“Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm, or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there shouldn’t be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together. We don’t consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength—and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need.”—Michelle Obama, former first lady
In my last post, Depression – Does Being Active Help – A Debate, I attempted to give insight into the many types of depression and the treatments for each. I believe that we do not understand depression and that we need to be more aware of what the disease is.
What started my interest was an article encouraging the use of exercise as a treatment for depression. After all my research, I concluded that, yes, exercise can certainly be used and should be, but it is not a fix-all for depression. In my opinion, it is more a helpful preventative. Physical activity is an excellent practice to be followed in any treatment for depression and improved health in general.
Today, I am writing about signs to look for in identifying a person who may be depressed.
Depression has a stigma attached to it; no one wants to be labeled a depressed person. They will go to great lengths to hide that there is anything wrong. It may be reasonable for them to hope if they keep maintaining what looks like a normal life, their depression will just go away.
So how can we recognize that someone is depressed? Here are some changes in someone’s behavior we might observe:
Their normal behavior changes. They are a little lost and are trying to ease their feelings of sadness and loneliness. They may lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
They may no longer enjoy foods they once did, stop eating, and start losing weight. They may also overcompensate and eat more than they did, hoping it will help them feel better. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to try and alleviate their emotions.
Some times they will exhibit unusual irritability over something they would not have had a problem with before. They may also show anger in the same way, which would be a change of character.
Many people can conceal their depression and wear a ‘happy face’ like they would wear a mask. They pretend they are happy and hide behind their false persona. It is not easy to maintain, and it is very tiring, which can, of course, make them feel worse.
“The only thing more exhausting than being depressed is pretending that you’re not.”—Anonymous
To avoid anyone seeing their mask, they will spend less time with other people and prefer to be alone. They will make excuses to avoid everyday events such as dinner with friends. It can be difficult to see through the false exterior they present.
Their outlook will appear to change, and they may become more thoughtful in their discussions. They may now talk openly about being disappointed that they have not accomplished more. It is a change in behavior, something that they would not have done before. They may talk about being better, being happier, but they do not acknowledge they are sad.
A depressed person tries to keep their feelings hidden so that no one will know. It is difficult and emotional. They don’t want to show their depression but may react more strongly than before. Where before they did not openly cry, they may do so now and also be more openly affectionate. On the other extreme is when they may respond with anger in certain circumstances. That would not be an expected response for them. Both of these emotional responses may be a sign that something is wrong.
There is a psychological term called, depressive realism. I found this difficult to explain, so I am using the definition from the American Psychological Association.
“Psychologists have thought for decades that depressed people tend to distort the facts and view their lives more negatively than do non-depressed people. Yet, psychological studies have consistently revealed a peculiar exception to that pattern: Depressed people, studies indicated, judge their control of events more accurately than do non-depressed people in a phenomenon that came to be known as “depressive realism.”
It may be a sign of depression if someone you know has always responded in a very positive way. They have always indicated everything is excellent, but now they have the opposite reaction and do not anticipate anything going well.
They may cry out for help, but then they reverse course. Being depressed and struggling to hide it from everyone is an intense struggle. They have a resolve to continue to hide their depression, which may become unbearable for a moment in time. They relent and tell someone. They may talk to a close friend or decide to talk to a therapist.
Telling someone is such a momentous event a depressed person may feel like they are confessing a crime. It may be too much for them to handle, and they will not follow through with any appointments they may have made with a therapist. They will tell family or friends that they were having a bad day and now they are fine.
They do not want to admit to themselves that they suffer from depression. It may be easier to continue life as they have been. It may actually feel comfortable to them. It feels too difficult to change.
Depression is real, too real. It comes in many forms, from mild to very deep and dark. It is a disease that is not understood. It is hidden, partly because we do not want to acknowledge it. Someone who is depressed does not want to be. They do not want to admit that they are. People who are not depressed do not understand, and they are frightened by it. They do not know what to do, and it is more comfortable to ignore it.
There is a stigma regarding depression, and that needs to change. Life is hard. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were not the case? I do not have any answers. The best thing I think we can do is educate ourselves so we can better understand what depression is. Always smile at someone and be kind. If you see someone struggling ask if there is anything you can do for them. Hold out a hand. Help them take a step forward.
“My mental health problems are real and they are valid. I will not judge myself for the bad days when I can barely get out of bed. I will not make myself feel worse because someone else appears to be handling their mental illness better than I am handling mine. Recovery is not a competition.”—Matt Joseph Diaz
As always, thank you for reading my blog. Have a good day.