Understanding depression

Talking about depression can be hard, but it’s important. Understanding how it’s treated and learning about available resources can make the conversation easier.

Depression signs and symptoms

Everyone experiences depression differently. It’s not always easy to recognize, but there are common symptoms to look out for.

  • Feeling sad, blue, tearful, hopeless, guilty, anxious, or irritable
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Problems concentrating, focusing, making decisions, or remembering
  • Loss of pleasure in activities you usually enjoy
  • Feeling life isn’t worth living or having thoughts of death or suicide

Take a self-assessment

Common issues for people living with depression

Sometimes people living with depression are dealing with other issues, too. Depression can trigger additional problems, or make existing ones worse. Learning about these issues can make it easier for you or someone you care about to find the right support.

  • Anxiety and panic disorders

    Depression and anxiety are different, but they’re both common, and often occur together. Some people experience panic attacks, and others live with generalized or social anxiety. If you’re dealing with both depression and anxiety, you’re not alone — and talking about it can help.

  • Alcohol and drug use

    It’s common to lean on things that may help numb negative emotions when you’re feeling low. But substance misuse can actually make depression worse. Part of getting help for depression is learning how to cope with feelings in healthy ways, without drugs or alcohol.

  • Relationship issues

    Depression affects everyone it touches — not just people living with it, but their friends, family, and loved ones, too. Depression can create physical and emotional distance between people, even when they care deeply about each other. Communication is key — talking about what you’re both experiencing and getting the right support can help you get through tough times together and keep your relationship strong.

  • Sleep problems

    Many people living with depression experience changes in their sleep habits. Not being able to sleep (insomnia) is a common symptom of depression — but so is oversleeping. Sleeping too much or too little can’t cause depression, but it does play a role in how you feel overall. If you’re having sleep problems, talk to your doctor. There are things you can do to help your body settle into a healthy sleep schedule.

  • Bipolar disorder

    Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme changes in mood. People experience intense highs and lows — cycling between mania (heightened energy) and depression. Bipolar disorder is also treatable, but it’s treated differently than depression. If you think you may be experiencing mania, talk to your doctor.

  • Thoughts of suicide

    Sometimes depression feels so intense, you’d do anything to end your pain. Suicidal thoughts aren’t unusual, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. They’re a sign that it’s time to talk to someone.

    Are you thinking of ending your life? People at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. external page are available 24/7 to listen and help. Call 1-800-273-82551-800-273-8255 to talk, or click the link to chat. You can also call 911911 or go to the nearest hospital.

Depression in children and teens

Growing up isn’t easy — family problems, peer pressure, and issues around sexuality and gender identity can be overwhelming when you’re a teenager or young adult. Ups and downs are normal — but if you think you’re depressed, find your words and ask a trusted adult for help.

It can be especially challenging for younger people to talk about depression. Symptoms can be different in kids and teens — so it’s important for adults to know what to look for.

Getting help for depression

For some people, practicing self-care through things like meditation and exercise can help ease symptoms of depression. Others may need professional support, which can include counseling, medication, or a combination of both.

If you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor, or reach out to your health plan to see what’s available to you. If you work, your company may have an Employee Assistance Program that can help. No matter what your situation is, there are resources available that can connect you to the support you need.

If you feel like you can’t cope, that your life isn’t worth living, or if you’re having thoughts of suicide, get help now. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-82551-800-273-8255. Local crisis workers are available 24/7 to listen and help. If you think you or someone you care for is having a medical or psychiatric emergency, call 911911 or go to the nearest hospital.

  • Crisis Text Line

    In crisis? Text “WORDS” to 741741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor for free, 24/7 from anywhere in the US.

  • Kaiser Permanente members

    If you’re a Kaiser Permanente member, we’ll connect you to the care you need. Visit kp.org/getcare. external page anytime to find mental health and wellness professionals in your area. You don’t need a referral to make an appointment.


Insights from our national poll

We need to challenge misconceptions about depression

  • say they’re informed about mental health issues.

  • believe that depression is partially caused by personal weakness — which is false.

Source: Kaiser Permanente commissioned KRC Research to conduct a 15-minute online survey among a total of 3,005 U.S. adults from August 10–16, 2017.