Depression is a serious mental health disorder that can strike males, females, adults, adolescents and even children. Adult caretakers, school teachers, physicians and even religious leaders should be trained in recognizing the key signs of depression so that they may be able to help or advise others to seek medical attention. There are several key characteristics to look for to recognize depression. Not all of them are as obvious as they may seem.
Reduced Non-Verbal Communication
With depression, many people can have a decreased amount of facial expression, gesturing and voice inflection. They will tend to speak in a monotone voice and may also have trouble recognizing these conversational aspects in others as well.
Decreased Personal Grooming Habits
People suffering from depression may start to ignore daily grooming regimens. They may start to skip showers, fail to brush or comb their hair and wear dirty clothing. Be on the lookout for wrinkly clothing as well as loss of interest in cleaning and personal hygiene.
Changes In Sleep Habits
Those suffering from depression may experience drastic changes in their sleeping patterns, including increased or decreased sleep. When coupled with anxiety, depression can lead to sleepless nights, restless sleep and waking prematurely. Since sleep is an essential life process necessary for the body to heal, consolidate memories and rest, this can have a damaging effect on one's physical health, memory and interpersonal life. Depression can also result in excessive sleep, for example, sleeping more than twelve hours at once without waking. Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, so look for any sudden changes in sleep patterns. Keep in mind, however, that some people naturally need a bit more or less sleep than average to function.
Changes In Eating Habits
Depression can also affect one's appetite, causing increases or decreases in food intake. Occasionally, depression can also be paired with or result from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (not eating at all) or bulimia nervosa (binge eating followed by purging or vomiting). Be on the lookout for sudden changes in weight, aversion to food, drastic changes in diet, such as only drinking liquids or coffee, or binge eating certain types of food.
Loss of Interest In Previous Activities
One of the most prominent features of depression is a loss of interest in activities or hobbies that a person previously enjoyed. This can include school, work, religious affiliations or social events. The person can become listless, disinterested and bored. Look for a sudden decrease in activity, the person skipping out on routine events and avoidance of social situations.
Decreased Sexual Desire
Depression can also decrease a person's sexual desires and performance. Married people suffering from depression may start avoiding spouses and going to bed early or may not be able to perform sexually.
Serious cases of depression can cause a feeling of worthlessness, guilt and other strong emotions that can cause victims to contemplate suicide. There are several key phrases to listen for that can signal that a person is having suicidal thoughts. They include, I'm so worthless, No one would even notice if I died, I just want to die, and I want to kill myself. Although these can sometimes be mentioned in passing, they should be taken seriously, especially when mentioned in combination with any of the above characteristics of depression. These phrases are usually a subtle cry for help from a sufferer who may not know how else to express himself or herself or ask for help.
The most severe sign of depression is attempting to take one's own life. This can be by engaging in reckless behavior, taking drugs or other attempts. These should be taken very seriously, and the person should be committed to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation and treatment.
These are a few of the signs and symptoms of depression that can be recognized while there is still time for treatment.
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