Have you ever felt that those closest to you don’t always understand you, or see what you are really feeling inside? Chances are they could be feeling the same. Familiarity can sometimes breed complacency and a lack of recognition when a loved one is suffering emotionally. While a close bond can create synchronicity and a symbiotic understanding of another person, it can also narrow the window of perspective, making it difficult to see beyond what you think you know to the deeper layers of someone’s psychological core and wellbeing.

Depression can be obscured from view

Just as you probably do not see yourself as others see you, so too will you have a view of someone close that does not necessarily reflect their reality. Closeness is often best achieved by taking a step back and sharpening your powers of observation, especially when it comes to issues surrounding depression, where the symptoms can often be obscured from view.

10 signs of depression

Whether a loved one is your partner, a close friend or your child, there are some general signs of depression that you might want to look out for if you suspect that something is amiss or not quite right.

  1. Withdrawal – Not wanting to socialize or even to leave the house. This might include long periods spent alone or being physically present yet emotionally detached.
  2. Aggressive behavior – Physical violence or sudden aggression. These attacks may be a form of defense for the person to control overwrought feelings and manage internal stress. This can also turn inwards and manifest as self-harm, which is a way of finding an outlet for emotions which are too difficult to face.
  3. Sadness – Melancholy that persists along with a generally unhappy persona. This might involve obsessive behavior and dwelling on unpleasant or sad thoughts, such as repeatedly listening to the same sad songs or sitting in a daze of unhappiness.
  4. Loss of interest in activities – A lack of engagement and interest in living life to the fullest. The person may no longer show interest in their hobbies and have a diminished libido.
  5. Risk-taking behavior – A form of escape from problems through reckless or rebellious actions, such as drug and alcohol abuse, sabotaging positives, or compulsive behavior such as gambling.
  6. Negativity – An inability to see any positives in a situation. Instead, a person has only the bleakest outlook and a general hopelessness for their situation to improve. This is often accompanied by feelings of worthlessness and powerlessness.
  7. Physical problems – From backaches to headaches and stomach problems, anxiety in general is often expressed in physical form. Sleep problems, weight loss or weight gain, and physical exhaustion are also common signs of depression.
  8. Irritability – Finding fault and blowing small issues out of proportion is a sign of depression and feelings of not being happy with one’s life. This irritability is often taken out on those closest to the depressed person.
  9. Lack of focus – Not being able to concentrate on one subject or activity for long. Often completing tasks can be time consuming and a real chore due to focus drifting easily.
  10. Suicidal thoughts – Talking about suicide, discussing death or making comments such as “life isn’t worth living”. If you see these signs it is time for immediate action such as referring the person to the Lifeline at 1(800) 273-TALK.

How you can help a loved one with depression

A problem shared can be a problem halved; however, depression can spring from a myriad of emotional, psychological and physical issues and getting to the root cause often requires professional support. Keeping the lines of communication open with a loved one is a good way to broach difficult subjects or to create a space where someone feels safe to open up.

While you can be a support for a partner, friend or child, the fact remains that you bring to the table a whole host of views, opinions and information about that other person. In other words, you cannot offer the detached professionalism that a trained counselor can. More than this, your loved one may keep feelings hidden so as not to upset you, burden you, or perhaps to prevent you feeling under attack if these include criticisms of you.

While you may feel compelled to act before your loved one spirals into an even darker place, the best approach is one of loving kindness rather than seizing control. Sometimes opening up about your own worries and anxieties may help, as can a more practical attitude where you talk about seeking help to create coping mechanisms and a strategy toward escaping depression.

Talking to your loved one about an evaluation, putting them in touch with a professional counseling service, and being there as a moral support can work wonders in helping them tackle depression and turn a corner in their life.