The DSM-5 characterises depression as a change in mood. It recognises 4 categories:

  • Major depressive disorder – server but short term
  • Persistent depressive disorder – long term and/or reoccurring
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – extreme irritability and recuring temper outbursts in children
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder – change in mood pre/pose menstruation

Behaviour Characteristics

Acitvity Levels

Those suffering with depression often suffer with low energy levels and lethargy. This may mean they are less likely to go out, go to work/school and appropriate in normal daily activities. However, some may suffer from the reserve and become more energetic due to agitation. They may struggle to relax and try to keep busy, pace around etc….

Change in Sleep and Eating Habbits

They may also suffer from a change in sleep and eating habits. There is no consistent change here as some sufferers may eat too much and other may not eat much at all. Alternatively, some may struggle with their sleep and suffer from insomnia where others may sleep too much, hypersomnia.


Suffers of depression may also experience an increase in anger. This can show itself in different ways. They may become irritable and angry with those around them, and this could affect relationships, both work and romantic which would have a knock on effect on their quality of life. They may also direct the anger towards themselves and self-harm.

Emotional Characteristics

Low Mood

This is a common characteristic for depression. When those with depression experience low mood they can describe themselves as feeling worthless and its persistent and on-going leading to the behaviours mentioned above.


Individuals may also feel anger. The levels of anger may get extreme, and we see the aggressive behaviours directed at those around them or themselves in the form of self-harm.

Low Self-esteem

Suffers are also often describe themselves in a negative way, showing know self-esteem. They do not feel they are good enough, unattractive, unsuccessful, worthless etc… They are unable to challenge these emotions themselves due to the cognitive characteristics of depression.

Cognitive Characteristics

Poor concentration

Those with depression may suffer with poor concentration They are unable to focus on tasks for long or make decisions correctly. This could have a detrimental impact on work/school and social interactions. They may appear uninterested or unfocused in a situation, fail to work to deadlines, compete work to a good standard etc…

Dwell on the Negative

With depression you are also more likely to pay attention to the negative aspects of a situation, their glass is half empty rather than half full. They are also more likely to recall negative events and situations over positive ones and continue to dwell over them.

Absolutist thinking

Suffers of depression may also see a negative issue as more negative than it actual is. Something that for most would seem very trivial can be seen as a complete disaster. For example, failing a test by a small margin and seeing themselves as stupid and worthless. Another example could be winning a large some of money on the lottery but then feeling negative about it as the previous weeks’ winnings were much higher, they see and exaggerate the worst in a situation.