How can I tell if someone is depressed?

Friday, October 1, 2004
Depression and its symptoms

If you notice any behavioural changes that last for a period of two weeks or more in close family or friends, then it is worth asking whether the person may be depressed. Common behaviours associated with depression include:

  • Moodiness that is out of proportion to recent events
  • Increased irritability and frustration
  • More sensitivity to minor personal criticisms
  • Withdrawal from social events
  • Loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities
  • Being awake throughout the night
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Staying home from work or school
  • Increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain
  • Being reckless or taking unnecessary risks (eg, driving fast or dangerously)

How can I tell if someone is anxious?
If you notice any behavioural changes that last for a period of two weeks or more in close family or friends, it is possible that the person has an unrecognised anxiety disorder. Common behaviours associated with anxiety include:

  • Increased worrying about common problems like finances, work or family relationships
  • Unwilling to go out and socialise
  • Not being able to go to sleep
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs, particularly in social situations
  • Avoiding crowded places like the cinema, shopping centre or taking public transport
  • Unable to finish school or work projects
  • Increased irritability and sensitivity to criticism

For someone who is depressed or anxious
Often these behaviours are not easy to live with and cause great distress to close family or friends. As a consequence family and friends often withdraw their support or simply stop trying to help. Most people with depression or anxiety need someone else to help them get the medical or psychological care they require.

People in the workplace will often feel that it is not their place to comment on someone's personal problems. Therefore, it is important for employees / employers to recognise these signs and symptoms of depression or anxiety and feel confident to respond appropriately.

Information adapted from the beyondblue website. For more information see

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