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While the picture of depression may differ from person to person, there are several common symptoms. Most people who are depressed feel sadness, describing themselves as feeling "miserable", "empty" or "hopeless", and report getting little if any pleasure from anything. Many also experience anxiety, anger, or agitation. Depressed people lose the desire to engage in everyday activities, and may have to force themselves to go to school or work, to talk to friends, eat meals, or have sex. Beck (1967) described this state as a "paralysis of will". Some may experience suicidal thoughts as a way of ultimately escaping their pain. They have lost the will to live, or see ending their lives as the only solution to their troubles.

Depressed people are usually less active and productive. They spend more time alone and may stay in bed for long periods. Insomnia, trouble falling asleep, or early wakening are common symptoms. Some experience hypersomnia, and feel that they can't get enough sleep, sometimes sleeping most of the day. People with depression may move and speak more slowly, with a lack of energy.

Finally, depressed people hold extremely negative views of themselves and their world, usually convinced that they will never improve and are helpless to change anything. They often feel that their intellectual abilities are poor; they feel confused, unable to remember things; they are easily distracted, and have difficulty solving even small problems. They may experience physical symptoms, such as increased headaches, indigestion, constipation, dizziness, muscle pain, and a change in appetite.

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