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Many of us have fallen into a slump since the pandemic began. Significant changes in our lives can lead to situational depressive episodes, or worsen existing depression. Whether it’s directly related to current circumstances or something more longstanding, depression symptoms can cause major life disruptions. Here are common symptoms of depression as well as resources and ways to support a friend or loved one who is struggling.


1: Difficulty getting up in the morning

It’s normal to enjoy sleeping in or spending time in bed. However, if it has become difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed or get ready in the morning, this could be a sign of depression. Depression can make us feel fatigued and physically drained to the point where even small tasks, like getting up in the morning, can feel exhausting or difficult to do. 


2: Changes in sleep

The physical and mental exhaustion that come with depression may also affect our sleep patterns. Changes in sleep can show up in a number of ways. Sometimes this looks like sleeping throughout the day, using sleep as a way to pass the time or preferring sleep to other daily activities. 

On the other hand, sleep changes can also create bouts of insomnia, which can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Missing out on quality, restful sleep can increase our anxiety levels and add to feelings of distress. Sometimes, this creates a cycle where our anxious thoughts keep us awake and negatively impact our sleep, which then leads to more anxious thoughts. 


3: Change in eating habits

Our appetite and eating habits can also be impacted by depression. Some people may experience an increased appetite, while others have less of an appetite or not be hungry at all. If you are also noticing changes in your sleep habits, like the ones listed above, you may also notice changes in the way you eat. This is because sleep helps regulate our hunger hormones, which help to keep us from over- or undereating.


4: Persistent irritability or mood swings

Depression can cause us to experience outbursts and mood swings. One minute we’re angry, the next we’re crying uncontrollably or we shut down and go numb. Changes in our mood can switch in a moment’s notice. Sometimes these changes can be triggered by small or insignificant challenges, while other times they can come about unprovoked. If you notice a pattern of irritability or mood swings that last more than a few days, it may be linked to depression.


5: Difficulty experiencing joy or connection

When we’re depressed, it can take all of the enjoyment out of the things we love and make it more difficult for us to connect to those closest to us. We may begin to lose interest in hobbies, friendships, schoolwork, social activities, sex or life in general. When this happens, we may find ourselves isolating from friends, family members or others who care about us.


How to help a friend who may be experiencing depression

If you notice a roommate, friend or classmate is experiencing any of these symptoms, here are a few things you can do to help:

  • Acknowledge their feelings. Oftentimes, if someone is depressed or thinking about suicide, they will disclose their thoughts and feelings to friends before seeking out resources. If someone expresses difficulties, acknowledge their feelings and let them know that you hear them.
     
  • Express concern. If someone shares their feelings with you or if you notice concerning behavior changes, let them know you’re worried about them. As an example, you could say, “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been staying in touch or acting like your normal self lately, and I’m worried about you. Is everything okay?”
     
  • Listen without judgment or advice. Listen to your friend as they tell you about their experience or emotions. Avoid passing judgment or giving them advice about what they should do. Instead, focus on sitting with them and being there for them. 
     
  • Offer resources. If a friend is struggling, it’s important to know that you don’t have to carry that burden for them. Instead, let your friend know that there are resources available to help. You can also serve as a resource by helping them connect with services on or off campus. For instance, you can offer to make a call to Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) with them.
     
  • Ask what would be helpful. It can be tempting to give advice to a friend who is struggling. However, it’s important to ask that person what they need or what would be helpful for them. This may look different for everyone. For instance, your friend may need help with cleaning their apartment or they may need someone to check on them occasionally. It’s also normal for people to not know exactly what they need. If that’s the case, set up another time to talk or check in with them later, so they have time to think about what could be helpful.

Resources

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides mental health support for all students, including mental health screenings, brief individual therapy, group therapy, workshops, consultation services and crisis support. 

If you’re not sure how to bring up the conversation with a friend, classmate or family member, check out Kognito. Kognito is an online resource that can help you practice having challenging conversations with someone in distress. Through this online portal you will learn how to identify the warning signs of psychological distress and how to talk with a student about their issues. It also provides tools to help you build connections and assist someone in seeking help.

CU Boulder’s BeThe1To suicide prevention campaign provides additional information on how to talk about suicide and connect someone with the support resources they need.

SilverCloud is a free online portal for students, graduate students, staff and faculty. It is a self-paced tool that allows users to explore three emotional health topics: anxiety, depression and stress. Each module offers information, tips and techniques for improved emotional well-being. SilverCloud helps individuals identify and enhance strengths and skills, learn techniques to overcome and manage symptoms of low mood and depression and develop coping skills to combat anxiety and anxious thoughts. 

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