5 Alarming Stages of Depression and Anxiety

Understanding the different stages of depression and anxiety is necessary because the consequences can be very severe if not identified as early as possible.

There are many times in our life when we want to leave everything behind and not do anything or the feeling where we are just following a routine without feeling an ounce of happiness taking over us.

If these feelings are short-term, they last for less than two weeks. They are not a problem. But if the symptoms of depression keep on extending for more than two weeks, it is advisable to get it treated. Depression is a chronic illness it lasts for three months or more.

Anxiety is a little different from depression. Depression is a type of mood disorder, while anxiety occurs due to excessive worrying and taking stress.

Many people think that if they are physically fit, nothing is wrong with them. But that is not the case, and mental health is equally as important as physical health, if not more.

anxiety attack
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Anxiety is our body’s response to various situations that can be stressful and overwhelming at times. A different set of events or places are known to trigger anxiety. There are three levels of anxiety which are described below.

Levels of Anxiety –

i) Mild Anxiety

This involves feeling shy in front of an audience, better termed social anxiety. Mild Anxiety, as the name suggests, is not that severe and can be controlled over time.

ii) Moderate Anxiety

When the feeling of being constantly on edge occurs almost daily for a long time, it is termed moderate anxiety over a month. This type of anxiety may require professional help or different coping strategies.

iii) Severe Anxiety

The last and final level of anxiety is very dangerous for mental health. Panic attacks become a regular occurrence when suffering from severe anxiety. Severe anxiety sometimes also contributes to developing major depression.


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Not every person will have the same symptoms of depression, and sometimes people do not even know that they are depressed and go on about their life by making themselves believe that everyone goes through it.

The symptoms of depression should not be taken lightly as they can pose a serious threat to our mental and physical well-being.

Before understanding different types of depression, it is important to identify different stages of depression. 

1. Stages of Depression

Nothing reaches its final stage on the first step; everything takes time to get to its endpoint, and depression is no exception.

There are various stages of depression that allow the person to assess the severity of their depressive state.

It is not compulsory to have reached all the stages of depression to be diagnosed with depression.

The following are the five stages of depression a person might go through in the initial phase.

1.1. Denial

Ignoring our feelings and emotions by thinking that they are normal and just a phase is the first step of our wrongdoing.

Never take your thoughts for granted, as it can become very difficult to gain control over them in the longer run.

stages of depression
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The preliminary stage of depression will make you ignore your feelings, depressed mood, and emotions, and you ought to overlook them to feel good for just a short period.

The refusal to accept your issue will not last long, and the earlier you accept them, the better it is for you to overcome the mental illness.

1.2. Anger

Once you have accepted that what you are feeling is not just a sad phase, the stages of depression reach their second step.

Feeling angry, irritated, and frustrated with everything going around, you will start to lash out at any chance possible.

When angry, you could say or do some things that are not needed, which you will regret later, adding them to your already stressed mind.

stages of depression
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You will not know the reason or the direction of your anger, whether you are angry at yourself or others, which will leave you frustrated. And gradually, you’ll start to distance yourself from others around you.

When the anger is directed towards yourself, why all this is happening to you arises, which can be very dangerous as many people turn to self-harm.

1.3. Bargaining

As the anger subsides, you start to bargain with your thoughts. Bargaining takes third place in the stages of depression. Making yourself believe that if you neglect your negative feelings and replace them with positive ones, everything will be fine is wrong.

Avoiding your emotions and feelings is never the best way to tackle them. The negative consequences of neglecting your emotions are seen in the longer run.

The underlying problem causing the negative thoughts and feelings to occur should be identified as early as possible to lessen its effect.

1.4. Defeated

When the bargaining stage does not work out, the stages of depression advance to the next step. If you have reached this point, then you have reached the depths of depression.

The thoughts around your head are so self-deprecating that it could become difficult for you to perform the daily tasks.

stages of depression
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Such a feeling of resignation makes you withdraw to your little shell and isolate yourself. Depression in this stage takes a severe form, and the warning signs should not be taken lightly.

1.5. Acceptance

The last and final stage of depression is acceptance. After going through all the different phases of ignoring your thoughts, you finally learn to accept them.

The concept that you have a mental illness is not easy to accept and hence, takes time, but the earlier you accept it, the better it will be for you.

When you have finally accepted depression, you will want to get treatment for the same, and it will be easier for the doctor and you to get treated successfully.

After reviewing the five different stages of depression, let’s move on to the different types of depression that a person might go through.

When people go through the five stages of depression, they also undergo various symptoms of depression that should not be taken lightly.

2. Symptoms of Depression

2.1. Negative Thoughts

stages of depression
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When people fall into depression, they start focusing only on the negative aspects of life. Their thought patterns change drastically and cloud their judgment.

Thoughts like ‘What is the point of life?’ cross our minds, making it difficult to carry out daily tasks and activities.

Even when everything is going smoothly, your negative thought pattern could force you to find a flaw in it, and overthinking about it makes it worse.

2.2. Severe Appetite Changes

Depression not only affects mental health but physical health is also compromised. When you feel low or sad, some people indulge in overeating, while some cut off food entirely.

stages of depression
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Both overeating and not eating at all are dangerous for our bodies. People who are in depression sometimes become overweight, anorexic, or develop other eating disorders.

Food is considered the fuel for our body and should never be neglected. A balanced diet with proper nutrition should be taken to keep the body healthy.

2.3. Changes in the Sleep Cycle

When the mind is in a whirlwind of emotions, sleep does not come easy to a person. But for some people, it is quite the opposite, and they do not want to get out of bed.

People with depression develop insomnia, where they cannot sleep at night at all, making them feel fatigued all the time. Stress and negative emotions are the reason people find it difficult to fall asleep.

stages of depression
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While for some people, sleeping becomes an escape from all these negative emotions. They tend to sleep for most of their day but still feel tired.

Changes in sleep patterns make the person irritable and leave them with no energy to complete their daily tasks.

2.4. Self-Criticism

Self-criticism is the most vicious among the symptoms of depression. You start to blame yourself for being depressed, believing that whatever is happening to you is your fault.

Somewhere in your mind, you know it is not true, but you have fallen so deep into depression that thinking right takes a backseat while you start focusing on all the negative aspects.

It starts with blaming the situation, then with the people involved, and lastly, criticizing yourself. You start feeling guilty about your thoughts, and your inability to perform daily life activities makes you frustrated.

2.5. Self-Destructive Thoughts

Self-criticism is necessary to lead a successful life, but when done excessively, it can lead to disturbing thoughts like self-harm and suicide.

It is advisable to get help before you reach this stage, as coming back from this stage of depression is no easy task and requires a lot of will.

A lot of people do self-harm. To stop thinking about all the gloomy thoughts, people turn to self-harm to focus on the pain rather than the irrelevant thoughts.

stages of depression
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Harming yourself is never the solution, and you are bound to regret it after you have recovered from depression. If you see yourself falling into the cycle of self-harming, get help immediately.

Many people turn to bad habits like substance abuse which in turn worsens their condition. Consuming alcohol, drug abuse, and smoking could make depressive episodes more severe and frequent.

3. Types of Depression

3.1. Bipolar Disorder

Formerly called manic depression, bipolar disorder causes extreme highs and lows, called mania or hypomania 1and depression.

The mood alternates between highs and lows, one being in a euphoric state while the other being in a depressive state.

stages of depression
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Bipolar disorder has the following symptoms:

  • Decrease in sleep.
  • Self-destructive behaviour
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overjoyed
  • Sudden bursts of confidence.

Bipolar disorder is diagnosed when a person has experienced a manic episode and a depressive episode before or after it.

It becomes difficult for a person with bipolar disorder to keep their emotions in check as at one moment they could be happy while at another, the feeling of sadness will wash over them.

Bipolar disorder can also make a person delusional and have hallucinations.

3.2. Major Depression

Major depression is a condition that almost everyone goes through once in their lifetime. When it becomes a recurring condition, it can be problematic.

Major Depression is also sometimes known as clinical depression. It has the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in falling and staying asleep or sleeping too much
  • Less energy, feeling tired
  • Lack of concentration
  • Inability to remember things
  • Less participation in enjoyable activities
  • Feeling sad and gloomy
  • Anxiety
  • Intense sadness
  • Self-destructive thoughts
  • Changes in eating habits

Major depression can happen to anyone at any point in their life. Everything around you can be perfect; you could have a job, a family, a house, and all the other things but still suffer from a major depressive disorder.

Hence, it is difficult for people to identify the person going through major depression while they slowly wither away in front of them.

Even the person going through major depressive disorder might not be able to identify and accept their symptoms. Despite having everything, one could wonder why they are still having these disturbing thoughts.

The symptoms of major depressive disorder can last for a short time to a lifetime, and it is different for everyone.

Clinical depression is known to cause hindrances in living a normal life; the professional, as well as the personal life, is negatively affected.

3.3. Perinatal Depression

Perinatal Depression occurs during pregnancy or right after childbirth. Perinatal Depression which occurs after childbirth, is sometimes also referred to as postpartum depression.

Everyone is aware of the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy. These hormonal changes are the main cause of the development of perinatal and postpartum 2depression.

stages of depression
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The symptoms of perinatal depression are as follows:

  • Exhaustion
  • Grief
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Constant worry about the health of the baby
  • Feeling you are not taking enough care of the baby
  • Having second thoughts about the baby

Perinatal and postpartum depression symptoms are somewhat the same as major depression and can be very severe.

Developing perinatal depression is harmful to the health of the mother and the baby.

A person who has suffered from depression before or does not get emotional support during pregnancy is at a higher risk of perinatal depression, but it can happen to anyone.

3.4. Seasonal Depression

As the name suggests, seasonal depression occurs in certain seasons, mostly in the winter months. Seasonal depression, also called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD3), is a type of major depression in particular seasons.

The cause of seasonal depression happening in the winter months is associated with shorter days and less sunlight. Nature plays a big part in improving our mental illness.

stages of depression
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The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are the same as major depression, but during the winter months, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Fatigue
  • Less energy
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling sad almost every day
  • Having suicidal thoughts
  • Sleep problems (oversleeping or not sleeping at all)

Seasonal Affective disorder, for most people, starts in the fall or the early winter and ends with the onset of spring and summer.

3.5. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

The first step is to understand that Premenstrual Dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is not the same as Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

PMDD is more severe than PMS as the person can get self-harming and suicidal thoughts during or before starting their period.

Stages of depression
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Symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder are as follows:

  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Breast pain
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite changes
  • Irritability
  • Intense mood swings
  • Feeling of sadness

The symptoms of PMDD start showing after ovulation and generally stop once you have your period.

PMDD should not be mistaken for PMS. Both occur due to hormonal changes, but PMDD 4should be treated with utmost care.

3.6. Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder is a type of chronic depression that can last up to many years. Such depression is also called dysthymia or chronic depression.

The symptoms of persistent Depressive Disorder are as follows:

  • Lack of interest in daily activities.
  • Low self-esteem and confidence
  • Feeling gloomy all the time
  • Appetite changes
  • Worrying all the time
  • Anxiety
  • Avoiding social outings
  • Isolating oneself
  • Less energy

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

The symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder are less dangerous and intense than major depression, and their intensity can change over time.

Sometimes a major depressive episode happens before or during Persistent Depression which is called double depression.

3.7. Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression is a type of major depressive disorder with additional psychotic symptoms.

The symptoms of Psychotic Depression are as follows:

  • Delusions: Creating a false reality and believing the same. The false reality is embedded with negative thoughts that have no connection with the real world.
  • Hallucination: Seeing and hearing things that are not present or real. The voices that people hear make them fall into a world of self-doubt where they start questioning their every move and decision.
  • Paranoia: Believing that everyone out there is going to harm you in some way or another.
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling agitated

Treatment of psychotic depression should be done as early as possible as it can lead a person to mania and eventually suicide.

3.8. Atypical Depression

Can a Depressed Person Have Good Days? - Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is a type of depression with some atypical features relative to all the other different types of depression.

When suffering from atypical depression, people respond greatly to positive events and news, but the depressed mood returns right after it.

The symptoms of atypical depression are as follows:

  • Oversleeping but still feeling tired
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Various body pain and aches
  • Heaviness in your body
  • Sensitive to rejection and criticism

It is difficult for others to identify if you are suffering from atypical depression. The mood can brighten easily when required, but the depressive mood that returns can be very severe and intense.

3.9. Situational Depression

Also known as reactive depression, situation depression occurs after a traumatic event or major life changes. Stress is the main cause of developing this type of depression.

The traumatic events leading to situational depression are as follows:

  • Difficulties at school or work
  • Death of your family members, friends, and loved ones
  • Having a serious or life-threatening illness
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial difficulties

Situational Depression

Situational depression symptoms are as follows:

  • Trouble concentrating and focusing
  • Being in a constant state of worry
  • Poor sleeping schedule
  • Difficulty in remembering things
  • Feeling sad most of the time
  • Crying regularly
  • Withdrawing from social commitments
  • Changes in appetite

Whenever a traumatic event takes place, it is normal to feel stressed and anxious5, but when the symptoms last for months, it takes the form of situational depression.

4. Warning Signs

The symptoms of different types and stages of depression are different, but some common symptoms or signs could warn you if you have started developing depression.

  • Bad temper
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Losing interest in doing things that were once pleasurable.
  • Having disturbing thoughts about suicide and self-harm.
  • Being anxious that everything will go wrong.
  • Hallucinating or becoming delusional.
  • Bad eating habits.

These warning signs should not be taken lightly as they are your body’s indication of showing that something is wrong and in need of help.

5. Treatment of Depression

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The first step is to identify which type of depression you are suffering from and to reach this step, the stages of depression should be considered.

If you think you may be suffering from any depression6, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor or therapist. The treatment should be done in the early stages to recover quickly and effectively.

The mental health professional may give you antidepressant medication based on the type and severity of your depression. A medicine called Ketamine has also shown positive results in curing depression and anxiety efficiently.

Feeling ashamed or less about yourself for getting help is a very wrong mindset. As physical wounds require medicine, mental illness wounds created in our minds also need the proper medication and treatment.

If you can, allow your family and friends to help in this journey of recovery from depression. Share your thoughts with them, do not keep them bottled up. At this time, a good support system has the utmost importance as it will never allow you to feel alone.

If you liked this article, here is something more.

  1. Gill, Nav, Adam Bayes, and Gordon Parker. “A review of antidepressant-associated hypomania in those diagnosed with unipolar depression—risk factors, conceptual models, and management.” Current Psychiatry Reports 22 (2020): 1-8. ↩︎
  2. Wang, Ziyi, et al. “Mapping global prevalence of depression among postpartum women.” Translational psychiatry 11.1 (2021): 543. ↩︎
  3. Baldassarre, Antonio, et al. “Stigma and discrimination (SAD) at the time of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.” International journal of environmental research and public health 17.17 (2020): 6341. ↩︎
  4. Dubol, Manon, et al. “Neuroimaging premenstrual dysphoric disorder: a systematic and critical review.” Frontiers in neuroendocrinology 57 (2020): 100838. ↩︎
  5. Mariani, Rachele, et al. “The impact of coping strategies and perceived family support on depressive and anxious symptomatology during the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) lockdown.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 11 (2020): 587724. ↩︎
  6. Thapar, Anita, et al. “Depression in young people.” The Lancet 400.10352 (2022): 617-631. ↩︎

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