Bring it to Barb

Barb Rock

Dear Barb,

How do you recognize depression? Are there signs to tell whether a person is depressed? Just asking if they are depressed isn’t going to give you a definite answer. Are there some unusual habits that people who are hiding their depression have? Are there people who are more prone to depression, especially those you may not think are depressed?

Worried for my Depressed Friend

Dear Worried,

Depression isn’t something that you’ll often see out in the open. Sometimes, it’s just not easy to spot until it’s too late. Depression is more than just sadness and lots of crying. It’s a constant numb feeling that never really goes away, even when that individual engages in activities that they used to enjoy. I call it a “flat demeanor.”

Not very many people understand that depression doesn’t always lead to suicide. However, what depression does is skew one’s perception of life and death. People with depression can sometimes choose to avoid everything. People, places, and even essential appointments that they have, they don’t want anything to do with anything.

People who are more prone to depression tend to have higher walls around themselves emotionally. They don’t want other people to know that something is wrong. They act fine to keep people at a distance or from asking questions. In fact, they may seem extraordinarily upbeat, bouncy, and very lively.

People experiencing depression have issues with abandonment. However, on the small chances that they do let someone in and they at some point later leave, it will create the false belief that their depression will only drive other people away and it should be kept a secret so people won’t reject them.

They also either ignore their hunger pains, or they shovel as much food into their mouths as they want. It’s proven that eating foods that aren’t particularly good for you, such as sugary or fried foods, releases more serotonin into the body. Serotonin is responsible for alleviating mood swings and reducing anxiety, and that can become like a craving for those with depression.

Sleeping too much or not enough seems to be the pattern for those suffering from depression. Because the body is out of synch with itself, the brain doesn’t know how to react and either releases too much melatonin or not enough.

Because people with depression are not in control of their thoughts, they can quickly get out of control. Thoughts and emotions race, analyzing everything to see what the best outcome will be is their pattern. Depressed people are always prepared for the worst to happen. Instead of being hopeful and looking for the silver linings, they always and only expect the worst to happen.

They may voice to you that they’re “just realistic” about expectations, but when those expectations are always in the negative, those with depression tend to look to themselves to solve their problems. Relying only on themselves 100 percent of the time can get tiring, and even if there’s some sense of fulfillment for completing a job on their own, that feeling never lasts long for a depressed person.

Take care not to point it out to them as this may cause them to regress and hide their problems even further. Many of those who are depressed are searching for a purpose or meaning in their lives. They yearn for validation of some kind in the activities they’re doing. It’s their way of trying to make themselves happy that doesn’t involve seeking help from others.

People with depression like to keep a routine; that way they can continue exerting some control over their lives. They may strive to be a people-pleaser so that other people will like them.

There is a correlation between those who are expressive in their everyday lives have a higher risk of depression. No one knows for sure, but it could be because they’re so attuned with their moods and feelings that they tend to be more sensitive toward negative emotions. Studies show that expressive people tend to judge themselves more harshly than people who work in less-expressive occupations.

It’s okay to sit down and have a talk with a friend you care about. Be cautious: Depressed people can get somewhat defensive about their emotions. Verbalize your concern gently and leave it in their hands to consider your concerns. Remember, they’re committed to find love and acceptance from those around them. You are a good friend to worry!

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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