Identifying Depression in Yourself and Others

Written by Ruth Hansen

Are you or someone you love struggling to feel joy in life? Maybe you are feeling overwhelming fatigue and lack of focus. Perhaps there is no interest in activities that used to bring excitement and pleasure. All of these are signs you may be dealing with depression.

man dealing with depression

Medical News Today reports that over 16.1 million adults in the United States are affected by major depression each year. About 1.9 million children and youth have been diagnosed with depression. It is very likely that you or someone you love is currently experiencing depression.

Depression is described as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest. There are many forms of depression that vary in symptoms and severity.

Sad woman on other side of the window

For me, it came in the form of postpartum depression that occurred when stressful life circumstances coincided with the delivery of one of my children. At the time I didn’t even realize the depression was there. I had just had a sweet little baby but was unable to find joy in life until one day I felt SO much better. My circumstances hadn’t changed but the dark cloud surrounding me had lifted.

In watching my loved ones, depression came as a good friend struggled for over 10 years with severe symptoms, unable to find meaning with the family and life she had created. Then a sister, dealing with undiagnosed medical issues and illness found depression weighing heavily and coping nearly impossible. One of my children struggled with having any desire to move forward on any good things in their life. Depression had brought low energy, lack of focus, and apathy.

Do any of these stories sound familiar?

lonely boy with depression

Symptoms

If you are wondering if you, or someone you love, may be experiencing depression some common symptoms include:

Sleep Changes – Harvard Health says studies show that 65% to 90% of adult patients with major depression and 90% of children experiencing severe depression are also experiencing sleep problems. These sleep issues include insomnia, excessive sleepiness, early awakening, and restless sleep. With depression, good sleep can be hard to find.

Woman unable to sleep

Appetite – Changes in appetite caused by depression may mean a loss of appetite for some people as they develop a lack of interest in food or an appetite increase in others as they cope through eating.

Weight Changes – Significant changes in weight loss or weight gain may also be a sign of depression.

Energy Level – Fatigue or loss of energy is common among those experiencing depression.

boy wandering aimless through a field

Concentration – There may be difficulty thinking, focusing, and making decisions.

Daily behavior – When dealing with depression many find they have a reduced interest in activities they once enjoyed. It is also common to feel restless and to experience a loss of sexual desire. Movement and speech may also be slowed. There may be an inability to function in social or work situations.

depressed man sitting on a sofa

Self-esteem – Feelings of worthlessness or guilt and sometimes helplessness come along with depression.

Mood – Common symptoms of depression include feeling sad, agitated, or empty.

Isolation - Many people, while struggling with depression, choose to stay away from others. Social duties may feel overwhelming and they might not want to see anyone or do anything.

Woman with "stay away" look

Physical Problems – Depression can bring physical symptoms including digestive disorders, headaches, and pain.

Thoughts – Depression tells the mind the lie that life has always been this way and will never get any better. Severe depression can lead to thoughts of death and suicide. The person may focus on what the world would be like without them.

woman thinking depressed thoughts

Cause of Depression

What causes depression? We really don’t have all the answers but there does seem to be common factors that play a role. These include:

Genetics – Those with parents or siblings who have depression are 2-3 times more likely to develop the condition themselves.

Environmental factors – These factors may include lack of sleep, substance abuse, or hazardous environmental conditions.

Psychological and social factors – Changes in relationships, acute stress, work issues, difficult life events, and financial problems all contribute to depression.

Brain Chemistry - Changes in the brain’s neurotransmitter levels affect depression.

Medical conditions – Medical issues, such as bipolar disorder, contribute to depression

boy dealing with depression

Helping Others

If you see someone who may be dealing with depression or mental illness – you can help! Mental Health.org suggests listening without making judgements, asking what would help them, reassuring and offering practical information or resources. Avoiding confrontation, and asking if there is someone they would like you to contact.

Medical News Today suggests you can support your loved ones going through depression by encouraging them to seek treatment, offering to accompany them to appointments, planning enjoyable activities together, exercising together, and encouraging them to socialize with others.

Helping someone who is depressed

To support and help my good friend we developed a plan to visit each day to share something good someone had done for us and something nice we had done for someone else. With my sister, we began to share three specific good things that had happened that day. Practicing gratitude, even when it could be seen but not felt, helped.

Helping Yourself

If you think you are dealing with depression talk to your primary care provider or someone you trust right away. You don’t have to combat depression on your own. In fact, experts say the earlier you get treatment the more successful it may be.

hand reaching for help

Natural Ways to Combat Depression

There are many natural ways to help combat depression. Each person can experiment to find out what works for them.

My sweet sister-in-law, who loves to share what she has learned after experiencing many years of depression, suggests:

  • Get exercise - even if it’s just a short walk.
  • Make sure you are taking care of yourself by taking a shower, drinking water, taking medications, and getting enough sleep.

good sleep

  • Use essential oils.
  • Get sunlight or use a sunlamp.

sunlight

  • Talk to a counselor, friends, and family.
  • Start a gratitude journal.
  • Serve others.

service

Other helpful suggestions include reducing stress, practicing positive self-affirmations, and eating a balanced diet.

Health supplements, designed to support mental health, may also help. A few supplements ENP offers are:

Enhanced Focus – Formula designed to calm overactive nerves and improve mood and focus.

Liquid Curcumin – Designed to energize and support healthy brain function. 

 

Mood Boost – Designed to promote positive moods and increased mental focus. 

Restorative Slumber – A scientifically formulated blend to help you fall asleep easily and stay asleep through the night. 

Super B-Complex – Helps boost the immune system and supports memory and brain function. 

  

Additional Treatment Options

Visit with your primary care physician or a mental health professional to determine what treatments may work best for you. Many people find psychotherapy (talking therapy) to be extremely helpful while others find relief from medications prescribed by a doctor. There are also brain stimulation therapies available which are used to treat major depression.

Among my loved ones there has been relief from depression found through natural sources, prescribed medication, visiting with counselors, and support groups. My good friend after struggling with depression for over 10 years found relief through electroconvulsive therapy, a form of brain stimulation therapy. For some, combating depression is still a daily reality, but with good treatment options, life is better.

There is hope and there is help!

woman reaching for help

Additional Help Resources

SAMHSA’s National Helpline (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. You can also order free publications and other information.

Crisis Text Line - Text “HELLO” to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.

Samaritans - Nonprofit organization that offers emotional support for those feeling depression, loneliness, or who is considering suicide. Call or text 877-870-4673 (HOPE) to reach help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - A national network of local crisis centers. To speak with someone call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). They also offer online chat options. 

Summary

Each of us wants to live a fulfilling, happy life. Dealing with depression makes that very difficult but there is help! Look for the signs of depression in your own life or those you love and take steps to reach for a better life today.

smiley balloon on road

Sources

Depression: What it is, symptoms, causes, treatment, types, and more. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8933#treatment

How to support someone with a mental health problem. (2020, February 07). Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/supporting-someone-mental-health-problem

Identifying anxiety, depression signs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/addressing-your-mental-health-by-identifying-the-signs-of-anxiety-and-depression

National Helpline: SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). Sleep and mental health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Sleep-and-mental-health

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