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Depression: how do you know?
What can you do?

A lot of us remember Roy G. Biv from grade school. He wasn’t a classmate – the name was used to help us remember the color spectrum in the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, and so on. When we talk about the signs of depression, it is similar to a spectrum. How do we decide just when red blurs into orange? How do we know when a friend is “just down” or clinically depressed? As we review the signs of depression, remember that these symptoms occur on a continuum. All of us feel sad and blue at times. All of us have times that we just can’t concentrate.  Two questions to keep in mind are:

Have these signs lasted for more than a couple of weeks?
How many of the symptoms does this person have?

Mood: When a person is depressed, life may seem hopeless. She may lose sight of her own worth or he may feel helpless to change negative circumstances in his life. A sense of sadness permeates his or her perspective on life.

Anhedonia: You can see the root word “hedonism” within this word. A hedonist seeks pleasure, thinking it is the greatest good. Someone who is depressed, on the other hand, loses the ability to experience pleasure. Anhedonia means that an activity that used to be fun is not enjoyable anymore. A friend may think that rollerblading isn’t fun anymore or may pull back from a hobby that you used to enjoy together. If he or she doesn’t seem to be replacing these activities with other activities, then it might be that depression is involved.  

    There are other signs that point to depression: disturbances in sleep and appetite, loss of energy and decreases in being able to pay attention and concentrate. Difficulties with substance abuse can add to the impact of depression. In about 20% of depressive episodes, the person begins to have thoughts about suicide. If you notice that someone you know has these signs of depression, then tell an adult that you trust. Letting someone know is a sign of true friendship, and various treatments can help your friend find joy in life once again.

by Dr. Cathleen McGreal

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