You can recognize early signs of depression in a loved one often by seeing changes in their thinking and their behaving. So if you notice that a loved one is starting to become more pessimistic or negative, they're talking about feeling like they're a failure or they are letting other people down: these may be signs of depressive feelings. If you notice changes in behavior, particularly a tendency to isolate, not wanting to engage with things they used to like to do or be around people they love: these may also be early signs of depression. Changes in sleep, wanting to sleep more or sleep less, and changes in appetite (like eating a lot more or having no appetite) are also signs of depression. The best way to get someone help or intervene is to talk to them about their feelings and mention that you've noticed a change. Depression is real. It's important to validate their feelings even if you do not understand why they are feeling this way. If you come to them with a compassionate stance, there'll be more likely to be open to talking to someone and getting treatment to help them feel better.
There are a number of very important symptoms to look out for when we're concerned that someone may have depression. Sleep disturbances are a big one, so people will often report that they're not sleeping well at night, specifically that they're waking up early in the morning - what we call early morning waking. That can be a very common sign of depression. Sometimes people will sleep too much - they'll say they can't get out of bed even after sleeping for 14, 15 hours. When you probe a little further, you may find that they're not even sleeping that entire time, but spending a very large amount of time in bed. Interest is another thing we look at with depression. People who used to have a variety of interests who used to love going out doing this and doing that. When they become depressed, they become what we call Anhedonic - meaning they're not interested in anything. Nothing brings them joy. They have no desire to get out. They have no energy to get out. Guilt is another very common symptom of depression. People will often assume that it's their fault that things beyond their control are their fault and take the blame in an unhealthy way for many, many things that are going on in and out of their lives.
Energy is another hallmark symptom. People with depression generally have a very low energy and simply getting through the day can be a big challenge for them. Concentration: people with depression will say that they read a page and it doesn't register. They're watching a movie and it's going in through one ear, out the other ear. The ability to focus becomes severely impaired, and this is an important point because there are other psychiatric conditions that affect attention, which depression can masquerade as and sometimes will be misdiagnosed as an attention deficit disorder when the real root cause may be a depression. Appetite is another thing that we look at with depression, so people who are severely depressed, will usually eat a lot less than they normally do. They may lose unhealthy amounts of weight. In some instances, people may eat more than they usually do as a coping strategy, but certainly more common to find a decrease in appetite.
Psychomotor Retardation, which is a general slowing of movements of the body is sometimes seen in depression and severe cases can be what's called Catatonia - in which a person becomes so stiff, so rigid, literally like he or she can't move. Suicidality is perhaps one of the most dreaded symptoms of depression, in which a person may even begin to have thoughts of wanting to end the his or her own life. Other things that we've often find in depression include isolation, so people will cut off contact with those who they are closest with and have no desire to connect to other people. Sometimes people will experience somatic symptoms, meaning they'll have stomach aches, they'll have backaches, they'll have unexplained pain. Interestingly, this is one of the ways that depression sometimes comes to medical attention - is people having these other symptoms that are perhaps a result of their depression.
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