Identifying if a loved one is struggling with depression can be a daunting task. It is difficult to know if you’re stepping on their toes by showing too much interest, or showing disinterest and lack of support if you attempt to give them space.
Finding common signs that a loved one may be battling depression is a good first step to communication about what could potentially be wrong.
Showing awareness of how your loved one’s behaviour has changed will show them that you care for them, and are worried.
It is important to note that each of the signs below are not guaranteed indicators of depression. Be willing to talk to your loved one about your worries, and encourage them to seek professional help if they are suffering.
1. They appear distant
When usual lines and consistency of communication begin to falter, it is worth checking in on your loved ones to see if everything is ok.
Of course, it could just be a harmless lull in communication, but fluctuations in regular communication (whether it be messaging, phone calls, in-person meet-ups, etc. can be a sign of withdrawal related to depression.
If you feel like a loved one has become more distant, less interactive and less engaged in your usual communication, make sure they know you are there to support them. Whatever the case may be, offering support for people who are going through a bad time is always valuable.
2. They have less care for appearance or personal hygiene and grooming
Though often seen as a “cliché” of depression in movies, a general downturn in physical appearance or personal hygiene has a very real-life basis. Early stages of depression or depressive episodes often showcase neglect of personal image, stemming from pessimistic views of oneself.
If your loved one is generally well-kept and dresses appropriately depending on the situation, it is a very clear indication something may be wrong when that self-care begins to suffer. From unshaven faces, wearing dirty clothing, not bothering to shower and other signs, there are myriad signs to notice that your loved one may require support.
3. Unusually irritable
When communication lines are open but responses are short, blunt or lacking concentration, it can be a sign of either general annoyance or something more serious. Everybody gets cranky sometimes, but if you notice a consistent shift from affable to easily irritated, it may be a sign that a loved one does not have the energy to respond or doesn’t want the attention on them.
If you notice that your loved one is becoming agitated with general life, inanimate objects or social settings, it could be the case that they are no longer to calmly process minor inconveniences. A cluttered mind finds it more difficult to perform tasks we usually view as automatic, and is a sign that your loved one may be mentally overburdened.
4. Fluctuations in eating, sleeping and drinking habits
Although alcohol abuse is a well-known and easily spotted sign of potential mental unrest, it is just as important to take note of eating and sleeping habits. If a loved one begins to eat more during stressful times, or abstains entirely, it can be a worrying sign for their mental and physical health.
As with eating, sleep is often fluctuating during depressive episodes, from marathon hibernations to insomnia.
If your loved one begins to abuse alcohol or drugs, or if their eating and sleeping habits changed drastically, it is usually a sign of mental burden.
5. Apathetic to usual activities
Apathy has always been known as a depressive symptom for a reason: it often shows a lack of care for oneself, as if your being and actions do not matter. Apathy can entirely derail a person’s regular life, for if they believe nothing truly matters, then why would they maintain any sort of positive habits?
Especially in regards to previously enjoyed activities, seeing apathy within a loved one can be startling and worrying. A sign that something has shifted mentally, it is important to try and understand where the apathy has stemmed from.
6. Low energy and constant tiredness
We have all heard the excuse of “I’m just tired” when speaking to someone with less energy than normal. Sometimes, tiredness is as simple as not sleeping enough the night before and being more physically active than usual.
However, “I’m just tired” can also be a cover by your loved one to deflect from something more serious. Tiredness from depression is a physical sensation brought on by both physical and mental strain. Lack of sleep due to depressive thoughts can perpetuate a negative cycle of low energy, while obsessing on negative thoughts can be a severe mental drain on anyone in a depressive state.
If you notice unusual tiredness in a loved one, try to engage in conversation about what is tiring them, or even offer to go for a short walk to clear their head. Showing that you are supportive even if you don’t directly talk about depression will be seen positively by your loved one.
If you're looking for support, either for yourself or a loved one; booking in a free 15 -minute consultation with us at Online Psychologists Australia could be the first step to a happier and healthier life.
You'll be matched with a professional, experienced psychologist which best fits your unique needs.