Seven Red Flags for Depression


Depression, in its early stages, can masquerade as many things.How can you tell if you or a loved one is depressed?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that as many as 17 million Americans each year suffer from depression. Their statistics also show that many cases of depression go undiagnosed and untreated, leading to extended periods of misery for many people.

Recognizing the symptoms of depression can allow the sufferer to seek help in treating and managing their symptoms.

Loss of Interest

The typical first red flag for depression is the loss of interest in things that were previously found to be pleasurable (known as anhedonia.) It could be the father who no longer wants to coach his son's soccer team, the mother who no longer finds pleasure in her hobbies or the adolescent who can no longer find anything to do that makes them happy. Sometimes the time that would be spent enjoying these activities is spent in more passive activities, like staring at television, listening to music for hours on end or surfing the internet.


A deep, unremitting feeling of sadness that doesn't go away after a short period of time is another indicator. While there are many things we experience in life that make us sad for a time - loss of a loved one, a failed relationship, loss of a job - sadness that is not specifically triggered by something, or which does not leave us, is an indicator that the person suffering from it might be depressed.

Sleep Problems

When someone who once had no problem sleeping begins to have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, depression might be suspected. Depression often results in an inability to relax, without which the sufferer cannot achieve a deep, restful sleep. This lack of rest can exacerbate the other symptoms of depression. Alternatively, sleeping too much can also be a symptom of depression.

Changes in Appetite

A sudden and extended loss or increase in appetite, with the resultant loss or gain in weight, is another depression marker. Sometimes food is a substitute for those things that used to give pleasure, and sometimes the emotional aspects of depression can kill the appetite.

Anger and Irritability

Agitation, having a short temper, becoming annoyed at small issues - these can all be signs of depression. The misery the sufferer is feeling is sometimes unloaded on those around him, so that people feel like they are walking on eggshells to avoid confrontation.

Loss of Energy

Depressed persons often experience deep fatigue and loss of energy. Even those who sleep too much may still feel fatigued.

Suicidal Thoughts

The single most serious indicator of depression is thoughts of suicide. These must be taken seriously, and anyone who is considering this is urged to talk to a physician or a psychiatric professional at once. For those who have heard a friend or loved one express these thoughts, they should be aware that the old belief that "if they talk about it, they won’t do it" is not accurate. Anyone who is aware that someone they care about is thinking in these terms should do anything they can to see to it that the sufferer gets help immediately. Call their doctor, take them to an emergency room or call a hotline - whatever will get them with a professional the fastest.

Sources: Everyday Health and Help Guide


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