Depression is a difficult condition to spot in yourself and in someone else. It’s something that can be easily hidden from others. But, luckily, there are still things you can look for if you think your friend may be depressed. We’re here to help!
Before getting started, we want to remind you that this is for educational purposes, and not meant to diagnose or act as medical advice.
Here are 8 signs your friend may be depressed:
1. They ignore messages
Do you feel like your friend is ghosting you? Texts left on read, calls ignored? If you two usually talk all time and there is no reason for your friend to be mad at you, he or she may be depressed.
A commonly known sign of depression is social isolation. In this time, your friend could be sitting in silence while their depression persists. When people with depression isolate themselves, they could be ruminating, lost in thought, or feeling drained. It’s important to continue to reach out to your friend if you believe this is the case. It may not seem like it, but by supporting them and showing you care, you’re helping to brighten their day despite the depression they may be dealing with.
2. They are disinterested in what they used to enjoy
You may ask your friend to hang out at their favorite restaurant or do their favorite activities, and they just don’t seem to care. This is known as apathy, another common sign of depression.
Although apathy can appear as moodiness or laziness, it actually does have a scientific basis! There’s a portion of our brain that essentially manages our motivation and rewards systems. The chemical Dopamine drives this system, and the less of it you have flowing through this portion of the brain, the more apathetic you appear (Shabir 2019). Although apathy does often get confused with depression, remember that although it is a common symptom, there are factors that separate the two (Chong & Husain 2016).
If you notice this in your friend, try not to judge them or interpret it as a reflection on you. Know that it could very well be a sign of something bigger, depression being the most common.
3. They have emotional outbursts
Many people with depression tend to be more irritable than normal. Unfortunately, this can lead to emotional outbursts and misdirected anger.
According to Harvard Health, irritability is a more common depression symptom in men, due to their tendency to bottle their feelings up and push them down (Harvard Health 2013). This is not to generalize, though. Women are absolutely not exempt from this and can still show irritability as a sign of depression, and there are some depressed men who are not irritable. But according to trends in the data, if you are looking for signs of depression in a male friend particularly, you might want to keep an eye out for this one.
4. They have a significant change in appetite
Appetite changes, commonly linked to depression, can go both ways. It may be that your friend is continually less hungry or more hungry than usual.
The possibilities of both are due to the stress levels persist in the brain during depression (Providence 2017). As the length of stress increases, eating habits normally transition from a loss of appetite to emotional overeating (Providence 2017). All this to say that if you notice a sudden shift in your friend’s eating habits, it may also be a sign of depression.
5. Their body language communicates sadness
Body language can pull back the curtains of the emotions people may try to hide. Since major, prolonged sadness is a common sign of depression, body language that may make your friend appear sad, for a long period of time, might be a sign of depression.
This type of body language could be hunched shoulders, head down, and just an overall appearance that they are weighed down by something.
6. Their energy seems off
Has your friend recently started acting happier than normal? Or, do they seem quieter than normal? Either can be a sign of depression.
People with depression tend to conceal their emotions in public, scared of showing others how they really feel. They may act happy and energized in ways that seem out of character for them, to convince those around them that nothing is wrong. While in reality, they’re feeling anything but happy and chipper on the inside.
On the flip side, people with depression may be quieter on the outside to balance potential rumination and anxiety on the inside. If your friend constantly seems quiet, preoccupied, or lost in thought, they may be suffering from depression.
7. They seem more closed-off than normal
Similarly, if you notice something bothering your friend for a long period, but they seem to shy away from talking about it, they may be depressed.
It can be difficult or even embarrassing to put depression into words. Sometimes, there isn’t a single event that caused it, or there might be so much happening inside their head that putting it into words seems tedious. In other instances, talking about their depression may make someone feel uncomfortable or even more sad. If your friend is struggling to verbalize her prolonged sadness, they may be suffering from depression and either don’t want to talk about it or don’t know how.
8. They recently had a major life change
According to an article from Depression.org, life changes, positive or negative, can evoke depression. These changes can be job changes, news about moving, divorce, or even goals they have set in their life (Depression.org). If your friend has gone through a life change and appears to be distressed or distraught about it, they could be depressed.
We hope we were able to give you some signs to look out for if your friend may be suffering from depression. Do you notice any of these among your friends? Let us know. Thanks for reading!
- Chong TTJ and Husain M. “The role of dopamine in the pathophysiology and treatment of apathy”. In: Studer B and Knecht S, editors, Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 229, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2016, pp. 389-426.
- “Major changes”. Depression and Anxiety. Depression.org. N.d.
- “Men: Don’t ignore signs of depression”. Harvard Men’s Health Watch. Harvard Health Publishing. December 2013.
- Providence Health Team. “Why you lose your appetite when you’re depressed”. Providence. 06 March 2017.
- Shabir O. “What is Apathy and Why Does it Occur?” Life Sciences. News-Medical. 23 September 2019.