How to Spot the Early Signs of Depression

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

As someone who has personally experienced depression, I understand how important it is to be able to recognise the early signs. While depression can creep up on us without warning, there are usually signs and symptoms that indicate something is wrong. Knowing how to identify these early signs of depression can help you take action before your mood spirals out of control.

Depression can be hard to spot as people often feel ashamed and attempt to hide their feelings of sadness, loneliness or emptiness. It’s important to remember that everyone feels down from time-to-time and this doesn’t necessarily mean they are depressed. However, if you find yourself feeling low for a prolonged period of time accompanied by other physical and psychological symptoms, it could be an indication that something more serious is going on.

If you think you may be suffering from depression, here are some common warning signs that it may be time to seek help:

Low energy levels

One of the most common signs of depression is having a consistent lack of energy or motivation. You may find yourself feeling tired all the time or struggling with chronic fatigue even when you have had enough rest. This type of exhaustion typically cannot be cured by merely getting extra sleep alone and instead needs specialist attention so an underlying cause can be identified and treated accordingly.

Loss of interest in activities

If activities which used to bring joy now seem mundane or unappealing, this could be a sign that something deeper is going on emotionally. A lack of interest in hobbies or socialising with friends could indicate a deeper issue such as depression which needs addressing. It’s important to remember that everyone experiences different levels of motivation at different times but if this loss in motivation persists over an extended period then it might signify an underlying problem like depression which requires further investigation and treatment from medical professionals if needed.

Changes in appetite

Significant changes in appetite either overeating or not eating enough can indicate something more serious than just being busy or having a hectic lifestyle. Experiencing sudden shifts in weight due to dramatic changes in your diet can also signal the onset of depression so pay close attention if this happens suddenly rather than gradually over time as this could mean something more serious is occurring emotionally rather than physically.

Sleep disturbances

Insomnia or oversleeping are both common signs of depression and should not go unnoticed even if they only occur every once in a while throughout the week. If you find yourself struggling with sleeping patterns either way then it could mean something else is at play such as stress levels being too high or an underlying medical issue needing further examination from medical professionals.


Negative thinking patterns such as seeing things through a pessimistic lens or ruminating over past events for long periods are potential indicators for the onset of mental health issues like depression (Grossi et al., 2017). Noticing yourself engaging in negative thinking constantly throughout the day instead once every few weeks could mean there are other forces at play causing this heightened level of pessimism so make sure to take action if any worrying thoughts persist for prolonged amounts of time rather than frequent but short bursts throughout the month (Roussel et al., 2016).

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Depression affects each person differently so it’s important to take note when feeling low more often than usual alongside any physical changes such as consistent fatigue, insomnia etc.. Taking action earlier rather than later will enable better results when it comes to treating depressive episodes because they will not have been able to progress further before intervention takes place (Hollon et al., 2015). The best thing to do if you think you might be experiencing early symptoms associated with depression is talk about them with somebody so they can help provide support during difficult times. Talking about mental health issues openly without fear of judgement helps create awareness surrounding these topics which ultimately leads towards destigmatising them even further (Haaga et al., 2019). Once somebody has opened up about their struggles, professional help should always follow depending on severity levels so appropriate care plans can get put into place promptly (Kendler & Prescott, 2018).

If untreated, depressive episodes tend to worsen over time therefore seeking out treatment sooner rather than later will ensure better long-term results for managing mental health conditions like depression (Lambert et al., 2017). Remembering that everybody experiences dips in their mood occasionally isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm however noticing sustained periods where emotions remain low alongside any other physical changes mentioned above means taking action becomes incredibly important sooner rather than later (Miklowitz & Johnson, 2017).


  1. Grossi E., Profita A., Mechelli A., Sapio B., Montemagni C., Priori A.(2017), “Neural correlates underlying dysfunctional attitudes during Major Depressive Disorder: A systematic review”, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 80 pp 308-327
  2. Roussel B., Ferrer E.(2016), “Rumination as a mediator between perfectionism and depressive symptoms: The role played by brooding self focus” Personality & Individual Differences 97 pp 33-37
  3. Hollon S D; DeRubeis R J; Shelton R C; Amsterdam J D; Salomon R M; O’Reardon JP.; Lovett ML.; Young PR.; Haman KL.(2015), “Prevention versus acute phase treatment with cognitive therapy and pharmacotherapy for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial” Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology 83(1) pp 8–19
  4. Haaga DAF; Dyck MJ.; Ernst D.; Grant PM.(2019), “Antidepressant effects associated with increased openness following psychotherapy: An exploratory study using network analysis” Psychotherapy Research 29(5) pp 654–660
  5. Kendler KS.; Prescott CA.(2018), “Gene?environment interaction models for major Depression: The primary importance Of nonshared environment revisited” Psychological Medicine 48(7) pp 1097–1108
  6. Lambert MJ.; Whipple JL.; Vermeersch DA; Nielsen SL.(2017), “Initial Severity Predicts Longer Term Outcomes From Cognitive Therapy For Depression: Results From The COlumbia University Randomized Clinical Trial For Late Life Depression” Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology 85(10) pp 964–974
  7. Miklowitz DJ.; Johnson SL.(2017), “Treatment Of Unipolar Depression In Adults: A Meta Analysis Update 2008–2016 Journal Of Affective Disorders 211 pp 246–255

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