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Recognising Early Signs of Depression

One of our Parent Champions writes about what she thinks the early signs of depression are and why it's important to recognise them. 

In my role as a Parent Champion at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, over the last five years, I have increasingly paid more attention to mental health issues and how they affect people in everyday life.

I now notice little tell-tale signs that show whether a person is happy, sad, stressed, content, hyper or low in mood.

During the course of my daily life, I have sometimes found myself in conversations with people talking about challenging relationships that they or someone they know of are dealing with. These involved the apparent 'difficult behaviour' of people they have known for years.

I have often felt compelled to ask them if the individual in question behaved in this manner over the previous years (as those being discussed, were either relatives, children or partners). The answer has often been 'no'.

I asked the question, because the behaviour being described sounded very much as though the person in question could be struggling with undiagnosed depression.

I have come to realise, that because depression often progresses very gradually, the people living with or seeing the person affected on a regular basis may not actually notice the transition as it starts to take place. They may only recognise the change in behaviour once it reaches the extreme.

It is therefore very important to be aware of the signs of the possible early stages of depression – to enable people to offer help and support to loved ones when it is most needed. 

Here are what I believe to be some of the common early signs of depression:
Constant anger and irritability in someone that has previously not displayed such behaviour is a common indication that a close friend or relative may be dealing with a personal difficulty that could very well be depression.

Displaying a negative state of mind consistently, especially towards things that should normally bring joy, is another possible sign of depression that could go unnoticed.

Withdrawal from social interactions and unusual self-imposed isolation should not be dismissed as being cold or uncaring.

Other common signs of depression I notice are loss of interest in things that previously brought pleasure. Sudden changes in eating habits, such as loss of appetite or over eating. Changes in sleeping patterns such as difficulty sleeping or oversleeping.

As the person experiencing depression is also not likely to realise the gradual change, it is important for close friends and relatives to be able to identify any shifts in personality for what they really are. They can then support the person suffering, in seeking the correct help. 

There can be many reasons for the onset of depression: major traumatic experiences or some people say it can be caused by biological imbalance.

The sooner help is sought, the sooner the cause can be identified, the correct treatment started and a successful outcome achieved. With all the stresses of modern day living: work, social media, inadequate diet (to name a few) more and more people are finding themselves slipping into depression.

So the next time someone you know starts to act out of character – realise this could be your chance to be a friend indeed.