What are the signs of depression?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What are the signs of depression?

Expert Answer

Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for Caring.com's coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions.

The most important signs of depression concern emotions. These include a persistently sad or hopeless mood and/or loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy. One or both of these signs must be present for at least two weeks for a diagnosis of major depression to be made. Additional problems that may be signs of depression include changes in sleep (noticeably more or less), changes in appetite or weight (either up or down), loss of energy, trouble concentrating, feeling guilty or worthless, or thoughts of death or suicide.

Since many of these signs overlap with physical symptoms that older, chronically ill people experience due to their medical illnesses, the Geriatric Depression Scale was developed to help assess for depression in the elderly. Despite its name, studies have shown that it works well for younger patients as well.

Choose the best answer for how you or the person you care for has felt over the past week:

  1. Are you basically satisfied with your life? Yes / No
  2. Have you dropped many of your activities and interests? Yes / No
  3. Do you feel that your life is empty? Yes / No
  4. Do you often get bored? Yes / No
  5. Are you in good spirits most of the time? Yes / No
  6. Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you? Yes / No
  7. Do you feel happy most of the time? Yes / No
  8. Do you often feel helpless? Yes / No
  9. Do you prefer to stay at home, rather than going out and doing new things? Yes / No
  10. Do you feel you have more problems with memory than most? Yes / No
  11. Do you think it is wonderful to be alive now? Yes / No
  12. Do you feel pretty worthless the way you are now? Yes / No
  13. Do you feel full of energy? Yes / No
  14. Do you feel that your situation is hopeless? Yes / No
  15. Do you think that most people are better off than you are? Yes / No

Answers in bold indicate depression. Although studies indicate that the results can vary by individual and by situation, for clinical purposes a score of 5 points or more is suggestive of depression and should warrant checking with a doctor. Scores of 10 or more almost always indicate depression.

You can find links to the Geriatric Depression Scale in several other languages here.