6 Ways to Identify Depression in Others


It is quite possible that someone close to you is suffering from untreated depression – The National Institute of Mental Health says that about 8.4% of all adults in the U.S. (21 million) deal with major depressive disorder – but the symptoms can sometimes be hard to spot because everyone experiences depression differently. The majority of people living with major depressive disorder either do not recognize symptoms of depression in themselves or are too overwhelmed to seek help on their own. A supportive friend or family member who knows what to look for can make a huge difference in providing crucial help at the right time.

Some symptoms can be fairly easy to recognize, but some are less obvious or may be intentionally hidden. If you believe that you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, there are a few signs that can help validate your concerns:

Difficulties With Concentration

Those suffering from depression often experience an extreme lack of focus. This can have a negative effect on their abilities to perform their necessary daily tasks at home and work. If you notice they are trailing off during conversations, losing their train of thought, making more mistakes than usual, or having trouble making decisions, they may be having depression-related issues with memory and concentration.

Too Much or Too Little Sleep

A common warning sign of depression is not getting enough or getting too much sleep. A warm, quiet bed is a very tempting place for a depressed person to cocoon themselves in an attempt to escape sadness. Sleep patterns also play cyclical roles in mood instability – a lack of sleep can contribute to depression, and depression can make it more difficult to sleep. Feeling excessively tired is also a very common symptom of depression, with some research suggesting that over 90% of people with depression experience fatigue. 

Unexplained Pain

Depression not only affects mental health, it can also negatively impact a person’s physical well-being as well. Unexplained aches and pains can be a warning sign of depression issues. The most common complaints include backaches, digestive problems, and headaches. Research also indicates that those with major depression are more likely than those without the condition to experience arthritis, autoimmune conditions, cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. 

Moodiness and Irritability

Anyone can get in a grouchy mood from time to time, but sustained periods of heightened or unexplained irritability are a common sign of depression. Instead of appearing sad, some people with hidden depression seem irritable and quick to anger.

Excessive Alcohol and/or Drug Use

Some people suffering from depression self-medicate by using alcohol or drugs to cope with their feelings of sadness, loneliness, or hopelessness. Studies have found strong links between rates of alcohol abuse and depressive disorders. Depression and substance use can combine to a downward spiral as well as resistance to seeking treatment.

Changes in Appetite

A change from someone’s typical dietary intake in either direction – eating significantly less or more – is a common sign that they are experiencing depression. The distraction of continually eating junk food may provide easy comfort during a difficult time. Anxiety accompanying extreme sadness can manifest in nausea and other physical symptoms contributing to a lack of appetite. Dramatic weight changes can also affect a person’s self-esteem, contributing to their depression.

Sometimes, the signs that someone is suffering from depression can be hard to spot. If you believe someone you care about is struggling, taking the time to sensitively speak with them about it can make a huge – potentially lifesaving – difference.