How to Spot Depression in Someone else.


Sometimes when we are struggling with something, we become so consumed by it that we are unaware of the impact it is having on us and the people around us and we need someone else to raise our awareness of this and our need for help. This scenario is a common one for people suffering with depression. Below are a some key signs to look for if you believe someone you know might be depressed.

1. Self criticism and criticism of others

If someone is depressed they will evaluate themselves very negatively, their internal voice will become very critical. They may believe that they have performed badly or worse still predict that they will and so avoid things altogether. Depressed people may also become very critical of other people as a (subconscious) way of alleviating their depressed symptoms, i.e. the problem is not with me it is with you.

2. Changes in basic functions

When people are depressed their ‘basic’ functions are disrupted. So you may notice changes in someone’s appetite (increased or decreased), sleep pattern (including difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep and early morning waking) and sex drive.

3. Lethargy

People who are depressed often feel very lethargic and can gather no motivation to complete everyday tasks. In severe cases those who are depressed may, over time, begin to neglect their personal care.

4. No Enjoyment or Pleasure

People who are depressed no longer gain any pleasure or enjoyment from tasks and activities from which they previously did and may instead choose to sit alone engaged for extended periods of time in tasks that take them away from the ‘real’ world e.g. TV, computer etc.

5. Avoidance

If someone is depressed they may isolate themselves from others, this is an evolved response to something unpleasant i.e. run to the back of the cave and hide. This may take the form of physical avoidance e.g. withdrawing from engagements and responsibilities, and psychological avoidance e.g. being physically present but appearing detached and subdued.

6. Anxiety

People suffering from depression also frequently experience co morbid anxiety and/or panic attacks. This is the result of diminished self esteem and confidence and a resulting tendency to underestimate their ability to cope with day to day life.

If you suspect that someone you know may be suffering from depression, start by sharing with them your observations that of late they have not seemed like themself. Ask them if they have noticed this too and then give them time to consider and process your observations before returning to discuss things further.

If you would like further advice on how to help someone who you believe might depressed our team of Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists at The British CBT & Counselling Service will be able to help you.

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