When someone you love is in pain, you sense it immediately. Something in the way he or she talks, moves, or looks at you alerts you and spurs you to reach out.
You can see that this is more than the blues or a bad couple of weeks. He or she is hurting deeper than you can really see or they are willing to share. The person you knew seems lost and withdrawn.
Is this depression? How can you help?
Look and listen for the following signs:
- General Negativity. Your loved one seems unable to see the brighter side of any situation. His or her mood and comments are pessimistic and the overall attitude is discouraged and resigned.
- Anger. You notice that it doesn’t take much to aggravate or irritate your friend or family member now. He or she has a very short fuse. Short tempered, possibly even violent, outbursts have become commonplace.
- Low Self-worth. When you listen to your loved one talk about his or her life, the number of criticisms, harsh put-downs, and self-deprecating comments concern you. Whether he or she is referencing his or her own physical characteristics, abilities, or relationships, your loved one doesn’t seem to have anything positive or complimentary to say.
- Loss of Interest. Pleasurable activities are suddenly too much work. Your loved one no longer pursues the hobbies or activities he or she used to love. Invitations to go on outings, travel, or attend community events are repeatedly turned down for solitary time at home, surfing the web, or video games.
- Food/Weight Issues. How your loved one deals with food may be an important indicator of his or her emotional state. If you notice significant weight loss or gain over a short period of time, he or she may be using food to manage the emotional pain.
- Forgetfulness or Trouble Making Decisions. Your friend or family member seems to struggle to stay focused. Mundane things appear to be a challenge. He or she is constantly forgetting things at home or leaving things behind when you go out. He or she may seem indecisive or distracted when talking with you.
- Loss of Energy. From the outside it looks as if your loved one’s life has slowed to a turtle’s pace. He or she seems exhausted most of the time. Sleep never seems to revive or re-energize. Even his or her speech seems slower. He or she is always drained and lethargic.
- Sleep problems. If you share a home with your loved one, it may appear that, despite the fatigue, rest doesn’t come easy. You may notice insomnia hinders his or her ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, exacerbating the cycle of low energy and problems with concentration. On the other hand, perhaps all he or she wants to do is sleep, also known as hypersomnia.
- Mystery Illness or Pain. Depression can be physically painful. You may hear frequent complaints of headaches, stomach problems, or muscle pain. You might also notice an increase in your loved ones’ doctor visits, with no conclusive clear medical diagnoses.
- Suicidal Thoughts or Statements. Any comment referencing self-harm or suicide, no matter how off-hand or flippant, should not be ignored. If your friend is hurting enough to mention suicide, he or she needs your help and professional attention immediately.
If many of these symtpoms sound all too familiar and confirm your suspicions, your friend or family member is lucky to have you. Encourage your friend or family member to call an experienced counselor for help right away. Clinical depression doesn’t go away on its own.