How to Tell if Someone You Love Is Suffering from Depression ...


The symptoms of depression aren’t always visible. It is only when the symptoms can no longer be concealed that we can pick them up. And concealing symptoms isn’t uncommon. A person with depression may feel ashamed or vulnerable. They might feel guilty about not holding up their end of the relationship or their responsibilities in the home. They may put up a “front” and be unwilling to talk about how they are feeling or their symptoms. For this reason, awareness of the most common symptoms can help you spot when a loved one may be depressed.

Visible Symptoms

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. Either extreme, sleeping too much or being unable to sleep during normal hours can tip you off that something is wrong.
  • Changes in eating habits – a loss of pleasure in food with unintended weight loss or the opposite – a turning to food for comfort and weight gain.
  • Abandoning hobbies and activities that once were a source of enjoyment.
  • Multiple, unexplained minor medical problems – upset stomach, headache, lethargy.
  • An inability to concentrate, focus or make plans.

Invisible Symptoms

  • These may take some listening and a trusted conversation to ferret out.
  • Unexplained feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Thoughts about suicide or death
  • A feeling of helplessness and inability to act to change their situation.
  • Guilt or shame about not being “normal.”
  • Feelings of withdrawal and isolation.

Putting it together

It isn’t possible to diagnose clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, without the input of a professional. However, you can certainly pick up on enough symptoms to offer help and suggest your loved one find out about treatment.

It is also possible that the depression is due to another condition. Commonly, illness or grief can trigger a bout of depression, even serious depression in those who are susceptible. The difficulty for those close to the depressed person is getting them to open up about their true feelings. In many cases, this is much easier to do when talking to a third party, usually a therapist.

If you suspect your loved one is suffering from depression, you can suggest they take an online test. One is available here. This might be enough for them to take their situation seriously and consider getting help.

Since you don’t want to risk alienating your loved one by pressuring them, start any conversation about depression with a gentle, noncommittal, “I think you’ve been feeling down a lot lately… Would you like to talk about it?” Remember, they might not want to burden you by sharing too much.

Finally, a real danger among the depressed is turning to alcohol or illegal substances as a way to deal with the negative feelings they are having. If your loved one has a history of substance abuse or you suspect they are going down this path, do not hesitate to get professional advice.


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