Weeks after Robin Williams’ death many people are still asking questions about depression, trying to understand how someone outwardly so joyful and giving could be struggling with such a fatal disease.  Depression isn’t just a bad mood or a few bleak days.  It’s a serious illness that if left untreated can lead to critical and life-threatening problems.  Looking around at your family and your close friends, you might see some behaviors that you wonder about.  Is anyone close to you suffering from depression without you being aware?  You may assume they are dealing with normal day-to-day life stresses, but think…. is it more than that?  How do we know if someone we love is really struggling?  Is it a bad day or a depression?

Here are some red flags to look for:

  1. Fluctuations in weight.

Losing weight isn’t always a good thing.  If someone is shedding pounds (and isn’t trying to) that could be a sign there is trouble, especially if there is a change of 5% in body weight per month.  It’s the same red flag for weight gain.  People often comfort eat when they are blue.  Changes in appetite one way or the other can usually be spotted before you can see someone’s weight actually begin to go up or down.

  1. Different sleep pattern emerges.

Again this can mean too much sleep or not enough.  Some people are very sleepy when they are depressed, sometimes not getting out of bed for long periods of time.  Some people have insomnia and despite being tired are unable to get a good sleep in.

  1. Tired, tired, tired.

A person who is depressed is often very tired.  They complain of fatigue or loss of energy almost daily.

  1. Loss of interest in daily activities.

People who are depressed can just lose their interest to engage in life.  They may still go to work or take care of their duties, but they don’t get any pleasure from their daily tasks, even ones that are leisurely and meant for pleasure and relaxation.

5.  Being blue.

Having a depressed mood most of the day and for many days, nearly every day is another indication someone you love is depressed.  This isn’t a sadness because someone may be grieving (appropriate response) or one that is a side effect of medication, etc.  *Be on the look out because adolescents can show this symptom as irritability instead of depressed mood.

  1.  Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

Is your family member or friend a bit fuzzy when they are usually sharp as a tack?  Have you noticed they are struggling with their thoughts or articulating themselves?  This may be something you notice or something they talk about and share with you.

7.  Slow moving or hyper.

If someone is much more active or inactive than usual it could be a sign they are depressed.  If the behavior is out of the ordinary, then it is something you should look at.

  1. Feeling worthless.

Has someone mentioned to you that they just don’t feel they are good enough anymore?  This can be a red flag, particularly if these thoughts are not due to feeling bad or guilty about being sick.  This is an inappropriate feeling of worthlessness.

  1. Thoughts of death and suicide.

This (of course) is the big one!  And this isn’t something people may be all that willing to discuss.  People might have a lot of shame around these thoughts and try to hide them.  But if you hear your friends or family talking about death and what if would be like “if they weren’t here” that is a big red flag and a sure sign your friend or family member needs help.

A person doesn’t need to have all of these symptoms to be clinically depressed.  The DSM-V (the Diagnostic Statistical Manual) only requires 5 of the 9.  Seek the help of a health care professional if you notice these signs and symptoms.  If you are not sure err on the side of caution.  Have a consultation, get some advice and start treatment for depression early on.  Most people do recover!  You will be glad you “stepped up” and helped get your loved one’s life back on track!


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