Signs of Depression, Suicide, and How to Help

May 2, 2015 Updated: May 2, 2015

Signs of depression will present themselves differently in each individual. Common signs of depression include the following:

Recognize the signs and symptoms of depression and openly discuss them with your loved one.
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Easily evoked tearfulness 
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Especially in men, other symptoms may include the following:

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Frustration
  • Workaholism
  • Substance abuse: alcohol and drugs
  • Risk-taking and reckless behavior: gambling and womanizing

How Family and Friends Can Help

Recognize the signs and symptoms of depression and openly discuss them with your loved one. If you recognize that your loved one may be experiencing symptoms, discuss those symptoms with them. For example, “I’ve been noticing that you’ve been sleeping a lot. How are you feeling?” 

It is important to recognize the early symptoms of depression. Encourage early interventions and seeking treatment as soon as possible. Let your family and friends know that you are there to support them if they are experiencing symptoms. Listen with an open mind and without judgment. Offer to help your loved one in seeking treatment, and make sure to follow through.

Remain calm and collected. Do not accuse your loved one of “overreacting.” Offer to listen and support the person through the journey to recovery.

Many times, people try to make the depressed person feel better by minimizing their concerns or telling them things aren’t so bad. In order to effectively help an individual with depression, you should actively listen to what they are experiencing, let them know you are there to support them, and openly discuss treatment options with them.

Treatments

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, it is important to discuss these with your primary care doctor as soon as possible.

There are many different treatments available for depression. One of the most effective is psychotherapy. Two main types of psychotherapies—cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT)—are effective in treating depression. Often these treatments are effective in as few as 12 to 16 weekly sessions.

Medications can be very helpful for some depressions and the combination of medication, and psychotherapy is often the most effective. While medications are often highly effective, about one-third of people with major depression do not achieve remission from depression, even after multiple courses of medication treatment.

A number of non-medication treatments, such as bright light-therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), have been shown effective as well for some types of depression. For cases when medication or psychotherapy does not relieve a person’s depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), more commonly known as shock therapy, can play an important role. It is the most effective treatment for depression that we have now.

The fact that all-to-many persons with depression are still unreached by current treatments is why Hope for Depression Research Foundation formed the Depression Task Force, a collaboration of leading neuroscientists combining their expertise in multiple related areas to uncover the brain circuits of depression in an exciting search for new and better treatments.

Suicide Warning Signs

Suicide can be prevented, and experts say that most people who feel suicidal demonstrate warning signs. Recognizing some of these warning signs is the first step in helping someone you care about. Here are some of the signs you might notice in a friend or associate and that may be reason for concern:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
  • Abruptly showing interest in wills, life insurance policies, or giving away prized possessions

Depression Statistics

  • Depression is more common than you may think. One in ten adult Americans experience depression annually.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for ages 15–44.
  • Depression causes 490 million disability days from work every year in the United States.
  • Depression accounts for $12 billion in lost workdays each year and takes an annual toll on U.S. businesses of $70 billion for medical expenditures, lost productivity, and other costs.
  • Internationally, depression affects 350 million people worldwide and is the third leading cause of disability.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that depression will be the leading global health burden by 2030.

 Dr. Harold W. Koenigsberg is a professor of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and board member with the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. Learn more at: HopeForDepression.org