Identifying Depression in Friends & Loved Ones

I have struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my life. I have seen friends and family struggle with depression. My job involves helping those who struggle with depression in an inpatient hospital setting. According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people of all ages globally suffer from depression.

In my opinion, this number may not be an accurate representation of the population of people who actually suffer from depression. Mental health issues continue to be stigmatized today, making it quite difficult to express the already uncomfortable feelings that come with issues such as depression. Therefore, depression is quite possibly underreported, affecting more of our community than we actually see.

Physicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-V) as the guideline to diagnose those suffering from this illness. As stated in the DSM-V,

“Depressive disorders include disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, major depressive

disorder (including major depressive episode), persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia),

premenstrual dysphoric disorder, substance/medication-induced depressive disorder,

depressive disorder due to another medical condition, other specified depressive disorder,

and unspecified depressive disorder. The common feature of all of these disorders is the

presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes

that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function. What differs among them are

issues of duration, timing, or presumed etiology” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013,


I believe that education can help deter this stigma that surrounds mental health. I do know that even with education, it is not always clear how to help those who are suffering from these types of issues. Moreover, education with medical terminology (as mentioned above) does not always clearly portray what it actually looks like if someone close to us is battling depression. So, I wanted to share some of the common symptoms and behaviors were shown by those experiencing depression – in terms that everyone can understand or recognize.

Here is what to look for in our friends and loved ones if we are worried they may be struggling with depression:


  • Expressing overwhelming feeling of sadness and emptiness
  • Appearing disinterested or emotionless in daily life
  • Loss of interested in once pleasurable activities – sex, hobbies, sports, etc.
  • Presenting with mood swings – expressing happiness/over-joy one moment, then extreme sadness or anger then next
  • Appearing guilty/expressing guilt constantly

Frequent statements made:

“I am worthless. I am not good at anything. Nothing interests me. I feel so lost and empty. I am a burden.”


  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Restless sleeping
  • Insomnia
  • Constant early wakening
  • Sleeping all the time

Frequent statements made:

“Racing thoughts before going to bed. I am unable to turn my brain off.”


  • Lack of hunger/weight loss
  • Excessive hunger/weight gain
  • Unhealthy diet – not well balanced


  • Fixating on past failures
  • Blaming self for things that are not their responsibility
  • Constant pessimistic thinking
  • Lack of concentration
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Slow processing of new information
  • Ruminating/preoccupied with certain thoughts
  • Trouble making decisions

Frequent statements made:

“I can’t. Nothing is ever good. This will never get better. There is no use. I am guilty because of etc. I just don’t want to be around anymore. Just wish I could go to sleep and not wake up. I just can’t focus on anything.”


Social isolation, irritability, crying excessively, fatigue, restlessness, and agitation


  • Canceling plans frequently/ refusing to make plans,
  • not answering phone calls or texts,
  • bouts of unexplained anger and irritability,
  • constant fidgeting/uncomfortable,
  • crying sometimes for no discerning reason,
  • small tasks appear difficult, not keeping up with daily cares (showering, eating, brushing teeth, etc.),
  • slowed movements,
  • unexplained physical problems – headaches, tension, back pain


***Everyone experiences bad or “off” days every once in awhile, but it is when these behaviors begin to affect a person’s day-to-day activities, that it becomes a major concern.***

When struggling with emotional & mental pain, people sometimes cope in a maladaptive (unhealthy) way. This maladaptive coping usually results from an individual wanting to avoid these uncomfortable feelings. Examples of this unhealthy coping are:

Drugs, alcohol, avoidance in any form – binge-ing Netflix frequently, sleeping constantly, avoiding outings with friends, excessive gaming, etc.

If you would like more information about coping, please follow this link: TBD

And if you would like to know how to help a person struggling with mental illness, please check out my other posts!




If you would like a reference from professionals, the National Institute for Mental Health is a great resource. I have provided a snippet below. According to the National Institute of Mental Health,

“If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression: Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood


  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment” (2016).





National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Depression. October, 2016.  Retrieved from

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,

5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.

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