Do you know how to recognize depression at any age? Yes, depression happens to loved ones at all ages from children to seniors. The causes are not the same, so it’s important to know how to read the signs. Depression is more than just feeling blue. The World Health Organization reports that there are 264 million people in the world who suffer from depression. In the United States, 17.3 million adults experience at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime. Teens rank second, followed by young adults. Children and senior also experience depression.

Depression affects people from all walks and all ages. Even people who have been healthy and happy experience depression at different stages of their lives. All too often, loved ones suffer in silence because they don’t know how to tell us what’s wrong, we don’t know how to recognize the signs and symptoms. As parents, you may even dismiss your teen’s traumas as ‘just some phase.’ In children and teens, especially, depression can lead to risky behaviors, self-harm, and even suicide when undiagnosed or left untreated. As loving family members and friends, we can do more to help and support the people we care about by knowing the signs and how to help.

Observation Is The Key

There is no such thing as benign neglect. When you ignore your loved ones emotional state, you are neglecting them without meaning to. Here’s what to look for. Changes in attitudes and behavior that interfere with work, school, or personal relationships could signal depression. Some of the tell-tale signs include:

  • Disinterest in Usual Activities: Loved ones may lose interest in activities they used to do, such as sex, hobbies, or sports. 
  • Changes in Appetite: That means binge eating or fasting, not eating at all, or not enough to maintain a healthy weight. Drastic weight gain or loss.
  • Disrupted Sleep: Depressed loved ones can either have difficulty sleeping and staying asleep, or they could sleep most of the time.
  • Lack of Energy: Family members or friends who suffer from depression often feel exhausted and struggle to do small tasks. They may even neglect their hygiene and grooming.
  • Unexplained Body Aches: They may complain of frequent headaches and body pain that don’t respond to medicine. 
  • Preoccupation with Death: Depression can cause loved ones to harm themselves or think about ending their life. They may even talk about how things are better when they’re gone or suddenly feel the urge to arrange for their affairs. 

If more than five of the above persist for more than two weeks, it’s best to talk to them and offer help. You can click here to know the available treatment options so you can help your loved ones overcome depression and regain their enthusiasm for life.      

Signs of depression at any age

While those above are common signs of depression, there are other, subtle, signs indicate your loved one could be suffering. Depression is expressed in different ways at different ages.

  •  Fathers and Adult Male Family Members

While work and other responsibilities keep men active and busy, adult males who suffer from depression often complain of fatigue and sleep problems. They may no longer find sports, hobbies, or even sex desirable. They can be irritable and often have angry outbursts that result in abusive behavior. Some turn to alcohol and substance abuse. Others engage in reckless driving or risky sexual activity. 

Psychologists refer to this as ‘male-based depression,’ resulting in financial, personal, and family issues. It can even trigger suicide attempts. Men aren’t open about their feelings, and they may refuse treatment, thinking that doing so makes them weak and vulnerable. 

Uncles or grandfathers may express depression more as physical ailments and memory problems. They may feel aches and pains all over their body that doesn’t seem to go away even with medication. Loved ones may also have difficulty remembering things or focusing on daily tasks. Worse, they may even neglect their hygiene and refuse to take medications. 

  •  New Mothers and Menopausal Women     

Hormonal changes can cause depression in women. Women who recently gave birth may experience post-partum depression and experience difficulty caring for their newborn. They may feel overwhelmed with their new role that they may feel anxious or irritable. Women often express feelings of guilt and low self-worth. They may overeat and gain weight, which could make depression more severe. 

Sisters or aunts who are at the menopausal stage can also experience depression. They may complain of unexplainable body aches and pains and could also become irritable. 

  •  Children and Teens  

Contrary to popular belief, children can also experience depression. They can become cranky and aggressive. They may have trouble concentrating in school and can either suffer from insomnia or excessive sleep. Children express emotional distress by talking about physical pains, like stomach aches and headaches.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports an increase in teenage depression, with girls experiencing depression after they hit puberty. Aside from changes in eating and sleeping patterns, they may also become irritable and withdrawn. If depression remains untreated in teens, it may result in self-harm activities such as hitting, burning, scratching, and cutting. Others may even contemplate suicide and verbally express intent to end their lives. 

  • Young Adults 

Family members aged 18-25 may also encounter depressive episodes. They are the most vulnerable not only for depression but also for suicide. Sometimes depression in young adults is hard to recognize because they result in ‘smiling depression’ where they pretend to be happy whenever they’re around people.

They may also manifest greater control over events than those without depression. Aside from this, young adults are also less optimistic about the future. 

What To Do    

Learning to recognize the obvious and the subtle signs of depression in our loved ones is the first step to helping them. When we notice changes in behavior, we can talk to them and assure them of our support. We can express our love and concern by listening to them as they talk, cry, and vent. Listening with a non-judgmental view can ensure that they will open up and accept professional help.  

It’s also helpful for us to involve everyone in the family when seeking help for our loved ones. As we extend support and show understanding, they will find the will to overcome depression.

Teaching resilience and getting help   

Depression can afflict anyone, no matter their age or status. As we learn about the common and not-so-obvious signs that signal depression, we can show our concern by asking questions, listening, and offering help and support. Depression is treatable, so it’s essential that we encourage resilience to get through it and support for everyone affected by it. That means family members need help, too.


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