how to help someone with depression

How to Help Someone With Depression

Table of Contents

Learning how to help someone with depression often comes down to educating yourself. Depression is complex and can be debilitating. When you’re a support system for someone with depression, it’s easy to feel helpless or out of control. The reality is, you aren’t in control. The best you can do is learn about depression and be a positive influence. 

Exploring how to deal with depression in a loved one can open your eyes to their experiences and how they feel. That can help you come from a place of empathy. You can also let go of the idea that somehow it’s within your control to “fix” the problem for the person you love.

Adults and children may be struggling right now with the changes that the coronavirus pandemic has brought upon the whole world. However, it is important to keep in mind that for teenagers, their worlds have also blown apart, and they may be faced with intense anxiety. Teens are known for not being open about their feelings, though, so it is crucial to give your teenager all of the support they need to get through this pandemic.

A teenager may not be an adult yet, but they are aware of what is happening to the adults in their household. If they notice that their financial situation has changed because both parents are out of work, talk to them about this. They also may be concerned if they have a parent who is a healthcare professional or food worker who could get sick and/or potentially bring the virus into the house.

Also, your child may be depressed that they cannot go back to school, have a high school graduation or prom, and be able to maintain their social life. Many teenagers want to establish their independence away from their families and have lives of their own. It is hard to do that if they are forced to be restricted. Try to think of how your teenage years differ from what your teen is going through currently.

Major depression is a health condition requiring the help of mental health professionals. 

What Is Depression?

Depression or depressive disorder is a common, serious medical disorder. When someone has depression, it affects how they feel, think and act.

Depression can lead to loss of interest and feelings of sadness. The mental health disorder contributes to various physical and mental health problems. 

When someone struggles with depression, it can impair their functionality at home and work. 

Depression is treatable, however, which is the most important takeaway.

Treatment for depression depends on the individual and can vary from person to person. 

Depression Symptoms

The severity and specific symptoms of this mood disorder vary. The signs of depression you may notice in your loved one include:

  • A low, sad mood is one of the key depressive symptoms
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in things once enjoyed like social activities
  • Weight gain or weight loss and changes in appetite
  • Too little sleep or too much can be a sign of clinical depression
  • Increases in fatigue and lack of energy
  • Increases in purposeless physical activity like handwringing or pacing
  • Slow speech or movements
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Problems concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Inability to complete everyday tasks 
  • Talking about death or suicide attempts 

One in 15 adults is affected by symptoms of depression in any given year. One in six people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their life. There are different types of depression, including postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder. 

Anyone can experience depression, no matter what their life and circumstances might seem like. Certain risk factors could play a role in a higher risk of depression.

Risk factors include:

  • Genetics—depression often runs in families
  • Personality—if you’re pessimistic or have low self-esteem, you can be more prone to depression.
  • Environmental factors—these can include violence, poverty, or abuse exposure.
  • Biochemistry—this refers to differences in chemicals in the brain.

how to help someone with depression

What Does Depression Feel Like?

Depression can feel different for every person, but generally, someone experiencing it will have feelings of sadness and hopelessness, but severely. Depression is much more than the usual ups and downs we all feel in life. If you’re depressed, it affects your relationships, career, and ability to take care of yourself and your home.

  • Depression may feel like there’s no joy in life. 
  • It’s challenging to make decisions or even do simple things like watch TV. As people deal with depression, they’ll often feel like they can’t follow what’s going on in a movie or when reading, for example.
  • Depression can create a sense of hopelessness, like you won’t ever feel good again.
  • Energy levels may be extremely low, and someone with depression can feel like they’re too tired to maintain daily tasks. 
  • There are often physical symptoms of depression, including body aches, headaches, and nausea. These physical symptoms can also have a major life impact on your usual activities. 

Depression is not a choice, and it can be even more upsetting when you are dealing with it, and someone feels like you should just snap out of it.

When you have depression, it’s a mental illness. You can’t decide to stop feeling the symptoms of depression.

Ruminating on the past can lead us to develop depression. We are powerless over the choices we made or the events that happened to us in the past. We have no way of changing it. We have no choice but to accept what happened and move on. Not everyone is ready to do that. We need to realize that the past is already written in stone. What we do have control over right now is the future.

How to Help Someone with Depression

You can do things to help someone figure out how to deal with depression. At the same time, there are things you may feel are helpful that can be counterproductive.

Good ways to help someone with depression include:

  • Encourage them to get treatment. Too often, people with depression feel shame about what they’re going through. They think they should be able to get over it on their own. You can talk with them openly and honestly about getting treatment for their depression. Let them know it’s a medical condition and not a personal failing.
  • You could help your loved one find care providers, and you can even be part of the process with them to set up an initial appointment. Help your loved one create a list of questions for their first appointment.
  • If your loved one is comfortable with it, you can volunteer to go to their first therapy or treatment session with them.
  • Learn the warning signs that depression could be worsening. Worsening severe depression can get to the point where it becomes a medical emergency, so watching for these red flags is critical.
  • Encourage your friend or relative to stick with their treatment if it’s something they’re already doing.
  • Offer positive reinforcement. It’s common when someone has a depression for them to judge themselves very harshly and criticize themselves. Point out their positive qualities instead. Draw attention to positive events in life to reframe negative thinking. 
  • It’s hard to do even seemingly basic tasks when you’re experiencing depression. You might help with certain things like chores or running errands. Of course, don’t take on more than what is comfortable for you.
  • Be someone who listens. You don’t need to offer solutions or answers. Giving advice isn’t generally going to be helpful. Just be someone willing to actively listen. Having someone who listens can be an essential part of the healing process.
  • Make plans with your friend or family member. There may be little things you can do together like going to a movie or taking a walk.
  • Learning and educating yourself about depression is powerful.

Use Humor to Cope with Depression

We all know the adage “laughter is the best medicine,” but for individuals struggling with depression, humor can be either a tool for healing or a method of hiding depressive symptoms. Recent studies on the intersection between depression and humor examine the behavioral patterns of individuals with depression.

Results suggest that humor, when integrated into treatment for depression, can boost spirits and reinstate lost self-confidence. However, jokes can also be manipulated as a tool to avoid confrontation, appease audiences, or otherwise distract from other depressive symptoms.

Aggressive Humor is used against others and individuals who display this style of Humor use jokes to manipulate, disparage, and offend other people or groups. Self-Defeating humor directs insulting jokes toward the self. This type of humor is used to hide feelings from oneself and others, making it an effective tool to diminish the severity of depression in social interactions.

What Not to Say to Someone with Depression

Even when well-intentioned, there are certain things to avoid saying to someone with depression.

Don’ts of how to help someone with depression include:

  • Don’t minimize their feelings
  • Avoid being dismissive of symptoms
  • Try not to deny their feelings
  • Don’t say they’re selfish
  • Avoid making comparisons

There are so many complex reasons a person may develop depression, which is often out of their control. When you care about someone with depression, know that they can’t just talk themselves out of what they’re feeling.

With depression, the body isn’t making enough of the neurotransmitters it needs to function properly.

You can’t talk someone out of this effect, nor can they reason themselves out of it. Treatment is effective for many, though.

Prevent Developing Depression from Chronic Illnesses

The brain and the body work hand in hand. When we are experiencing chronic pain physically, our mind is in pain too, which can bring you to a deep depression. It is important to remember that there is no shame in developing depression as a result of your pain and you need to recognize it in order to get help.

If your chronic illness is causing you to develop a depression where you cannot eat, sleep, or get out of bed, you need to consider speaking to someone about this. You may be afraid to see a psychologist because of the social stigma that depression may bring, the cost, lacking the transportation or time to see someone, or limited availability of providers.

Depression has the potential to make inflammation worse. If patients knew there was a biological reason for their depression and that therapy can help reduce their symptoms, more might be willing to give therapy a try. To find a therapist who specializes in chronic illness, you can ask your doctor for a referral or find local arthritis groups in your community. 

Quotes to Get You Through Depression

We are living in uncertain and depressing times as the whole world is put on pause because of COVID-19. You may feel like never getting out of bed and ruminating on negative thoughts about how things will not get better. These motivational quotes can help get you through this pandemic and serve as a reminder that you are stronger than you believe and things will get better.

“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles.” –Charlie Chaplin

It is important to remember that this pandemic is not going to last forever. Eventually, life will go on, the way it has always gone on. You will be able to go back to work and things will start to open up again. If you have lost your job as a result of the virus, look at this as an opportunity to work a better job or study for a new field.

“Courage is not having the strength to go on. It is going on when you don’t have the strength.” –Theodore Roosevelt

You may be feeling very down right now and believe there is no point in putting effort into anything if there is a pandemic forcing us to stay in our homes. The truth is that you can still make an effort to improve your life right from your home. Even if you are feeling sad, find the strength in yourself to keep going on with your normal routine.

Getting Help

If you want to explore how to help someone with depression or addiction get access to effective treatments, we’re available to answer questions you may have. 

Call 833-847-6984, and Silver Lining Recovery can create an individualized depression plan that may include a combination of approaches. The experience of depression can be different for everyone, and treatment needs to address each person holistically, considering those differences.