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
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 an NHS talking therapy service or depression support groups in their area.
- Stay in touch with them by messaging, 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.
Audio: Self-help for 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