There are few things that feel better than knowing you’ve given a friend the support she so desperately needs. One of your nearest and dearest lets you know via text that she’s struggling with some tricky feelings and you swoop in like a superhero with a pint of ice cream or a bottle of rosé to save the day. And while it’s nearly impossible to simply “fix” a challenging emotional situation, sometimes a good friend can really be all you need to put things in perspective and put a smile on your face.

It’s a lot harder to play that role, though, when the person in your life who needs a little TLC is one who usually presents themselves as being composed and strong at all times — you know the friend we’re talking about. While this pal is generally pretty independent, there are days when even she needs a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. But she’s used to being “the tough one,” so she might not know how to express that she needs your help.

Being there for your close friend is bound to be that much sweeter if you manage to sense the support is necessary without her even having to ask for it. Read on for a list of eight red flags that your strongest pal might be in need.

Woman comforting her friend

1. She’s suddenly very busy. Over-scheduled seems to be the default mode for many of us, but if you notice an uptick in your pal’s already maxed-out activity, it might be time to ask some questions. “An increased level of frenetic, workaholic activity can actually be a sign that they are avoiding some difficult feelings, such as grief or low self-esteem,” life coach Nick Hatter says. “By keeping themselves busy, they keep themselves high with adrenaline and escape reality. What they may need is to do less, feel more, and have a good friend support them.” Naturally, we wouldn’t recommend that you jump to conclusions just because you see your BFF working more than usual — merely that you pay attention to any patterns in her behavior that could suggest she’s pushing away other feels.

2. You can’t remember the last time you actually saw her be vulnerable. “No one is immune to difficulty, even people who are really good at handling it,” therapist Sara Stanizai says. “If you can’t remember the last time they said something hinting that they are having a hard time, make it a point to reach out for no reason and ask how they’re doing.” Start by pointing out how wonderful your friend is at supporting others, then casually open up the conversation so she knows she can confide in you too.

3. You’ve been missing her at social events. A friend who has never quite gotten the hang of seeking help and support from others in times of need isn’t necessarily going to feel comfortable in social situations when she’s feeling anything less than her best. “By withdrawing, they are removing themselves from situations where they may be asked questions leading them to admit they could use a shoulder to lean on,” notes Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founder of Supportiv, a peer support platform for mental health. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your pal at a happy hour or birthday party, send her a text or invite her for a one-on-one coffee date. Even if she doesn’t have anything emotional to share, she’ll be glad to know that people feel her absence.

4. There’s a lot of snark going on. “If you notice your super strong friend is being more snarky than usual, this could be a sign something is up,” licensed professional counselor supervisor Angel M. Hoodye says. “This increased level of cynicism may be an outcry to say, ‘Hey, I am feeling something and I don’t know how to approach the issue.’ If you recognize this change, it’s time to check in.” Even if your dry sense of humor makes it hard for you to do anything but LOL at the snark and shade coming from your pal, it’s not something that should be ignored if it’s out of character for her.

5. She’s going through a major life transition. Your typically tough friend might be acting as though a breakup, job switch, recent death in the family, or apartment move might be no big deal… but if you’ve weathered any of these big moments yourself, you know that they can take a toll. If your friend isn’t openly asking for support through the transition, it’s up to you to make sure she doesn’t need it. “Even if they are telling you they are fine, these are often times of high stress, so you may want to look deeper at what is not being said,” licensed marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain tells us. After all, if this friend is used to being the rock for everyone else, she might not even know how to ask for help.

6. She doesn’t look quite like herself. Internal struggles can often manifest themselves as physical changes. Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at natural products brand Maple Holistics, encourages you to note any weight fluctuations or other sudden, unexplained shifts in appearance.

7. Everyone else has needed support lately. Assuming the friend in question is what you might call the strong, silent type, she probably can’t help but make herself the go-to girl anytime someone else in the group is having a hard time. And if your circle has been dealing with a lot recently, she might be more burned out than she even realizes. “If you think of a friend who is always encouraging to you and others, it is time you return the favor and pour into them,” says Cortney Edmondson, speaker and advocate for childhood and adult trauma survivors. “You really don’t need a sign other than their constant encouragement to know they deserve some love too!”

8. She’s cheesin’ a little too hard on social media. “In a world where it’s all about appearances — even more so now with picture-perfect Instagram — many friends may appear to be leading happy lives, but are suffering in silence,” Maria Lianos-Carbone, author of Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year: Because Moms Need a Little TLC Too! tells us. “Someone who is always staging photos and smiling in every photo could be using a bright, happy lifestyle as a mask to cover the truth.” Lianos-Carbone says she has struggled with depression and anxiety herself, and that she relates to the temptation to make everything look bright and shiny online. Remember that things are not always as they appear. If your gut is telling you that a friend is trying a little too hard to look happy on social media, you might be right.

What’s your favorite way to show your friends TLC? Tweet us @BritandCo.

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(Photo via Getty)