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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.