Despite the fact that depression is the most common mental illness, it can in fact be difficult to tell if someone is depressed. How someone experiences depression can vary, and can depend upon factors such as social upbringing, environment, and personality. Some may experience many signs and symptoms of depression, but not be acting or behaving in a way that is consistent with how they are truly feeling. This may not always be the case, though. Here are some signs to look for in yourself or loved ones that tell if they have depression.
Some signs a friend is depressed can be that they seem to have a more hopeless outlook on life. Whether that is through how and what they communicate to you, or their actions. This could look specifically like not talking about or addressing the future, indicating that there is limited or nothing good in their life, or actively not taking care of themselves. Hygiene may suffer in some people with depression. It can feel hard to take time to tend to basic needs if there is little hope for the future. If you are able to actively listen to someone who you suspect may be suffering from depression, look for feelings of guilt, self-hatred, or worthlessness.
Depression also leads you to find little to no pleasure in activities you once enjoyed. If you notice friends or loved ones avoiding or appearing displeased doing things that once was fun and engaging, this could be a sign of depression. Depression can feel so physically and emotionally draining, that even things someone loves can feel unbearable. Another area where someone may lose interest in is sex; sex drive and desire can be decreased if someone has a depressive episode.
Increased fatigue, difficulty getting out of bed, or spending most of the day sleeping can be an indication of depression. This could look like someone showing up late for school or work because of oversleeping or feeling like they can’t get out of bed. They could be falling asleep in class, during meetings, or at points throughout the day. Depression is also linked with insomnia, as one might lead to the other and vice versa. Also, if there is a lack of quality, restful sleep, this could also lead to the presence of, or increased, anxiety.
Depression can also lead to physical sensations and behaviors that impact someone’s weight. Some may experience lack of appetite, eat less, and end up losing some weight. Others may eat more than they usually do to find some fleeting feelings of pleasure or due to an increased appetite, which could lead to gaining some weight. If there are changes in someone’s body as a result of depression, this could impact body image. Negative body image, through any change in the body, can have a negative impact on mood as well.
While thinking about death on a broader scale can be normal, thinking about your death in more specific detail can be worrisome. It is quite common with depression to have suicidal thinking. Suicidal thinking can range from thinking about death to actively planning ways to die. If you hear friends or family discussing any topic around death, especially in conjunction with other depressive symptoms, it may be a sign of depression. It may be uncomfortable for people to address suicidal thinking to someone who they suspect to be depressed. However, it is helpful to note that you bringing this up, will almost surely not be the first time they have thought about depression. It is highly unlikely that you will “plant the seed” for talking about suicide. The pain and agony that depression can bring, unfortunately, can lead to suicide. Here are a few specific things to look for that may indicate your loved one has had more active thoughts about suicide:
- Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
- Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
- Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
- Comments such as “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out”
- Mood changes, i.e., being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy
Some people may also not exhibit any of these signs to indicate suicidal thinking. That is why even when you suspect other depressive symptoms, it is still okay to ask if they are thinking about suicide. While it may feel uncomfortable in the moment, it is likely coming from a place of kindness and compassion. Another important factor to remember, is that you don’t need to understand how they feel exactly. If you don’t talk and just listen, this may all your loved one needs to feel heard and find strength to continue to fight the depression.
Treating Depression With No Side Effects
When it comes to depression treatment, many people feel they don’t want to take medications for it because of the multiple negative side effects some of those medications can present. Good news is there are ways to treat depression without medication, such as psychotherapy and TMS therapy.
TMS therapy is highly recommended when medications and psychotherapy are not being effective. It is a non-invasive, outpatient based, brain stimulation treatment that places magnetic coils on the forehead. These coils send targeted magnetic impulses that stimulate nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex, specifically the left prefrontal cortex, as this area is often responsible for controlling mood. Research and clinical trials show that these impulses have a positive impact on neurotransmitters in the brain that ultimately decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety caused by depression for an extended period of time. TMS therapy is not only side-effect free, but it’s also pain-free, covered by most insurance, and FDA cleared.
This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Depression. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/topics/depression/
Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs. (2020, April 6). Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.htm
The Healthline Editorial Team. (2019, March 21). Signs of Depression. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/recognizing-symptoms