be ignored.

  • 1
    Suicidal thoughts or thinking about hurting someone else
    Man standing alone on shore of ocean with low fog and grey skies

    Depression symptoms can range from mild feelings of lethargy and disinterest in pleasurable activities to dark emotions that include suicidal thoughts. And sometimes people in deep depression think about hurting other people too. If you find yourself believing that your family would be better off without you, or that you wish you could harm someone you feel has wronged you, please seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 or a crisis hotline. Even depression this serious can be treated by adjusting your medications or talking through your emotions with a professional.

  • 2
    Feeling hopeless
    Young Caucasian man with eyes closed and head leaned against wall looking down

    When depression has you in its grip, you might feel as if your life can never get better. Fortunately, these feelings of hopelessness can be treated. And you should treat them, because unremitting hopelessness can lead to suicidal thoughts. If you’ve been diagnosed with depression and find yourself feeling hopeless about the future, please contact your therapist or doctor right away. In many cases, depressive thoughts like these respond well to adjustments in medication.

  • 3
    Sadness that won’t go away
    Young Caucasian woman with head in hand crying

    Many people with depression never experience “sadness.” Instead, they report reduced energy levels and a disinterest in activities they previously found pleasurable. If you start feeling sad when you previously were not, or if your sadness gets worse over time instead of getting better, contact your medical provider or therapist for help. Mood-related symptoms of depression often can be effectively treated with adjustments to medication dosages or by changing antidepressant medications altogether. Don’t allow yourself to suffer with sadness when a simple treatment change might help.

  • 4
    Self-medication with drugs or alcohol
    Bottle of pills spilled on bed

    People with depression will sometimes seek any avenue for relief of their symptoms. When that avenue leads to drug or alcohol misuse, though, you should contact your healthcare provider. If you take antidepressant medications, you should be careful not to mix alcohol or other drugs with them. Combining certain substances with antidepressants can cause you to stop breathing, have a seizure, or experience some other bad reaction. If you have become addicted to drugs or alcohol, seek help. Your provider can help you manage your depressive symptoms without the need to use alcohol or drugs for relief.

  • 5
    Middle aged Cuacasian woman in bed with insomnia looking stressed

    Depression often causes changes to a person’s sleep patterns. People with depression may sleep much more or much less than usual. If you begin to experience insomnia or difficulty sleeping for days or weeks at a time, consult your healthcare provider. Chronic sleeplessness can make depression symptoms worse and even lead to thoughts of harming yourself. Your provider can suggest non-drug therapies to treat insomnia, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or may be able to prescribe a sleeping medication that will not cause an adverse reaction when combined with your antidepressant.

  • 6
    Sudden onset of aches and pains
    Young African American woman looking stressed holding hand to forehead with eyes closed

    Many people with depression experience physical symptoms, like muscle aches or body pain. However, if you develop new or more severe pain anywhere in your body, contact your healthcare provider. New muscle aches or pain can signal a worsening of your depression and should be evaluated by a professional. Be especially vigilant if these body aches occur with a change in mood, such as increased feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Your provider may be able to treat any worsening symptoms to give you relief from the physical side of depression.

  • 7
    Increased agitation
    African American mother with head in hands looking stressed with daughter in background

    Many people characterize depression as a condition of low energy, but this mood disorder also can cause you to feel agitated from time to time. Agitation might be emotional (you may feel very upset and unable to calm yourself down), cognitive (you may be unable to concentrate), or physical (you may not be able to sit still). If you begin to experience increasing episodes of agitation, seek professional care. This symptom may indicate your medications require adjustment or that you might benefit from more intensive talk therapy.

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  1. Depression. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/depression.html
  2. Depression. U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
  3. Depression. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 19
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.