Depression, I’ve been there myself:
Depression begins its terror in subtle ways that can go unnoticed to others. I spent years there myself recovering from a terrible jet crash and some other unfortunate events. The perceived isolation and hopelessness can be numbing, the inevitability of a horrible fate as real as the sun rising.
I have spoken hundreds of times on depression and PTSD and I’m always asked something like, “I want to help, but people don’t always tell you when they are suffering and need help.” That is true, but there are still signs, and you can use these signs as a signal to respond.
Reach out to those who seem depressed:
You should never be afraid to engage with someone who is depressed. Your hand might be just what they need to begin the process of coming out of the dark and healing. Remind them that they are not alone. Follow your gut, and to help with that, here are 15 things you can look for if you are concerned someone you know might be depressed.
Look for these signs of depression:
- Sadness – An overwhelming mood of sadness. You see it in their faces. Often it is unexplainable. Don’t be afraid to let them know how they look and that you are concerned.
- Anxiety – Mind numbing anxiety. They go to sleep and their head won’t stop spinning. Waking up, they look just as anxious as they did when they went to bed. Be patient with them, just sitting and listening can help to calm them.
- Poor Concentration and memory – “Where did I put that list, I forgot that appointment, what was their name?” Let them know you forget things sometimes too! Encourage them to write down and make lists. Writing itself is therapeutic.
- Guilt and Bad thoughts – Life seems to come in waves, all the bad things and disappointments in life feel immediate. Talk to them about your own guilt. Guilt is worse when we think we are alone with it.
- Emotions of loss – There is a hole in their heart, they are missing something that they don’t know how to fill. Remind them that the best way to make sense of loss is by how we live. Some things can’t be replaced, but we shouldn’t let loss stop us from living which only makes the hole deeper.
- Insomnia – They try everything – white noise, the couch, warm milk, – yet all they do is get deeper and deeper into the numbness of Insomnia.Encourage routines, no late night eating or drinking, turn off the TV, phone, etc.
- Hopelessness – “Hope, what hope! Life is what it is and will only get worse.” The best way to bring someone hope is to engage with them.
- Eating Extremes – From starving themselves to gorging, food can become a drug for the depressed. Keep a good eye on this, don’t let them keep this habit in the dark. Confront them.
- Fatigue – They are tired all the time. Help them with a sleeping and waking routine. Encourage a healthy diet, and a curb in the TV watching and internet browsing.
- Pessimism – “You can’t help, I’ve tried everything, this is all I’ll ever be.” Encourage them to get it out, write it down, and see it for what it is.
- Suicidal ideations – “Death would be better than this, death would solve my problems, everyone would be better off if I was dead.” One of the best ways to lower the risk of suicide is to encourage someone to tell you when they are thinking of suicide. Don’t be afraid, talking about it lowers the chances it will happen.
- Irritability – The smallest things can set off a flood of emotion. Again, show patience. A willingness to just sit and listen while the storm passes.
- Aches and Pains – Back hurts, legs hurt, headaches, and no amount of massages help. Go see a Doctor! Find out if the pain is coming from an acute condition or from the stress of the depression.
- Recklessness – Drugs, sex, speed, life without restraints because we don’t really want to be there. Put a mirror to their actions. Ask questions. Help them set limits.
- Isolation – “I’d rather be alone, leave me alone.” Find ways to interact with them – coffee, a walk, a movie together – whatever it takes to regularly engage with them so at least they can count on you.
The signs you see may be nothing, or they could be a clue to deeper problems. Regardless, life is better when we look out for each other and remind ourselves that all of us have experienced those moments of despair and hopelessness. Reach out to someone today.