Here’s What Depression Looks Like

Recognizing Depression: The Seven Signs

Depression is a serious mental disorder that has the ability to deprive one of their emotional stability and increase their chances of partaking in risk behaviors. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 9% of the total U.S. population report having feelings of depression. The 2013 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index suggests a relationship between unemployment and escalated depression rates among U.S. citizens. Statistical data from the index reports about a 16% increase in depression among unemployed Americans in comparison to their employed counterparts, which is a clear indication of the prevalence of depression and the impact it has on society. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) characterizes major depressive disorder (MDD) by a sum of symptoms. The symptoms are described below. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression are the first steps to getting treatment and overcoming this mental illness.

The Seven Signs:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. You may have a bleak outlook regularly, feel as though there is no tomorrow and as if things will not improve in your life. You may also notice a decrease in your self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Low energy level: You may have feelings of extreme tiredness, loss of energy majority of the day and not feel like doing much of anything.
  • Poor concentration. You may have an inability to focus on things and activities that you normally can direct your focus on, or you may have difficulty making simple, every day decisions.
  • Abnormal sleep patterns. You may notice significant changes in your sleep pattern as evidenced by problems falling or staying asleep. You may wake up odd hours of the night and/or fall asleep for prolonged periods of time throughout the day.
  • Weight Loss. You may experience a significant amount of weight loss or weight gain in addition to changes in your appetite.
  • Loss of interest. You may have minimal to no interest in doing activities you once found pleasurable and have trouble motivating yourself to do them once again.
  • Suicidal thoughts. You may have repeated thoughts of harming yourself, that life isn’t worth living and/or you’re better off not living. You may have also developed a plan for committing suicide and/or have recurrent thoughts of carrying it out.

If you or your loved one experience a number of these on a regular basis, it is vital that you seek help from a health care provider for assessment and determination of the next steps.

Note: Special thanks to Amaris Watson, MSW for her research and work on the initial draft of this post.




About Dr. Michael A. Lindsey

Michael Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH is an Associate Professor at the Silver School of Social Work, New York University. He also holds a faculty appointment in the Center for School Mental Health, School of Medicine (Department of Psychiatry) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Dr. Lindsey’s research and mental health practice experiences examine the prohibitive factors that lead to unmet mental health need among vulnerable, Black youth with depression and other serious mental health needs. Dr. Lindsey is developer of the Making Connections Intervention (MCI), a program designed to prepare adolescents to be positively involved in mental health services for depression, anxiety and behavioral problems. He can be reached by email at You may follow him on Twitter at the handle, @DrMikeLindsey. View all posts by Dr. Michael A. Lindsey

4 responses to “Here’s What Depression Looks Like

  • shannonlistens

    Great article! Some of these symptoms mirror burnout as well. This is a major problem and some people don’t pay enough attention to themselves to even recognize that there is a problem. They just grin and carry on…

  • Anonymous

    Great article!

  • Dr. Michael A. Lindsey

    David, I cannot thank you enough for your continued support, and the uplifting energy you always bring to every encounter. Knowledge is POWER. We must confront every vestige of our experience that keeps us from being whole. I recommend, as you suggest, that we familiarize ourselves with all aspects of our legacy and history. Depression is just one manifestation of our attempt to make sense of the senseless. It is a reactive system within our psyche that tells us something is awry. The reality is that most people of color are not suffering from depression. There are resources within our communities that keep us sane and whole. Yet, there are those of us who do suffer from depression. My hope is that we start with documenting what “it” is. Once we understand its signs and symptoms we can begin a process of healing. Peace and blessings to you, David! Thanks for continuing to hold the light high so that we can follow the path!

  • David

    Dr. Lindsey, your work is vital in the black community. If we understand that American culture and the English language spoken by Americans have been developed over the course of white supremacy, then we could at least have a better perspective over the adverse issues that confront our community. You can’t uproot a people through forced migration and then rob them of their heritage, history, language and heroes and expect that they can compete on par with their cultural counterparts. When I consider that slavery ended less than three generations ago and Jim Crow was alive and well in our life times, black people have made great strides.

    The following quote from Andrew Hacker’s Two Nations is one of the most profound admissions that I’ve ever heard from a white scholar:

    “This said, it will be proposed here that all white Americans, regardless of their political persuasions, are well aware of how black people have suffered due to inequities imposed upon them by white America. As has been emphasized, whites differ in how they handle that knowledge. Yet white people who disavow responsibility deny an everyday reality: that to be black is to be consigned to the margins of American life. It is because of this that no white America, including those who insist that opportunities exist for persons of every race, would change places with even the most successful black America. All white Americans realize that their skin comprises an inestimable asset. It opens doors and facilitates freedom of movement. It serves as a shield from insult and harassment. Indeed, having been born white can be taken as a sign: your preferment is both ordained and deserved. Its value persists not because a white appearance automatically brings success and status, since there are no such guarantees. What it does insure is that you will never be regard as black; a security which is worth so much that no one who has it has ever given it away (Two Nations p. 60).”

    You have some heavy lifting to do to eliminate the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow that still have many of us shackled, but I’m thrilled to see your passion for raising the level of consciousness in the black community, and I’m glad to be indirectly a part of this transformation. God Bless You Dr. Lindsey!

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