HF 4525

Depression: A Guide to Recognition and Treatment

What Is Depression?

It is an illness. It involves a person’s mood, thinking, body functions, and actions. Changes in these areas can last for weeks or months. People become upset because it can affect their ability to function.

Signs and Symptoms

Mood Changes

  • Feelings of being sad, blue, “down in the dumps,” or worried.

  • Loss of being able to feel pleasure.

  • Decreased interest with family, work, recreation and sex.

  • Thinking

  • Negative thoughts of the past, present, and future.

  • Low self-esteem.

  • Feelings of being helpless and hopeless.

  • Common thoughts of suicide.

  • Unable to focus, remember, and make decisions.

  • Anxiety and/or raised fears.

  • In severe depression, false beliefs and/or unreal sights, sounds or other feelings may occur.

Physical Functions

  • Appetite changes. Weight loss may result from eating less, but depressed people may eat more and gain weight.

  • Too much or too little sleep.

  • Chronic fatigue and decreased energy

  • Nausea, constipation, or diarrhea

  • Increased reports of aches and pains

Behavior Changes

Some people do not show any changes.

Others may be:

  • Tearful

  • Irritable

  • Move slow

  • Restless, pacing or hand wringing

  • Not being able to work or perform daily acts like dressing, eating, or washing

  • Depressed people are at a higher risk for suicide


Depression reacts well to treatment. Treatment depends on the type, its causes, and how serious. Treatment may include talking to experts, medicines, and/or ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). It may take many weeks before symptoms start to go away. The sooner a diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin.

Who to Call

For more information about the treatment of depression contact:

Depression Treatment at UW Health

(608) 263-6100

National Suicide Prevention line

1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-799-4889

National Alliance on Mental Illness
in Dane County

2059 Atwood Ave., Madison, WI