September 20, 2018
It is very natural for you to feel sad occasionally, especially in reaction to unpleasant events. But sometimes such feelings and other signs become so intense and pervasive that you might wonder whether you have a psychological disorder, specifically clinical depression.
Please do not try to diagnose yourself! A formal diagnosis should only be made by a qualified person with special training in psychological disorders, such as a registered psychologist. A psychologist would interview you, observe your behaviour, and perhaps ask you to complete some measures of depression or related psychological conditions. This detailed information is compared to criteria for different forms of depression using the psychologist’s expert judgment.
So interpret the following signs with caution. They might help you decide whether you should see a psychologist for a formal diagnosis. Or look for the same signs if you are concerned about a family member or friend who could benefit from seeing a psychologist.
One core symptom of depression is of course a depressed mood or sadness. It differs from normal sadness in that the feeling occurs for much of the day and for an extended period of time (e.g., several weeks), causes substantial distress, interferes with your ability to function, is general and not due to some specific event, and is accompanied by other symptoms.
Another core symptom of depression is loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed. This loss of interest is again general and concerns many aspects of life, is persistent, and occurs most days. You may lack motivation to engage in activities and get little or no pleasure from them.
Some of the other symptoms that can suggest depression concern your ability to perform well (e.g., at work, school, or home), difficulty concentrating, negative feelings about yourself, and thoughts about self-harm.
If you experience a number of these symptoms and they cause you considerable distress and interfere with your life, then you could benefit from a visit to a psychologist or other mental health professional. The psychologist can perform a formal diagnosis and also suggest ways to alleviate the symptoms and restore your well-being. Often it helps just to understand better your feelings and have someone supportive to talk with about them.