We’ve been exploring what it means to have mental health and wellbeing. Everybody has their own obstacles in achieving wellbeing, and people that suffer from depression may struggle in silence for weeks, months, or even years. Knowing the warning signs of depression can help you identify your loved ones or friends that may need support through a very difficult time.
Depression is a condition that goes beyond normal sadness or grief. And it can have several different causes, such as chronic disease or pain, seasonal onset, postpartum hormones, trauma, stress, thyroid problems, and many others. Further, depression can look different from person to person. Here are 13 common symptoms of depression that may warning signs that a loved one is suffering from depression and needs support.
1. Sudden and drastic changes in sleep or eating patterns
Sleep and proper diet are the foundations of our physical and mental health. When a person changes the way they eat or sleep in significant ways, that could be a sign that something is wrong. Depression may cause a person to be unable to fall or stay asleep, resulting in very few hours of rest. Or a person could find themselves sleeping too much, upwards of 12-15 hours a day. Similarly, depression often causes people to either lose their appetite altogether (to the point that a person may go several days without eating), or to begin overeating (often referred to as “self medicating” with food).
2. Spends more time alone and makes reasons to be alone
When depression hits, people often feel completely drained of energy. They retreat in order to save what energy they do have. Even close friends and loved ones may find the person coming up with odd reasons why not to spend time with them. And when when a person with depression does spend time with people, they tend to have a more “forced” happy face while being less optimistic or positive than normal.
3. Changes in emotions
People often report feeling empty or void of emotions and purpose. They may not feel sad, or depressed, or anxious, or happy, or scared, or angry, or…. anything. This apathy is often hard to hide, and friends and family might notice by the sudden lack of emotions or drive that the person usually has.
While some people show “emptiness,” others could become overly emotional. They may cry without knowing why they are crying. Or a person that is usually calm and collected may suddenly be easily angered or irritable, even over small matters. The emotional reactions are more intense than what is normal for the person, or what you would expect from the situation.
4. They aren’t interested in things they used to be interested in
When a person suddenly loses interest in things they once loved, that is another big sign that something could be wrong. Especially when they lose interest in more than one thing. Children may no longer care about their pets or favorite toys. Teens might suddenly not care about grades or sports. And adults may lose interest in their jobs, relationships, or hobbies.
5. They are more tired than normal
Fatigue is the general feeling of tiredness, both physically and mentally. People may feel tired even if they have been oversleeping. While sleepiness and coffee addictions are normal in our society, fatigue from depression is deeper than normal. It could even result in that person not being able to get out of bed in the mornings.
6. Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or remembering things
A brain with depression has less brain activity and stimulation. Unsurprisingly, this can result in problems with focus, memory, and thinking. Your friend or loved one may also be more slow in their speech or movements than normal. If someone is suddenly unable to remember simple information, responds slowly, or seems unable to concentrate, this is another hidden sign that they may have depression.
7. They make general statements of being worthless, feel overly guilty, or blame themself for things outside their control
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and low self esteem are big indicators that a person may have depression or another mental health problem. In fact, even just having these thoughts and feelings, regardless of what caused them in the first place, can make the person even more certain that their self-defeating beliefs are “facts.” People may display these feelings and thoughts in conversations, through art, or in homework assignments.
8. They ponder about life and death. Or even talk or joke about suicide.
Any mention of suicide should always be taken seriously. Especially because a person might “joke” about it in an attempt to let someone know what is going on in their minds. If a friend or loved one is suddenly dwelling on the idea of death, news articles containing death and despair, or talks often about the meaning of life, this could be a sign they are having a darker internal struggle.
9. They have unexplained physical pain
Many people experience physical symptoms that have “no logical explanation” from a medical standpoint. These could include: headaches, pain in their stomach, back, or shoulders, and gastrointestinal pain. These physical symptoms are not “just in their head,” they are real pain being caused by the depression. Most often, when the depression is treated successfully, the physical pain also leaves.
Depression is a serious but treatable disease. If you suspect that your friend or loved one may be depressed, make sure to let them know that you are there for them. Ask them – and I mean really ask them – how they are doing. Show your support and let them know there is nothing wrong or shameful about being depressed. Help them find treatment, if they are open to it and want your help.
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression or any other mental health concerns, please contact me at (531) 289-8246. Together we can determine what the right course of treatment might look like.