Recognizing the Signs of Depression in Your Family Members

May 18 • 2015

Every year, more than 20 million Americans suffer from some kind of depressive illness. Recognizing that a loved one is struggling with depression can be difficult because many people try to hide the signs or cope with it on their own. Knowing what to look for can make it easier for you to provide the support and comfort friends or family members may need.

How is Depression Different from Sadness?
People experience mood changes on a daily basis, but depression is much deeper than sadness. The specific feeling of depression is unique to different people, but it always overwhelms their day-to-day lives. It interferes with the ability to work, eat, sleep, and have fun, and brings persistent, severe feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression
While depression presents itself in many ways, there are some common signs and symptoms that everyone should understand. The more symptoms that are present, the longer they last, and the stronger they are, the more likely the cause is depression. Look out for:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities and hobbies
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Changes in sleep, including insomnia, oversleeping, or early waking
  • Anger or irritability
  • Self-loathing and feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Loss of energy
  • Engaging in reckless behavior
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Difficulty concentrating

How Can I Help My Loved One?
If you feel that a friend or family member may be suffering from depression, start a conversation by explaining that you are there for them. Listen to what they have to say without being pushy. Offer encouragement, hope, and ask if there is anything specific you can do to help. Encouraging a trip to their general doctor is a great first step in moving towards an official diagnosis. Remember that being realistic is important – things won’t change overnight, so be patient and offer any help you can to make the journey easier.

You can find out more about the behavioral health and counseling services offered at Baptist Memorial Health Care here.