You notice one of your coworkers has been a little less social than normal. A friend at the spin class seems sad more often, and when a favorite relative calls, all she has to say about life is negative. What are the signs of depression? When should we begin to worry or ask them to seek help? These are the questions that many people want to know, especially after the recent passing of beloved comedian Robin Williams from underlying depression — so, what does depression look like?

What is depression?

Before we know what it looks like, we need to better understand what depression is. Depression is a mood disorder that imposes negative traits on a person’s outlook on life.

Depression is not having one bad day, it is progressive and long-term and can be associated with feelings of loneliness, sadness, helplessness, dread, guilt,  self-hate, excessive worry, and inappropriate blame.

Unlike a bad day, where a pint of your favorite ice cream might do wonders to improve your mood, depression doesn’t go anyway with a quick fix. Even having a difficult week does not amount to depression, but consistent, long-term association with negative feelings may be a sign you need help.

Signs of depression

Having a feeling of loneliness is not enough to signal depression; many twenty-somethings, looking for love, may relate to feeling lonely when not in a relationship. Feelings alone are not good indicators, but when these feeling change behaviors, especially long term, the individual may be suffering from clinical depression.

Changes in daily self-care and routine are usually supportive indicators:

  • Poor self-care, not tending to hygiene or personal appearance.
  • Overeating, gaining weight, turning to food for comfort
  • Not taking necessary or required prescriptions or seeing a doctor when needed
  • Avoiding things they once enjoyed; exercise, movies, books, social outings
  • Struggling with sleep; insomnia, sleeping more than usual, feeling excessively tired
  • Symptoms of anxiety; nervousness, agitation, rapid heart rate, sweating
  • Uncontrolled emotions and irritability; excessive crying, mood swings
  • Focused on “the end,” talk of death, see “no point” in doing, repeat “I give up,” and saying they’re “better off dead”

Signs of depression

How to help someone experiencing depression

Great care must be taken when helping someone with depression. People who are depressed don’t see a way out and often lose trust in others. The best way to help someone with signs of long-term depression is insisting they seek help from a certified psychologist.

People with depression will be hesitant to see a therapist since they don’t want to be labeled or are afraid of being medicated. In that case, perhaps a pastor, priest, or religious clergy can help encourage them to seek professional support.

With a good therapist and consistent counseling, it may not be necessary to include medication. A therapist can help get to the root of the depression; past events or circumstances that may have contributed in ways that even the person is not fully aware of or they have blocked out to avoid. A therapist will set up a plan and will be able to monitor progress in a supportive, non-judgemental, and unbiased way.

A friend or family member may help a person with depression by:

  • checking in regularly so they are not always alone
  • inviting them to activities or events they might enjoy
  • listening to them and how they are feeling
  • staying focused on the positive
  • ensuring they have access to help if they need it or a local number to call for help

Almost 50,000 people a year die from depression-related suicide. The number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.

If someone you know shows signs of depression, or you recognize the symptoms in yourself, don’t hesitate to seek guidance! Talking to a professional can help!

If you have more questions about depression symptoms and signs, and how to seek help, get in touch with Dr. Marsha Ferrick, today