Many people suffering from depression do so in silence. In light of the recent deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, we’ve once again kicked off a widespread discussion about suicide and mental illness—and how insidious some conditions, depression specifically, can be. According to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 35 percent of people diagnosed with depression have sought professional help in the last year.
Yes, no matter how compassionate or attentive you may be, your loved ones have expert ways of keeping their depression in the dark. Depression is more common that you think. To spot it quickly and efficiently, keep an eye out for these surefire tells. And remember: if you or a person you love is suffering from depression or suicidal ideation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
They’re incredibly upbeat
Also known as “smiling depression,” this variation of the illness surfaces in sufferers putting on a brave face for the outside world—even though they are simultaneously struggling with inner demons. Your loved one may not even be aware of their depression—or they may be overcompensating in order to assure you that everything is all right, according to Rita Labeaune, Psy.D.
They obsessively resort to hobbies
A person struggling with depression or any other mental illness will often lean into hobbies in order to feel some sort of control over their emotions. Even while these hobbies may be healthy—like tennis, or jogging—the obsessive nature with which they are pursued is a clear warning sign that sufferers are avoiding other emotions, says Dr. Margaret Rutherford.
They always choose their words carefully
If your loved one is choosing their words more carefully than normal around you, they may be trying to hide symptoms of depression. So, if you’ve noticed that your friend or family member is more reserved and thoughtful than usual, they may be fighting their own inner demons that are invisible to you
They hold you at an arm’s length
According to the Blurt organization, people suffering silently with depression may push you away without even knowing it. They also may be protecting you from their own mood changes. Many people with depression lose their social appetite—meaning that they don’t possess the energy to laugh and talk and hang out with others. Everything is exhausting and they are prone to withdraw from those they love.
They don’t show emotion around you
nother common symptom of depression is the inability to feel anything at all, according to Simon Rego, PsyD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center, which explains why your loved one may have a hard time laughing, crying, or even showing any form of emotion around you at all. They can appear like a zombie to those on the outside looking in.
They don’t eat or drink in front of you
Those suffering from a mental illness often have a decreased appetite, and, though they may try to hide this from you, their subsequent weight loss (or weight gain, in some cases), can appear quite obvious to you. Further, you may notice that they avoid going on diets, as sufferers have trouble sticking to a regimen, according to Richard Kravitz, MD, MSPH, a professor of internal medicine at University of California, Davis.
They bring up death often
Even if your loved one isn’t facing suicidal ideation, they may be prone to bringing up death in everyday conversation. Or, if they’re not openly talking about death, they may obsessively consume media that involves death, since they are often toiling with these thoughts every day.
They only open up to you
If your partner, friend, or family member confides in you, it may be because they ultimately trust you the most, and feel the need to unload some of their feelings. Fortunately, for your loved one, this is a good sign that they are actively seeking help. But, for many others (and 40 percent of college students dealing with mental illness, according to the National Association of Mental Illness), they never seek out help.
They may ask for help, then take it back
They may even ask you for help in a moment of clarity or panic, and then quickly take it back, claiming that they were just feeling overwhelmed—or any other number of excuses, says John M. Grohol, Psy.D. Many people suffering from depression do whatever it takes to hide what they deem as an ultimate weakness.
They avoid talking about past traumas
In any social setting, the last thing that your loved one suffering from depression wants to do is show emotion, according to Dr. Grohol. Since they are feeling so many things at such a heightened intensity, they often feel as though it’s better to bottle those emotions and have some sort of control over them, rather than releasing them.
Their libido plummets
If your partner has stopped desiring sex as often, this is likely due to a decreased libido—a very common symptom of depression, according to Jennifer Payne, M.D., director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins. On the other hand, your partner may attempt to overcompensate in this department by pursuing sex more aggressively—to a degree that is not typical in your relationship.
They’re constantly making excuses
When a person struggling to conceal their depression is asked directly about their strange behavior, they quickly become pros at making excuses, says Dr. Grohol. Eventually, their constant cancellation of plans and excuses for other odd behavior will catch up to them—but you should be the first to notice these cover-ups—and make an effort to understand what your loved one is truly going through. Sometimes a change in pace is what you need.