How often have you asked a friend or family member to just ‘Snap out of it!’ when they seemed down? Probably also suggested doing something fun to cheer them up or to count their many blessings? Sometimes it can be as simple as that if they are upset over a trivial issue but sometimes the problem could be rooted much deeper and much more difficult to just snap out of.
Feeling down or sad from time to time is absolutely normal. But if these feelings last for two weeks or more, or start affecting everyday life, it could be a sign of depression. People can exhibit symptoms of depression in many ways: sadness, irritability, social withdrawal, self-destructive behavior, loss of interest in activities, change in appetite, and change in sleep patterns. Rather than determining if your loved one is depressed based on one symptom or another, I would recommend noting any significant change in the person’s behaviour, mood, or personality.
Depression can develop slowly and it’s usually people around who observe change in behaviour and mood before the depressed person does. If you feel like you know someone dear who you think is depressed, here are some concrete signs to look out for with the two aspects of their mind and body:
● Continuous low mood or sadness, at times despite nothing majorly having gone wrong
● Loss of interest in doing things they normally enjoy
● Hopelessness and helplessness – constantly feeling not good enough (low self-esteem) and that no matter how hard they try they can never achieve anything
● Feel irritable and intolerant of others, have frequent outbursts and crying spells for trivial issues
● Unable to make decisions or accept changes in their life
● Extremely self-critical and feeling guilt-ridden – E.g. Make statements like “I can never do anything right”
● Unable to structure thoughts or think positively, have low motivation and increased dependency on loved ones
● Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming themselves
● Extreme anxiety and worry about small things
● Getting no enjoyment out of life – think of survival one day at a time
● Trouble concentrating on everyday things, such as watching television or reading the paper
● Lethargy – tired despite being home and resting all day
● Slower speech and movements or more fidgety and restless than usual
● Sleep changes – can’t sleep well at night and hence might wake up later than usual or is sleeping more than usual, missing work/college
● Changes in appetite – overeating or loss of appetite
● Unexplained aches and pains
● Loss of interest in sex or spending time with loved ones preferring isolation
Depression is neither a choice, a character flaw, nor anyone’s fault. It is a disease and should be treated like any other ailment. Old prejudices about mental illness may restrict people from seeking counsel or they might not even think of it as depression and link it to saddening events. Depression can leave the person feeling alienated and this is where you come in. The people closest owe it to gently urge the depressed person to seek professional help.
A depressed person does require special care, patience, and attention but this doesn’t mean sacrificing your entire life. It can be as simple as offering a shoulder to lean on, a strong listening ear, sharing a meal, or words of encouragement. Depression can be a difficult condition to manage, but isn’t impossible and with the right help it can be contained and in time you can have your loved one back to their usual loving chirpy self.