While social media and other communication-based technologies have made it easier than ever to keep in contact with loved ones, the signs for both depression and suicide are persistent risks that often go unseen and unaddressed. In fact, Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S., and for every individual who takes their own life, there are another 25 who make an “unsuccessful” attempt.
Importantly, many of the warning signs for suicidal feelings are shared with those of depression. The reality is that it’s not enough just to be in contact; rather, we must become familiar with the signs that may indicate that an individual may be in trouble. To better understand the signs of suicidal thoughts and depression, observing the behaviors below may be helpful in identifying people who may be at risk for suicide or experiencing intense depression.
New & Unusual Behaviors
New and uncommon-seeming negative behaviors can be a strong sign that someone is suicidal. But it’s also true that these can be easy to overlook because the changes may not seem related to depression or feelings of hopelessness. For example, if someone you know who is usually generous and kind starts to become irritable, aggressive, and even angry, it may be a good time to ask them about why they’re feeling that way and if there’s any way to help. Another example could be that someone who has been sad and struggling with depression may start to become calm and seemingly content and at peace. Still other changes could include increased substance abuse or atypical mood swings.
Low sex drive
While it’s not always a comfortable subject to discuss, many healthcare professionals consider changes in sex drive an essential indicator when considering depressive symptoms and challenging bouts of long-term depression. For instance, in a 2018 study, more extreme feelings of depression were associated with more severe sexual dysfunction. This dysfunction was defined to include trouble with sexual function, desire, and satisfaction. There are also a variety of reasons why an individual’s libido might not be as engaged when experiencing depression. Some of these may include a loss of interest in pleasurable activities (such as sex), physical and emotional fatigue, and low energy levels, to name just a few.
Altered Sleeping Habits
Changes in how someone sleeps can be both a sign of depression and a symptom of suicidal behaviors. A suicidal person may, for example, sleep more than is normal for them or struggle to get out of bed in teh first place. On the other hand, they may instead sleep less, struggling with insomnia and staying up very late while having trouble functioning the next day from fatigue. Changes to one’s sleeping habits like these are cause for concern and should not be ignored.
Becoming Emotionally Unavailable Or Distant
An individual who is experiencing suicidal feelings may start to become distant from activities and people they onced enjoyed and even need to be healthy. They may even seem emotionally detached from loved ones regardless of whether they have isolated themselves socially. For instance, acting indifferent during emotional situations may not seem like a suicidal behavior, but it is important to note this kind of reaction (or lack thereof) and recognize it as a potential warning sign or a symptom of depression (especially if it’s not how the individual would normally act). Along the same lines, someone feeling suicidal might not have any interest in normal activities or those at work and home.
Persistent Physical Discomfort or Pain
While not always observable, physical pain and discomfort can be easily overlooked as true symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts, especially those that recur or don’t seem to go away. If you have a loved one who complains often of a particular type of pain, like headaches, digestive difficulties, or even general body aches, remember them and keep a watch for other potential signs of depression or suicide that may come with the pains. If a person has no simple explanation for the cause(s), like a personal history of migraines or an athletic injury that makes their muscles hurt, seeking help from a medical professional is likely the right course of action.
If you or a loved one are showing signs of depression the potential for suicide, try to get them help right away. Additionally, if they’re interested in seeing a board certified physician free of charge and getting access to new clinical depression treatments, don’t hesitate to apply to join our depression study at the Lehigh Center for Clinical Research!