“Signs, signs, everywhere is signs…”

…or How to Tell if a Friend is Depressed

We all want to be there for our friends. Being a listening ear and a waterproof shoulder is a good deal of what love is all about. So, how can we tell when a friend needs us the most? How do we know when Depression is getting a stranglehold on our dear ones?

It always seemed to me that, being a lifelong sufferer of Depression, it should be easy for me to see when someone else is suffering. I know my signs and symptoms, so they should be obvious in my friend, right?
Well, when my husband was about halfway through his PhD work, I discovered it’s not necessarily so clear. Here was someone who was always optimistic, usually happy or at least content, and, if struck by sadness or a bad bit of luck, able to bounce back quickly and not be too bruised or cynical as a result. However, by the time I realized he was depressed he’d been suffering for quite a while. How did that happen?

Depression is an invisible illness. It’s also stigmatized and frowned upon by society, despite studies that show that the majority of adults suffer from depression at some point in their lives. It’s a misunderstood illness that can be seen as an excuse for lack of motivation and productivity, for laziness. No wonder many people would rather hide their suffering than let it be known that they are depressed.

So here’re a few signs that might suggest a loved one is suffering from Depression:
Social withdrawal – s/he wants to go out less and less;
Dramatic increase or decrease in appetite;
Oversleeping or insomnia;
Seeming distracted or distant.

However, all of these symptoms are possible to hide, and Depression frequently makes one want to withdraw emotionally and physically from the company of others. If one needs to be alone for hours because s/he is trying to write a PhD thesis, isolation is actually required.

So, then, the best way to tell if a friend is depressed?

ASK.

Ask “Are you okay?” not as the daily throw-away question, but as a concerned friend. And then be prepared to listen to the response you get.

Finally, dear Readers, lest you think I’ve strayed the topic of this blog, here’s your coping mechanism du jour: When asked by a loved one if you are okay, give them an honest answer. Admitting you’re depressed can be very difficult, but just letting someone know you’re in pain can be quite liberating.

Chx

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