Detecting and Diagnosing Depression: It Can Look Different in Men and Women and in Teenagers, Too
Although men, women, and teens may experience the same depression symptoms, the illness may also have different symptoms in each of these groups.
Unlike typical feelings of sadness that pass relatively quickly, depression is a clinical illness in which negative emotions last for weeks or longer.
Depression is treatable, and it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of the illness so that you can get help as soon as possible.
Signs of Depression in Adults
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood for most of the day (or an irritable mood in children and adolescents)
- Loss of interest or pleasure in once-enjoyable activities
- Unexplained weight loss or gain, or a significant decrease or increase in appetite
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Restlessness or slowed movements, speech, and thoughts
- Feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Additionally, you may experience physiological signs like new, frequent aches, pains, or stomach issues. (In some cases, people may experience mental distress physically more than psychologically.) Changes in behavior or increased substance use may also be signs of attempts to self-treat the underlying mental distress.
Depression in Men
Men with depression are more likely than women to report the following symptoms:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Risk-taking behaviors
Reflecting cultural norms, men with depression may be more likely to exhibit certain unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as workaholism or gambling. Men are also less likely to be diagnosed with depression than women.
Depression in Women
- Feeling pathetic
- Sleep problems
- Depressed mood
Depression in Children and Teens
Despite the rise in depression, the researchers did not see an increase in the number of teenagers undergoing mental-health treatment, suggesting that many young people are not receiving the help they need.
Teenagers have many of the same symptoms of depression as adults, but those changes in mood and behavior are sometimes mistaken as a normal part of puberty or adolescence.
- Sadness and crying spells that happen without much cause
- Anger or frustration, even over small issues
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Extreme guilt, self-blame, or self-criticism
- Sensitivity to rejection
- Social withdrawal
- Unexplained body aches and pains
- Angry outbursts or other acting-out behaviors
- Having bad grades in school, or skipping school
- Conflicts with friends and family
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Complications of Depression
Depression Tests and Diagnosis
There are a number of online tools and self-tests that can help determine whether you may be depressed and need to seek help, but only your doctor or a mental health professional can diagnose clinical depression.
Before diagnosing major depression, which is the most common type of depression, your doctor will conduct exams and tests to rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms, such as thyroid issues, medication side effects, neurological illnesses, autoimmune diseases, or nutritional deficiencies.
Your doctor will also ask in-depth questions about your mood and feelings, and they may ask you to fill out a questionnaire.
Resources We Love
American Psychiatric Association (APA)
The APA’s resources can help you learn about how and when doctors diagnose someone with depression. You could also search for a psychiatrist near you using its?Find a Psychiatrist tool.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
The ADAA has educational resources about the symptoms of depression and treatments for it, as well as a?directory of therapists that can help you find treatment for depression near you.
The Mayo Clinic provides helpful overviews about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for many different health conditions, including major depressive disorder.
Additional reporting by?Pamela Kaufman.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Depression. World Health Organization. September 13, 2021.
- Depression (Major Depressive Disorder). Mayo Clinic. February 3, 2018.
- Martin LA, Neighbors HW, Griffith DM. The Experience of Symptoms of Depression in Men vs. Women: Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. JAMA Psychiatry. October 2013.
- Mojtabai R, Olfson M, Han B. National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults. Pediatrics. December 2016.
- Racine N, McArthur BA, Cooke JE, et al. Global Prevalence of Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Children and Adolescents During COVID-19. JAMA Psychiatry. August 9, 2021.
- Teen Depression. Mayo Clinic. August 12, 2022.
- Hardeveld F, Spijker J, De Graaf R, et al. Recurrence of Major Depressive Disorder and Its Predictors in the General Population: Results From the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Psychological Medicine. October 31, 2012.
- Suicide Claims More Lives Than War, Murder, and Natural Disasters Combined. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. February 9, 2020.