When you love someone who suffers from depression, you may not know how to react or what to say. Whether it’s someone you’ve known your whole life or it’s someone you’ve grown close to more recently, you want to be supportive and help in any way you can.
It's important to recognize that even though depression is a difficult mental health condition to live with, it's also treatable with the right tools and support.
Depression, Depressed, or Just Stressed?
Everyone has mood swings, especially when they’re going through a stressful period in their life. And most people will recall feeling “depressed” at some point. You may worry, though, that a person you love may be suffering with more than just “the blues.” Here are some ways to tell if their symptoms are indicators of something deeper.
The Symptoms Have No Obvious Triggers
If they’re feeling depressed, and it lasts for longer than two weeks, this is considered a major depressive episode. If something happens that causes grief, such as the loss of a loved one or being diagnosed with a terminal illness, then the symptoms could just be a byproduct of the event. However, if nothing has happened to trigger the grief, these symptoms could relate to something deeper. Depression is characterized by a depressed mood most of the time, fatigue, and a disinterest in things that used to be enjoyable, with symptoms lasting at least two weeks.
Their Behavior Is Atypical
When trying to figure out whether something deeper is going on, consider whether their recent behavior is out of the norm for them. Are they more irritable and more likely to snap at those around them? Are they more hyper and easily distracted? If you're not sure whether they’re behaving differently, ask friends and family whether they have seen anything that concerns them. It might not be as obvious to you as it is to them, or vice versa.
How to Help a Loved One with Depression
If your loved one is suffering from depression, there are many ways you can offer your support. Here are some actions that you can take to help the loved ones in your life who are dealing with depression.
Learn About the Disorder
It's important to understand that depression can affect people differently. Rather than a single emotion like sadness, depression is a complex disorder that can be caused by many different factors. When you understand more about the condition, you'll have a solid foundation from which you can offer support, a listening ear, and your compassion and empathy.
One of the best ways you can be there for your loved one is to actively listen if they want to express themselves. You can also ask questions that let them know that you are open and ready to listen if they want to talk about what they're going through. For instance, you might say something like, "I'm so sorry you're going through this, do you want to talk about it?"
Don’t Take It Personally
One of the most important things to understand about caring for a loved one with depression is that it isn’t about you. Some people ultimately blame themselves for others’ feelings, attitudes, and problems. However, depression is an internal battle that your loved one would be fighting no matter what.
When you support a loved one with depression, it’s in your best interest to take a step back and don't take anything personally. You could be the target of angry outbursts or hurtful laments, but in these situations, you have to remember that the condition, not your loved one, is talking.
Stop Trying to Fix Them
If you’ve never suffered from clinical depression, you may not realize just how it feels to live with this condition. If you aren’t a mental health professional, you may not understand that depression is a serious condition that you can’t solve singlehandedly. In fact, no one can fix depression.
Instead, addressing depression will require your loved one to work closely with a therapist who can provide professional guidance. You should encourage your loved one to seek professional help, help him or her commit to a treatment plan, and provide emotional support throughout the journey. If the thought of finding a professional and setting an appointment is overwhelming for them, you can sit down with them and look for therapists and mental health counselors.
Offer Constant Validation
As you offer support, you’ll quickly realize that depression and logic don’t necessarily mix. You should never expect to rationalize your loved one’s thoughts, feelings, or concerns, because they may never make sense to you.
Instead, you can offer validation. Resist the temptation to argue with your loved one about feelings and simply recognize that those perceptions are true for him or her. Rather than digging deeper into negativity, try asking questions geared toward positivity instead.
Actively Reach Out
Keep in touch regularly with your loved one by reaching out first. Maybe you can visit your friend once per week or have video chats with them throughout the week. Reaching out and making contact first can go a long way in showing them how much you care about their well-being.
Take Care of Yourself
Whether you’ve supported a depression sufferer for a long period of time or your journey is just beginning, it’s important to recognize how much of a toll the process can take on you. Offering round-the-clock support or being the first person on speed dial can quickly exhaust your mental and emotional energy.
That’s why it’s essential to take care of yourself, too. After all, you don’t want to burn out and lose your ability to offer support. Treat yourself to a rejuvenating massage, set aside time to meditate, or talk with an unbiased advisor such as a trusted psychic. Remember that self-care isn't being selfish. You’re simply replenishing your reserves so you have more love and care to offer in the future.
If you find you need someone to talk to, some of the best phone psychics are available to provide guidance on how to support your loved ones. Depression can be debilitating at times for those living with it, but when you show your loved ones you care and offer your support, you can encourage them to take positive action toward healing.