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What are the signs that someone is depressed?

Are you worried that someone you know is showing signs that they are depressed?  Find out the common symptoms and behaviours of depression to look for.

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all condition and affects people in a number of different ways. Having an understanding of the common signs and symptoms can help you to recognise when someone you care about may be depressed and may need to access support.

Physical and behavioural signs that someone is depressed

Becoming more isolated

Someone who is depressed may start to spend more time in their own company and isolate themselves from people they would usually speak with. You may notice that they no longer come along to group lunches or meals out, cancel social engagements or skip weekly activities that they once enjoyed such as movie nights, hobby groups or sports games. If you live with the person, you may also find that they isolate themselves in the house and are less involved in activities or outings.

Losing interest in responsibilities and relationships

As previously mentioned, an individual who is struggling with depression may avoid activities that they previously derived enjoyment from. They may also appear to lose interest in the people closest to them, such as their children, spouse or friends. They are also likely to have less motivation to complete everyday tasks, such as work and household chores, which either get ignored or require a lot of effort to complete.

Developing unhealthy patterns of behaviour

Someone who is depressed may start to develop unhealthy coping strategies. They may turn more regularly to alcohol or drugs in attempt to numb their feelings or give them a temporary release.

You may also find that they consume more caffeine and sugar, which can act as temporary mood boosters, or become more involved with social media, shopping or gambling as they attempt to escape their thoughts and feelings.

Frequently appearing sleepy and unenthusiastic

A person who is depressed may appear lethargic and seem to have little energy.

Depression can impact sleep in different ways. It can cause a person to struggle with insomnia, causing them to be drowsy during the day. Depression can also result in someone sleeping more than usual as they attempt to deal with their overwhelming feelings and fatigue.

Having a negative and hopeless outlook

The person you know may be more negative or pessimistic than usual, both about themselves and the world around them. They may also have a bleaker outlook, feel worthless or experience inappropriate guilt.

Depression can affect how a person feels about their life and the world around them. While most people will have positive and negative thoughts throughout a day, someone with depression is likely to constantly view the world negatively.

Being more irritable and angry

They may get more annoyed at minor frustrations and appear to be angrier towards others. As someone who is depressed has to deal with difficult emotions, they won’t have the energy to be patient or think objectively.

Being unable to focus or concentrate

The person may be more forgetful and indecisive, or may be unable to concentrate as well as they used to. As their mind is focused on their overwhelming negative thoughts, their focus and decision-making skills will be affected.

Changes in their appetite and weight

Some people with depression have an increased appetite and gain weight, whereas others have a decreased appetite and lose weight. Feeling sad, pessimistic or low about the future can result in a person turning to food for comfort. Alternatively, their feelings may leave them with no interest in food at all.

Seeing differences at home and in public

Not everyone experiences depression in the same way. In their day-to-day life, a person may seem happy, socialise and maintain their responsibilities. But maintaining this outward appearance while dealing with overwhelming fatigue and depressive thoughts can be difficult, and those closest to the person are likely to see that something isn’t quite right.

Supporting someone who is showing signs of depression

If someone is displaying signs that they may be depressed, make the time to talk to them. Even if you are uncertain of whether or not they do have depression, it is a conversation worth having.

Let them know that you love them and don’t want to see them suffer. Say that it’s something that you can work through together, and inform them of how they can seek help when they’re ready. When encouraging them to see their doctor, let them know that you will help them to prepare for the appointment so they know what to say and what questions to ask. You may also want to check if they want you to go with them.

Also ask if they want help with any specific tasks, such as doing housework, walking the dog or giving them lifts to work.

Then keep in touch with the person, even if it is via text or email, as this will show that you are thinking of them and are there if they need anything. Also, keep talking to them about everyday mundane things, as these conversations can help to relieve the pressure they are feeling and keep lines of communication open if they do want to talk about their thoughts and feelings. When they do talk to you, make sure that you actively listen. Taking this time can make a person feel less alone in the world.

Treatment for depression at Priory

Priory Group has hospitals and wellbeing centres across the UK that can provide people with support and treatment for depression on an inpatient, outpatient or day care basis.

Therapeutic methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) are used to help people develop a better understanding of their emotions and learn strategies to reduce them from a distressing level. Family or group therapy are also available so that people can build up their support network, and work through their difficulties in a compassionate setting.

Antidepressant medication may also be used alongside therapeutic elements of treatment.

At Priory Hospital North London, we are also able to offer a rapid acting programme in depression by triple chronotherapy (RAPID). This non-invasive treatment consists of a series of distinct components: wake therapy, phased sleep advance, and bright light therapy, which can significantly improve depression symptoms. Meanwhile at our Harley Street Wellbeing Centre, we also provide repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), another non-invasive treatment, where electro-magnetic fields work to stimulate the areas of the brain linked to mood control.

This page was reviewed by Dr Leon Rozewicz (MBBS, FRCPsych, MRCGP, MRCPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Priory Hospital North London.

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