In the public eye of mental health, depression is the most talked about subject. Owing to campaigns like “R U OK?” and Beyond Blue’s, “Man Therapy”, people are generally more aware that depression is a debilitating condition that’s extremely common. But, how aware are we of the affects of depression, the signs to look for, and who in your inner circle of loved ones may be suffering?
Perhaps the more obvious signs of depression that are noticeable to others, are:
- Frequent crying and expressions of sadness
- Not wanting to do things, including; avoiding socialising or leaving events early
But this article is not about the obvious signs of depression, it’s about the less obvious, the subtle and even ignored signs of depression.
Commonly “overlooked” signs of depression
Drinking alcohol. Our culture normalises drinking alcohol, leading us to assume that someone who drinks a lot (frequently or binge drinks) is just socialising or “love a drink”. But actually, drinking alcohol (or using drugs) is a common way of coping with depression.
Being cold, distant or reserved. When someone is cold, distant or reserved, we tend to assume this is part of their personality or they don’t like us. However, this might be a symptoms of depression: They may be low in energy and struggling to be engaged.
Outbursts of anger and irritability. Anger and irritability is an especially common symptom of depression in men and adolescents; and it is devastatingly overlooked. When a male shows anger, we tend to assume they’re bad tempered or a “grumpy old man”. For teenagers, we tend to assume they are just “moody”. The anger itself can push loved ones away, or cause others to “tip toe” around. Without social support, depression worsens and it can be harder for an individual to reach out to ask for help.
Excuses. A common symptom of depression is social withdrawal. You might notice your friend or loved one is quiet and reserved at social events. However, you also might notice they’re constantly making excuses to cancel or avoid catching up.
Struggling to keep on top of things. If someone is struggling with their study, career goals, or life ambitions, they may be struggling with depression. For example, they may fail one or two units at uni or lack motivation in their VCE study. You may also hear your loved one talk of feeling “lost” or they may change their choices in work/study a number of times. It is also common in depression to struggle to keep on top of daily life tasks – for example, keeping the house clean, maintaining adequate grooming, exercising or eating well.
Upsetting life situations. Upsetting life situations – ill health, death, job redundancy, separation, etc – do not cause depression, but life events like these make someone vulnerable to depression. Our culture is pretty good at downplaying people’s suffering. In fact, most people react to another persons suffering by either completely ignoring their problem, focusing on the positives or minimising their problem – “it will be OK” may sound familiar to you? Instead, it’s important to listen, empathise and offer support; as well as remain cognisant of potential depression on the horizon.
Next steps if you recognise someone is depressed?
Ask your loved one how they’re feeling; saying you’ve noticed “you have not been your usual self”, for example. If they shut down and dismiss you, just revisit the conversation another time or ask someone closer to them to talk to them.
Hopefully through open talking, you can help your loved one take the first step towards depression treatment by either speaking to their GP or a psychologist. You can also call 24-hour helplines, Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636, to seek advice or support for you or a loved one. However, in the event that you or someone you know is at risk of harm, call emergency number, 000.
How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?
We are a team of warm and professional psychologists based in Melbourne, who are well trained and experienced in treating depression. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.