Recognizing depression in your loved ones or even in yourself can be a turning point for those struggling who need help. Sometimes depression isn't obvious. You might imagine someone with depression laying in bed, unable to move or get up to go to work or eat. They might struggle to take care of themselves on the most basic level. Severe depression can certainly look that way. But it can also appear in a lot subtler ways.
Some people who struggle with depression conceal or mask their depression and it can be hard to pick up on the warning signs unless you know what to look for. Here are 5 signs that someone is struggling with depression - and is good at masking it.
1. They display deep empathy.
People who mask their depression often express their hurt through the hurt of others. They express and display deep empathy.
If you're feeling broken and empty, they'll be by your side emphasizing and listening. If a tragedy occurs to someone else, they might take on that tragedy as their own and feel the pain as if it were happening to them.
They may try and mask their own feelings and emotions, but they allow themselves to live these things through others while pretending their own lives are absolutely fine.
2. They spend most of their time alone.
People with depression are known to spend time alone. You might picture them in a dark bedroom, alone, doing absolutely nothing.
It's not always obvious that excessive alone time is a sign of depression though.
People who mask their depression may still spend most of their time alone and they may or may not lie about what they're doing in that alone time. Sometimes they'll say they were busy on a hobby or craft, working or cleaning, doing productive things with their time. Other times they'll avoid talking about their time and try to steer the conversation in a different direction completely.
They may cancel plans to hangout with friends and family on a regular basis, usually making up excuses as to why.
Pay close attention if you notice a loved one spending excessive amounts of time alone.
3. They sometimes appear overly happy.
People struggling with depression and working to mask it will often overcompensate with their emotions. They may appear overly (and abnormally) happy. They work hard to appear positive and make others laugh. They might be full of jokes and kind words of encouragement.
Sometimes the people struggling the most are the people you'd expect it from the least because of this tendency to overcompensate.
If you know someone who's always happy and never seems to struggle, they may be secretly struggling with depression.
4. They have inconsistent sleeping and eating patterns.
They might sleep a lot, sometimes during the day and sometimes during the night. Their sleep patterns may be erratic and inconsistent. It's not uncommon for people with depression to take long naps or struggle with insomnia (or both).
They also might have strange eating patterns, sometimes skipping meals and hardly eating and other times eating a significant amount in a short period of time.
Regular and consistent eating and sleeping patterns are important for both mental and physical health. Someone struggling with depression may not be able to care for themselves on this basic level and it may affect all areas of their lives.
Pay close attention if someone you know is sleeping strange, inconsistent hours and struggling to eat (or binging on food).
5. They stop doing things they used to enjoy.
Depression takes the joy out of life and people with depression will eventually stop doing the things and activities they once enjoyed.
They'll pull away from their favorite hobbies and pastimes and may start to act like they don't enjoy them anymore.
While it can be normal and healthy to find new activities and hobbies to enjoy while finding the old ones less fun, it may be a sign of depression if someone stops all activities together.
If they don't replace their excitement for one activity with another, and just lose that enthusiasm completely, it may be a sign they have a depression and are trying to hide it.
What can you do?
Recognizing the signs of depression in a loved one is the first step. Once you're concerned they may be struggling with depression, it's time to reach out and talk with them.
It's ok to voice your concern and ask if you can help them schedule an appointment to see a general practitioner or therapist for further help.
Depression is treatable and no one should have to live with it for long. Speaking up about your concerns and love for the person may be the difference between them seeking help and living with that burden for another day.
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