How to Recognize Signs of Depression in a Friend

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 16 million adults in the U.S. live with clinical depression. Unfortunately, almost half of those suffering from depression never receive any form of treatment. One of the reasons why so many people do not receive treatment is that the signs of depression aren’t obvious in many cases.

Symptoms of depression can sometimes be confused with normal reactions to negative events. The end of a relationship, a job loss, or financial problems can take their toll on someone’s sense of well-being and it’s not unusual to be emotionally affected. In some cases, it may be up to a friend to recognize the signs of depression and guide the individual to getting the treatment they need. Doing so could prevent the situation from progressing to the point where the individual suffers major impairment.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression in Someone You Know

A medical degree isn’t required to learn the signs of clinical depression. The ability to recognize the difference between depression and temporarily feeling blue is a matter of knowing the tell-tale signs of depression and having some awareness of the individual’s normal habits and attitudes. There are several behavioral clues that can indicate a friend has been afflicted with depression. Here are some of the signs to look for:

  • A Loss of Confidence and an Unexpected Negative Outlook About the Future can indicate that a friend is suffering from depression. When someone you know who is normally self-confident and optimistic demonstrates an unusual and prolonged negative outlook, it can be a sign that your friend is battling a case of clinical depression.
  • Frequent Displays of Anger, Impatience, and Irritability may point to something much more serious taking place than someone having a string of really bad days. What was once ordinary and daily challenges may have begun to take on the nature of major obstructions or setbacks and your friend is displaying the associated negative reactions.
  • Losing Interest in Activities and Things That Were Previously Enjoyed can be a symptom of depression. You may notice that your friend no longer has any interest in what was once rewarding and always looked forward to. This can include a loss of interest in certain hobbies, pastimes, or social activities.
  • Frequent Binge Eating can be an indicator of clinical depression. Although it’s not completely abnormal for someone to occasionally overindulge in a favorite food, doing so compulsively and repeatedly can be an attempt to find distraction or relief from a painful emotional state that won’t go away.
  • A Continuing Loss of Appetite is another effect on a person’s otherwise normal eating habits that can be brought on by depression. With no physical ailment affecting them, the individual could lose their appetite despite having previously been a healthy and happy eater. A warning signal that may raise suspicion of depression is a lack of regard for negative health consequences. This would be particularly relevant if someone was previously conscientious about their health.
  • Repeatedly Feeling Responsible or Guilty When Things Go Wrong can indicate that someone is misinterpreting events and seeing them in a self-incriminating way. Depression can cause people to blame themselves when the primary cause of a negative outcome is an outside factor or another person’s actions.
  • Expressing Suicidal Preoccupations or Thoughts can be an obvious warning sign that someone is experiencing a serious bout of depression. Circumstances could become urgent and hearing such thoughts expressed should prompt you to urge the individual to seek professional help as soon as they can. It could be a big mistake to assume that people who talk about causing harm to themselves don’t actually go through with it.
  • An Unexpected Withdrawal from Friends, Family, and Social Activities without any apparent sign of a physical illness could point to someone grappling with depression. This typically results in an individual pulling away and withdrawal from others is a common sign of depression. It can also cause things to worsen.

How You Can Help a Friend Suffering from Depression

If you have a friend suffering from depression, it can be difficult to know how to best help them. Fortunately, there are several easy ways in which you can support them. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Encouraging the Individual to Seek Professional Help is a great place to start. Help your friend search for a treatment center or therapist in your local area. Consider offering to join them for a consultation visit to provide emotional support.
  • Educating Yourself on Depression and Mental Illness is another great step to take. Learn more about what your friend may be experiencing and the effect it is having on him or her. It may help you identify new or better ways you can help them.
  • Helping Your Friend Identify Stressors can be key in tackling depression. Stressors that worsen depression can come from many areas of everyday life, including work, family, or school. Identifying and possibly removing these stressors may help in long-term recovery.

Most importantly, consistently remind your friend that they are not alone, and you are there for them when they need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. Clinical depression is a serious mental illness that can have debilitating effects on one’s family, work, and social lives. Being the support pillar for a friend suffering from depression can have lasting positive effects and can be crucial in helping them get the help and treatment they need.


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