Although people experience depression differently, there are some general symptoms. Identifying these is an important first step in supporting a loved one with depression.
You should look for:
- Mood changes: Someone with depression will be experiencing a low mood and/or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities that previously bought them joy.
- Changes in appetite which can lead to weight fluctuations.
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Constant feelings of fatigue.
- Delayed motor functioning (slow movement)
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideas which may include specific plans or even an actual attempt. (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V)
Someone with depression needs a “safe space” and you can provide this. Listen, and don’t ask them to explain their feelings or try to problem-solve them. Sometimes there are external factors that lead to depression, but it can also be caused by a chemical imbalance that has nothing to do with external factors. Avoid questions like “Why are you sad?” These are seldom helpful. Instead, ask “How long have you been feeling this way?”, or “when is the last time you ate? Can I bring you something to eat?” This will help your loved one feel heard and cared for.
If your loved one seeks treatment, your support during this process will be important. Notice when they are using tools gained through therapy to manage their symptoms of depression and celebrate their success. This helps the person feel that their efforts are being recognized. Say things like: “I am so proud of you for trying”, or “ I see your efforts to get better, you’re doing so well!”. Progress in the treatment of depression can be indicated through an improvement in handling day-to-day activities, such as getting up promptly after awakening, brushing teeth, expressing positive thoughts about the future, and keeping appointments.
In some cases of depression, people may express a desire to “disappear”. This is not a harmless statement but expresses a passive suicidal thought. It is important to be aware of the signs of nascent suicidal intent. These include::
- Preoccupation with thoughts of death- frequently talking about death
- Self-harming behavior such as cutting or hitting themselves
- Suddenly acquiring some means of suicide including drugs, guns, etc.
- Indicating that they are getting their affairs in order by giving away their belongings, and saying their goodbyes to friends and family.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which provides free, confidential support 24/7.
If you’d like to get some support from one of our therapists, contact us today to schedule a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation or to book an appointment.
I am a passionate and driven therapist who is committed to helping you achieve your mental health goals. My goal is to provide you with a safe space that will encourage you to explore your struggles, gain insight, challenge assumptions and beliefs about yourself, and appreciate your successes. As a therapist, I specialize in working with individuals facing issues related to anxiety, depression, trauma, stressful life changes, communication, relationships, and social justice.