Depression is a very real problem that a surprising number of people have to deal with on a near-constant basis.
The WHO estimates  that more than 264 million people suffer from depression around the world—that’s a lot of people struggling with difficult emotional responses to daily challenges and mood fluctuations over which they have little to no control.
It’s very possible that some of your family or friends are also suffering from depression and could really use your help to lift them out of it. Below, we’re going to take a look at ways to spot depression in those close to you, and what you can do about it.
Depression is a chronic disease, one that typically lasts for more than just a few days and tends to recur, affecting sufferers on a regular basis. This means that people who are looking for symptoms of depression will typically be able to spot them.
Some of the signs that your friend or relative are stressed include :
Constant fatigue and tiredness
Poor sleep quality or regular sleep disturbances
Low-grade aches and pains
Depressed or low mood (which, surprisingly, isn’t always a common symptom)
Appetite gain or loss
Weight gain or loss, due to changing food intake
Increased drug and/or alcohol use to cope with feelings
Forced happiness, also known as “smiling depression”
Lack of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed, as well as disinterest in pursuing future projects
Decreased libido and lower sex drive
Anger or irritability
Reckless or escapist behavior
Feelings of guilt or self-loathing
Studies have shown that people who suffer from depression, particularly the elderly, are more likely to also suffer from chronic health conditions like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 Diabetes, and autoimmune conditions.
There are a few known risk factors that raise a person’s probability of suffering from depression. These include :
Health problems. Chronic medical conditions and cognitive impairment are both known to lead to depression.
Aging-related diseases. Arteriosclerosis and immune and endocrine changes can affect the parts of the brain that control mood, leading to depression.
Genetics. Depression, like many other mental health disorders, can run in the family.
Hormonal changes. Pregnancy, menopause, and other times of significant hormonal changes can lead to depression.
Stress or trauma. Both stress and trauma can trigger depressive episodes, or bring on depression in people who have never suffered from it before.
Psychosocial adversity. Problems like disability, relocation, isolation, impoverishment, bereavement, and caregiving can all be a factor in depression.
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If you’re seeing the signs that your friend or family member could be depressed, know that you have the power to help. Friendship has been proven to combat depression  and seriously improve mental health. Stepping up to make a difference in the life of someone you care about is something you can do.
Here’s how you can help:
Listen. When they talk, listen to what they’re saying. Make sure they know that you care about them regardless of what they’re struggling with, that you accept them the way they are. Don’t force them to talk about their emotions if they don’t want to—just be there, listen, and be present for them in whatever way they need.
Be available. Let your friend or relative know that you’re just a call, email, or text message away, any time they need you. Sometimes, just being available is the best thing you can do. It makes sure they know you care and are willing to help them on their terms.
Don’t focus on the depression. This is particularly important if they have been diagnosed with or battling depression for years. They understand that depression is a struggle they have to live with, but sometimes they just want to feel normal. Do things that help them feel “normal”—it can help to lift them out of their depression more than you realize.
Take their feelings seriously. NEVER say, “Just cheer up” or “Forget about it”, as this implies that depression is something they have greater control over. This emotional problem is often out of their control—their brain chemistry is imbalanced, leading to depressive feelings—so failing to take their feelings seriously can only make the challenge harder for them.
Help them find support. Encourage them (GENTLY) to seek professional help, and help them find the resources, counseling, or therapy that suits them best—but only if they want your assistance. This is an important step in the process of managing depression, and it’s one that they may not be able to take on their own. A helping hand can make a huge difference, as long as it comes from a friend or loved one.
Depression is a daily struggle, but having someone to struggle alongside can make the challenge much more bearable. Be that good friend or family member who is available, welcoming, and supportive, and you can change someone’s life for the better!
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