Feeling down or depressed from time to time is normal. But if these feelings last 2 weeks or more, or start to affect everyday life, this can be a sign of depression.
Depression can develop slowly. Someone who's depressed does not always realise or acknowledge that they're not feeling or behaving as they usually do.
Often it's a partner, family member or carer who first realises that help's needed. They may encourage their friend or relative to see a GP, or find some other source of support.
Signs that someone may be depressed
Depression has lots of possible symptoms.
You may notice that someone:
- has lost interest in doing things they normally enjoy
- seems to be feeling down or hopeless
- has slower speech and movements or is more fidgety and restless than usual
- feels tired or does not have much energy
- is overeating or has lost their appetite
- is sleeping more than usual or is not able to sleep
- has trouble concentrating on everyday things, such as watching TV or reading the paper
Signs of depression in older people
The charity Age UK says that signs of depression in older people can include:
- empty fridges and cupboards (which suggest a poor diet)
- neglected appearance
- poor hygiene
- someone showing little joy in receiving visitors
Tips to help someone who seems down
- Let them know you care and are there to listen.
- Accept them as they are, without judging them.
- Gently encourage them to help themselves – for example, by staying physically active, eating a balanced diet and doing things they enjoy.
- Get information about the services available to them, such as psychological therapy services or depression support groups in their area.
- Stay in touch with them by messaging, texting, phoning or meeting for coffee. People who are depressed can become isolated and may find it difficult to leave their home.
- Try to be patient.
- Take care of yourself.
When to get help urgently
If the person you're worried about expresses suicidal feelings, you or they should contact a GP or NHS 111.
You can also contact Samaritans on 116 123 for confidential 24-hour support.
Hear how friends and family helped other people with depression on healthtalk.org.
Audio: Low mood and depression
In this audio guide, a doctor explains what you can do to help yourself cope with low mood and depression.
Media review due: 2 March 2024