If you have a loved one who is struggling with depression, you are not alone.
According to the most recent estimates from the National Institute of Mental Health, over 7 percent of all U.S. adults experienced an episode of major depression in 2019. Healthline estimates that 16.2 million adults in the U.S. have one depressive episode in any given year. The World Health Organization says that just under 300 million adults and children live with depression worldwide.
Odds are that someone you know—perhaps a family member or a friend— has been diagnosed with major depression or is suffering from some form of depression. Odds are also that you want to help, but may not know exactly how.
There are many signs or symptoms which could be an indication that your loved one is struggling with depression. In today’s article, we will go over depression symptoms and how you can offer emotional support.
Keep reading for the ultimate guide in understanding depression, identifying the warning signs, and how to support someone who is struggling.
What Is Depression and How Can You Spot It?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression, or major depressive disorder, is a common mood disorder that can negatively affect the way people feel, think, or act. Depression may cause a persistent feeling of sadness and a general loss of interest. Clinical depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. For some people, depression makes it difficult to complete day-to-day activities, and some people might even struggle with thoughts of suicide.
Depression is a real and serious disorder that may require long-term treatment. Depression is not something that a person can just “snap out of”. Most people with depression feel better with medication, therapy, or a combination of both.
There are many signs that someone you love might be suffering from depression. These signs are usually long-lasting and can range from mild to severe depending on the person. Here are some common symptoms of depression and warning signs to look out for:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Personality changes
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
- Change in sleeping habits (sleeps too much or too little)
- Loss of energy
- Difficulty making decisions
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Changes in appetite
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Overly active or overly inactive
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained physical problems
If you notice these signs persisting in a friend or family member, it could be a sign that they are suffering from depression.
It is important to note that the expression of grief and sadness after a loss is not the same as having clinical depression, however, grief and loss can trigger depressive episodes in some people. It’s important to distinguish between grief and depression, though some of the ways you can help may be the same for both.
What Can You Do to Help?
Finding out that a loved one has depression may feel overwhelming, but there are things you can do to help. Here are some ways that you can support your loved one on the path to wellness.
1. Listen and Ask Questions
If you suspect that your loved one’s mental health is suffering, let your friend know you’re there for them. One of the best things you can do for someone struggling with difficult emotions is to listen carefully and ask questions. You can start the conversation by lovingly sharing your concern and asking a specific question instead of making assumptions.
You may want to let your loved one know you’ve noticed some changes and you’re concerned about them. Remember to be specific about what you see and be inquisitive. You can say things like,
“You mentioned that you were going through a hard time recently, how are you feeling?”
“You haven’t seemed like yourself lately, is everything okay?”
“I have noticed that you seem a little down, is something on your mind?”
It is important to engage and be an active listener if your friend is opening up to you about an emotional crisis. Always ask questions to get more information, and never make assumptions. Validate your friends feelings and show empathy and interest with your body language.
If your loved one does not want to talk about it, do not pressure. Continue asking them questions and letting them know that you are there for them whenever they want to talk.
2. Encourage Treatment
Your loved one might not realize they are going through depression, or they might be embarrassed to admit it to you. You may want to assure your loved one that depression is a medical illness that requires treatment and isn’t anything to be ashamed about. Many people don’t get help for depression because of the stigma that comes with getting treatment for a mental health concern.
Listen carefully during this conversation to get a sense of how your loved one is reacting in order to tailor your suggestions. Be sure not to take things personally, especially if they become hostile or upset. Their depression isn’t about you, and the focus should be on your loved one’s feelings.
Your friend or family member may be unwilling to believe they might have depression or unwilling to see a mental health professional. Start by suggesting a visit to their general practitioner for a full physical to rule out another health issue. If they’re willing to admit they may have depression, they can seek out a psychiatrist or psychologist for depression treatment.
Some depression treatments a professional might offer are:
- TMS therapy (transcranial magnetic stimulation)
2. Provide Support
Once you’ve shared your concerns with your loved one, there are a variety of things you can do to offer support.
If they’ve agreed to see a mental health provider, you can help them do some research. They may have a difficult time motivating themselves to take action. You can go to the internet and write down the names of some local doctors or mental health professionals, or you can encourage them to join support groups for people with depression.
Before your loved one goes for a therapy appointment, you can assist them in making a list of questions to ask. Practicing what to say in advance can help your friend or family member feel prepared and less anxious. If your loved one is a family member, you may even consider family therapy sessions.
Effective treatment could be in the form of therapy or even medication. Either way, starting treatment is a pivotal step in tackling your loved one’s depression.
3. Assist With Daily Tasks
Depressed people tend to struggle with daily tasks that were once easy for them. Getting help for something as serious as depression requires extra energy from someone who may not have much to spare. Offering to help out with daily tasks can make all the difference in your loved one’s recovery.
Some tasks you may do for or with your friend or family member include:
- Scheduling appointments
- Transportation to appointments
- Grocery shopping
- Taking walks/doing exercise
- Completing household chores
- Going out for shopping/a movie/outside activity
- Cooking healthy meals
Knowing you’re taking an active role in your friend or family member’s recovery may do you a world of good.
When Depression Is Severe
A person who has depression is at a heightened risk of suicide. If you notice dangerous behavior or notice anything that could lead you to believe they could be having suicidal thoughts, there are things you can do. These include:
- Don’t leave them alone
- Make sure they’re in a safe place
- Contact their doctor or therapist
- Call a suicide prevention hotline or 911
- Help them join a crisis support group
If your loved one tries to attempt suicide, call 911 immediately.
Take Care of Yourself
Being a patient with depression is hard. Being a caregiver for someone with depression can also be hard. You have your own needs, and that is okay. Make sure you’re doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask other friends and family members to help out so you don’t feel alone. Take time for the activities you love to do. Your loved one will not benefit if you become burnt out.
While helping out in whatever way you can is wonderful, you’ll want to establish boundaries. Make sure your own responsibilities are handled. If you have your own therapist, you may choose to discuss what’s going on with them. Make sure you are still prioritizing your own mental and emotional well being.
The Road to Recovery
Depression may feel like a battle, but with effective treatment and support, it can be conquered. When dealing with a loved one and their depression diagnosis, it’s especially important to be patient. Treatment can take time, and your assistance could be needed for a while. Your support can make a big impact on your loved one’s recovery. Be assured that your actions do not go unnoticed.
Need more information about helping your loved ones who are struggling with depression? At Oasis TMS, we use non-invasive brain stimulation as an additional treatment option for depressive symptoms. Contact us today www.oasistms.com