How to Identify Depression in Other People: Signs to Spot
The Mayo Clinic defines depression as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 16.1 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2015. That number has steadily increased over the years. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and significantly contributes to suicide. That’s why it’s increasingly important to pay attention to the warning signs.
Despite these facts, only one-third of people with this mental health disorder receive depression treatment. There are many signs of depression, varying from person to person. However, there are common signs that most people with depression will exhibit.
What Are the Telltale Signs of Depression?
One of the most common signs of depression is fatigue. People with depression often report feeling tired, even after a full night's sleep. They may find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and struggle to concentrate or find the energy to perform everyday activities.
nother common sign of depression is withdrawal from social activities. People with depression may start to avoid friends and family and stop doing things they used to enjoy. As a result, they may become isolated and spend more time alone.
One of the subtler signs of depression is a change in appetite. Some people with depression lose their appetite and weight, while others find they comfort eat and gain weight. Depression can also cause changes in sleeping patterns. Some people with depression sleep too much, while others find it hard to sleep.
People with depression may also experience despair, hopelessness, and worthlessness. They may feel like there is no point in carrying on and that their situation will never improve. These negative thoughts can be very distressing and can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors in some cases.
Irritability is another common sign of depression. People with depression may snap at friends or family members for no reason or become easily annoyed by small things. They may also suffer from mood swings, feeling happy one minute and then sad or angry the next.
Another subtle sign of depression is a change in mood or outlook, known as perspective on life. People with depression may start to avoid everything they typically enjoyed doing. This causes fractious interpersonal relationships, job losses, and declines in academic performance. For so many reasons, it’s imperative that the support networks are aware of these subtle and overt changes. Once we know what to look for, it becomes easier to identify depression.
What Can Friends, Family, and Colleagues Do?
If the person you are worried about is open to talking about their feelings, you can ask some questions to help you gauge whether or not they are suffering from depression. For example, you could ask how they have been sleeping, whether they have lost or gained weight recently, if they have been experiencing any changes in mood swings or irritability, or if they have been withdrawing from social activities.
You could also look out for any changes in behavior, such as neglecting their appearance, letting their home fall into disarray, outgoing becoming withdrawn, etcetera. For example, if the person appears reluctant to talk about their feelings, they may fear being seen as weak or a burden.
In this case, you could try normalizing the conversation by sharing your experiences with anxiety or stress. This lets them know it's okay not to feel perfect all the time and reassures them that whatever it is they're going through, you're here for them.
If you're unsure how to deal with someone you suspect is depressed, the best thing to do is to have a heart-to-hear conversation with them. This is sometimes difficult because depressed people may not wish to discuss their feelings. They may shut themselves off from everyone else. But that’s your cue right there. When something is amiss, it’s best to act quickly to get them the help they need.
If the person appears reluctant to talk about how they're feeling, they may be afraid of being seen as weak or a burden. In this case, you could try normalizing the conversation by sharing your experiences with anxiety or stress. This lets them know it's okay not to always feel perfect. Lend your support – that's the first step in the process.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible.