Depression is the leading cause of disability for people ages 15 to 44 in the United States, so it a very common, but serious mood disorder. Learn about the warning signs that indicate depression is becoming dangerous, and what to do if you're concerned about the behavior of a loved one.
What Are Symptoms Of Depression?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. If these symptoms last for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, a person may be suffering from depression.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
- 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
When people have bouts of sadness, isolation or hopelessness that come and go based on circumstances it is called situational depression. Situational depression is a type of adjustment disorder. It can make it hard for you to adjust to your everyday life following a traumatic event like death, divorce losing a job, problems at work or relationship problems.
"If you know why you're depressed – there's a reason behind it – then it's probably situational depression," says Jean Lubeckis, LMHC, LCPC, a therapist with the Franciscan Health Employee Assistance Program. "But if everything in your life is fine, and you can't think of anything that's causing you to be depressed, then you may be suffering from major depression."
All depression is not the same. There are times when you may feel sad, lonely or hopeless for a few days or feel depressed. However, major depression, also known as “clinical depression,” lasts longer having a disabling effect. It can prevent a depressed person from doing normal everyday activities.
In addition, the symptoms of major depression are present daily – lasting for most of the day or weeks for a period of two or more years. If left untreated, major depression can be life-threatening.
Major depression zaps your energy and will to engage in daily life. Symptoms may include:
- A desire to stay in bed all day
- Not attending to routine activities like bathing, paying bills and making meals
- Feelings of worthlessness and/or hopelessness
- Decreased appetite
- Lack of interest in your usual activities
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Feeling a lack of energy to do anything, even minor tasks
"People who have major depression have to force themselves to do things. They may be able to get themselves to work, but then they won't be able to do anything else. They might spend the entire weekend in bed, sometimes without bathing or eating," Lubeckis said.
Risk Factors For Suicide
The following are risk factors for suicide: however, many people with these risk factors are not necessarily suicidal.
- Depression and other mental disorders and feeling alone
- Substance abuse (often in combination with other mental disorders)
- Prior suicide attempt
- Family history of suicide
- Family violence including physical or sexual abuse
- Firearms in the home
- Exposure to suicidal behaviors of family members or peers
Potential Signs of Suicide Risk
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States – and the primary cause of suicide is depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people who kill themselves exhibit one or more suicidal signs, either through what they say or do. The more suicidal warning signs, the greater the risk.
What to watch for if you feel someone is at risk for suicide:
If a person talks about:
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Experiencing unbearable pain
- Having no reason to live
- Killing themselves
Specific behaviors to look out for include:
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
- Acting recklessly
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
- Loss of interest
“Just because signs and symptoms are there does not mean that someone is necessarily suicidal,” said Joann Turner, who teaches QPR training at Franciscan Health. “But again, what's the harm in asking the question? If you ask the question, it's not going to make them say, ‘Oh, you know what? I think that's a great idea.’ If you ask the question, it lets them know you care.”
How To Help
If you are concerned, immediate action is very important. Suicide can be prevented and most people who feel suicidal demonstrate warning signs. Recognizing some of the warning signs is the first step in helping yourself or someone you care about.
"If you notice behavioral changes in someone you care about, don't be afraid to have a talk about these changes with your loved one," says Lubeckis. "In a loving, non-judgmental way, address what you've noticed using 'I' statements. You don't just want to say, 'You seem depressed.'" Instead, state what you’ve noticed, such as:
- I've noticed that you seem sad lately.
- I've noticed that you haven’t been joining us for happy hour.
- I noticed you're not eating much.
During the conversation, you want to encourage your loved one to get help. You could say things like, "Have you been to the doctor lately?" or "Do you think about going to talk to somebody?" You could even offer to go to the doctor with your loved one. Since some people are resistant to visiting a psychiatrist, you can also encourage your loved one to see their general practitioner who can provide an initial evaluation.
Resources for Support
If you or someone you love has persistent feelings of depression, make an appointment to talk with our behavioral health specialists.
If it's a crisis, please visit a Franciscan Health hospital or your nearest emergency room. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
For additional information, resources and support groups, you can visit the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.