Are you at risk for depression?

Boreas by John William Waterhouse

Most people know the risk factors for illnesses such as heart disease or high blood pressure, but not many people realize that clinical depression has risk factors associated with it also. Having these risk factors doesn’t mean you will suffer from depression, only that you may be predisposed to it. Below, in no particular order, are listed some of these risk factors.

  • There is a history of mental illness in your family.
  • You are a woman. One in four women suffers from depression at some point in her life.
  • You were sexually abused as a child.
  • Someone close to you is depressed (depression can be “contagious”).
  • You have a chronic illness or are in chronic pain.
  • You lost a parent at an early age, either through death or abandonment.
  • You have heart disease. One in five heart patients has severe depression.
  • Someone close to you has recently died, or you are experiencing another stressful life event such as divorce or financial problems.
  • You are taking a medication that can cause depression as a side-effect.

Related Links


Depression Symptoms and Screening

“I am the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be a cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forbode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better.” – Abraham Lincoln

Image: The Sorceress by John William Waterhouse

The Sorceress by John William Waterhouse

If five or more of the following symptoms have been present in either you or someone you know for more than two weeks, please talk to your doctor about the possibility of depression being present. Keep in mind that these symptoms could indicate a medical condition other than depression.

Depression Symptoms

  • Feelings of sadness and/or irritability
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Inability to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions
  • Constant fatigue or loss of energy
  • Observable restlessness or decreased activity
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

In addition, look for at least three of the following symptoms, which could indicate the manic phase of manic-depression:

  • Inflated ego, envisioning of grand schemes
  • Increased energy and decreased need for sleep
  • Inappropriate excitement or irritability
  • Increased talking and/or moving
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Disconnected and racing thoughts
  • Impulsive behavior and poor judgment

For a more detailed screening for bipolar disorder, look at the Goldberg Mania Quiz.

Other self-screening tests are at:

  • Depression Screening
  • Depression Self Test - Psych Central
  • Depression Self Test - Psychology Today
  • If you’re still not sure, look at What Does Depression Feel Like?.


    For Teenagers with Depression

    Image: Psyche Opening the Golden Box by John William Waterhouse

    Psyche Opening the Golden Box by John William Waterhouse

    Note: If you’re a parent or educator interested in information about children and depression, my Depression in Children page might be more helpful.


    Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Of course, it was over thirty years ago, but I still remember with painful clarity what it was like to be a teenager with depression. The sadness, the feeling of helplessness, the belief that it was part of my personality and the conviction that something was wrong. I just didn’t know what it was. At that time, in the late ’70s, no one really did. The medical community didn’t believe children, including teenagers, could suffer from depression. Fortunately, now things are different, to some extent. There still is a lot of misunderstanding about what clinical depression is, so many teens don’t get help, either because they don’t realize they have depression, or because it’s hard for them to get help. Continue reading


    A Tale of Two Afterschool Programs, Part 1

    When my son started elementary school a couple of years ago, I was delighted to find that there was day care on the school grounds. He was in morning kindergarten, so he went there after school at 11 AM. I wasn’t crazy about how small the day care room was, but I was told that they used the playscape outside extensively. The big draw was that Lawrence was right there on school grounds, and would be picked up at the door to his classroom.

    In retrospect, I realize that we weren’t given any information about how discipline was handled, which I now know to be a red flag.

    Read on


    10 Things You Can Do This Month to Manage Your Depression

    Depression treatment can make a big difference, but it has to be managed. Many people with depression lack the motivation to pull together an effective treatment program, so if you feel like you’ve been thrashing around and getting nowhere, these suggestions might help you get on the right track.

    1. Assess your level of satisfaction with your doctor. Your doctor is a crucial element of successful treatment. Are you happy with yours? If you haven’t made progress, is it because your doctor doesn’t seem really engaged in your treatment? If you have a doctor who doesn’t listen to you, respect your right to ask questions and doesn’t seem to really care whether your depression is successfully treated, then it’s time to move on.

    2. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time for your next doctor visit. This is a good idea anytime you go to visit a doctor, but especially with depression, given how fuzzy it can make your thought processes. Continue reading