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Identifying Signs of Depression


Everyone has bad days or feels down at times but clinical depression is a serious mood disorder that can have a major impact on someone’s life and those around them. If you or someone you love suffers from depression, it is important to know there is help and treatment available.

Many people hide feelings of depression, are in denial of the impact the symptoms are having on them or are not even aware they are suffering from depression. This can make it difficult to recognize the condition in a friend, family member, coworker, or even yourself. As a doctor and president of Village Medical, I know how important it is to pick up on the warning signs of depression.

What is clinical depression 

Depression is a serious medical condition affecting more than 16 million American adults every year according to the CDC. Symptoms people with major depression may experience include:

  • Sadness.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Tearfulness.
  • Emptiness.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure.
  • Weight gain or loss.
  • Excessive or lack of sleep.
  • Inappropriate excessive guilt or worthlessness.

If you have these symptoms for two weeks, you may be suffering from a major depressive disorder. Major depression can be mild, moderate, or severe. People with mild and moderate depression may still be able to function, but in most cases, a person may find the symptoms are negatively impacting their family, social, and work lives.

How to spot signs of depression  

Depression is more evident when it’s in the home or to those close to the person suffering. Family members or friends can usually see that there’s a serious problem when their loved one: 

  • Changes in their behavior. 
  • Exhibits sadness.
  • Loses enjoyment.
  • Exhibits risky behaviors.
  • Disengages from hobbies. 
  • Becomes easily agitated. 
  • Starts isolating themselves.
  • Complains frequently of feeling physically ill.

When a depressed person is planning on taking their own life (suicide), there may be potential warning signs. The individual may begin giving away their belongings and appear to magically swing from being depressed to being very happy. 

It’s important to know that death is not the goal of suicide, but that the person who commits suicide is looking to escape the pain they are feeling and don't feel that they have any other options.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, see your primary care doctor or advanced practice provider* (APP), or go to the hospital emergency room near you for immediate help. 

The dangers of untreated depression 

When depression is treated, the likelihood of suicide decreases greatly, but if left untreated, one of the major consequences of depression can be death at the person’s own hand. Women more frequently attempt suicide than men but are less likely to accomplish it. One of the reasons for this is because women often use less lethal means like pills or cutting themselves, which gives them time to change their minds and get help. Men often rely on more lethal methods such as guns, which often, unfortunately, is successful with the first attempt.

Signs of depression in the workplace 

In the workplace if a person is disengaged, not performing their job well, or calling out sick frequently they might be exhibiting signs of depression. In addition, if a person begins seeing the doctor frequently with aches and pains that don’t seem to have a medical cause, they should be screened for depression. 

How to approach someone with depression 

If you sense someone you know might be depressed, ask them directly. You can say something along the lines of “Listen, I’ve noticed that you don’t seem to be as happy anymore. You seem sad and you're not as engaged as you once were. What's going on? Is everything OK.” 

Talking is a good first step. Next, recommend the person who is suffering from depression see their primary care doctor or APP or make an appointment with a mental health professional. Depression is a very treatable disorder and talking to a professional can help. If you or the person you think has depression is in immediate danger of committing suicide, call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or go the hospital emergency room for help.

Treatment options

It is important to know that treatment options are available, and they have been found to be extremely effective in helping people manage depression.

Before prescribing medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression. It focuses on correcting the negative thoughts and ideas that people suffering from depression often have. The goal is to repair their negative self-worth and view of the world by giving them the tools to modify their behavior, negative ideas, thoughts, and perceptions, with the goal of reducing and eliminating symptoms.

Depression can also be treated with medications or a combination of medication and therapy. Making an appointment with your primary care doctor or APP is a key first step in seeking help. They can guide you with a diagnosis and recommend treatments or next steps. 

It is important for you to know that it is okay to not be okay. Your primary care doctor or APP will support you if you are struggling with depression. They and your other care team members will help you work towards getting better and walk side-by-side with you on your path toward improved mental health.

*An advanced practice provider is defined as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.