How to Recognize Depression in Others: 10 signs and symptoms

World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations agency mandated to coordinate international health activities and help governments improve health services, estimates that more than 3.8% of the world’s population experience depression translating into 280 million people in numerical counts.

Signs and symptoms of depression are observable in 50% more women than among men and also more than 10% of pregnant women and women who have just given birth experience depression.



Simply put, depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, think and act for long periods of time. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, and a range of other emotional and physical symptoms. It affects a person's thoughts, feelings, and daily functioning, often causing significant distress and impairing their ability to carry out normal activities.

Unlike your regular mood changes and feelings about everyday life, depression can affect all aspects of life, including relationships with family members, close friends and the community in general. It often leads to problems at school and the workplace.

In spite of available and effective treatments for depression or mental disorders recommended by the WHO, records have shown that more than 75% of people in low and middle-income countries receive little to no treatments.

The existing barriers to receiving effective care have consistently been a lack of investment in mental health care system, the lack of trained health-care providers as well as the incessant social stigma associated with mental disorders.


Here are 10 ways to recognize signs and symptoms in people with depression


  1. Persistent sadness and hopeless outlook: People who are depressed are often sad, empty, or have a depressed mood most of the day or nearly every day. This sadness may be intense and may not be related to any specific event or circumstance. They have a gloomy outlook to life thinking nothing will ever get better and there is nothing one can do to improve the situation.


  1. Loss of interest or pleasure: Patience living with depression lose interest or pleasure in activities that they once enjoyed, such as hobbies, socializing, or time spent with loved ones or even sex and in some extreme cases, impotence. They soon become detached or emotionally numb. One practically loses their ability to feel joy and pleasure.


  1. Changes in appetite and weight: We see a significant reduction or change in appetite and weight as a result of depression. This may result in a noticeable weight loss or weight gain which can be more than 5% of body weight in a month. Some individuals may experience a decrease in appetite, while others may turn to food as a way of coping and experience an increase in appetite.


  1. Sleep disturbances: Changes in sleep patterns are common in depression. This can manifest as insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or excessive sleeping also known as hypersomnia. In other words, some individuals may struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, while others may find it difficult to get out of bed and feel constantly fatigued.


  1. Fatigue and loss of energy: Feeling persistently tired, lacking energy, and experiencing a general sense of fatigue, even after getting enough sleep. Simple tasks may feel exhausting and require extra effort or take longer to complete.


  1. Difficulty concentrating and making decisions: There is a common problem with concentration, memory, and decision-making. Individuals living with depression may have trouble focusing, completing tasks, or making even inappropriate and simple decisions.


  1. The feelings of worthlessness and guilt: Another sign a neighbor or family member is severely depressed is when you notice their feeling of worthlessness, excessive guilt or having a negative self-perception. Such individuals would often blame themselves for perceived failures and may have a distorted view of their abilities and self-worth. By this they harshly criticize themselves for perceived faults and mistakes.


  1. Restlessness or slowed movements: Some people with depression may experience restlessness, agitation, or an inability to sit still. On the other hand, others may experience slowed movements, speech, and overall physical sluggishness. In one breathe, they burst into anger, followed by uncontrollable flow of tears.


  1. There are recurrent thoughts of death or suicide: Depression has a link with suicide in the sense that a study in the US shows more than 46,000 people died from suicide in 2020 according to their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Depressed persons have a persistent thought of death, dying, or suicide. It's important to take such thoughts seriously and seek immediate help.


  1. Physical Symptoms: Depression does manifest in physical symptoms. For instance, headaches, digestive problems, muscle aches and chronic pain. These symptoms often occur alongside emotional and cognitive symptoms, experts identify. Seek help if you experience any of these symptoms to rule out depression.



While depression affects millions of people, there is a wide array of treatments available to patients from basic lifestyle changes to medications. Seeking the help of the professional is the first critical step to tackling this health crisis. It is important to note that not all patients will present these signs and symptoms of depression as the severity and duration of symptoms can vary. When you successfully identify loved ones or neighbors suffering from depression or mental breakdown help them seek medical support.









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