Encourage Treatment For Symptoms
People with depression may not recognize or acknowledge their symptoms. They may have difficulty seeing the point of getting treatment.
Here’s what you can do to help:
- Talk to the person about what you’ve noticed and why you’re concerned.
- Explain that depression is a complex condition, not a personal flaw or weakness and that effective treatment exists.
- Suggest seeking help from a health care or a mental health professional, such as a licensed counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Often, the best place to start for a referral is your primary care provider, especially if a trusting relationship has been established.
- Offer to help prepare a list of questions and notable changes to discuss at an initial consultation.
- Express your willingness to help by setting up appointments, going along to them and attending family therapy sessions.
Depression And Relationships: How To Support Your Loved One With Depression
Reviewed by Heather Cashell, LCSW
It’s estimated that 17.3 million adults in the United States alone have gone through a major depressive episode at least once, according to The National Institute of Mental Health. The severity of depression ranges from mild to severe. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 63.8% of those with a major depressive disorder are severely impaired by the condition. If you have a loved one with depression, you are not alone. It’s a very common condition, and the good news is that it’s treatable, but you might wonder, “how do I support my loved one with depression?” Today, we’ll talk about how to support your loved one in a relationship. Some of these tips may also be beneficial for friends and family members, so don’t hesitate to continue reading if you are a family member or friend of someone with depression.
Knowing the symptoms of depression and types of depression is one way to educate yourself on depression to be a supportive partner or spouse. Depression differs from sadness. Depression is a mental health condition characterized by a low or depressed mood and other symptoms. Here is a list of potential depression symptoms to be aware of:
- Low or depressed mood
- Feelings of emptiness or emotional numbness
- Loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness
- Sleep disturbance
- Trouble focusing or concentrating
How To Support A Partner
Avoid Judgment And Blame
If someone you love is depressed and no longer able to do the activities they used to, including working or helping around the house, you may feel like they are lazy. When you get frustrated, try to remember that someone who is depressed isn’t lazythey’re ill.
Everyday activities like cleaning the house, paying bills, or feeding the dog may seem overwhelming, if not impossible, to someone who is depressed. If your loved one’s responsibilities around the house are piling up, you may not be able to take them on yourself.
In addition to resisting the urge to blame your loved one, try not to blame yourself either. Know that it’s OK if you need to ask for help.
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Encourage The Person To Get Help
Your loved one may not recognize or acknowledge the signs of depression, so the idea of getting help could be far away. Plus, people often feel ashamed or hesitant about talking to a mental health professional.
Without proper therapy, depression can worsen and give way to other problems, such as alcohol or drug abuse, self-harm, or suicide. A specialized therapist can help the person you care about getting better.
Encouraging your loved one to make that first appointment can help them take that important step and start therapy sooner. If you feel that the process of finding a therapist or scheduling an appointment is being particularly challenging, try offering your help.
Make A Plan For Recognizing A Relapse
When youre in it for the long haul with someone who has depression, its important to understand that depression is a chronic illness with symptoms that can flare up periodically, just like you might expect with physical conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
Knowing and accepting that there will be ups and downs can help mitigate any personal frustration one may experience when dealing with a depressed loved one, Thames say. Family members or loved ones dealing with someone who has depression may want to seek out personal therapy to help them cope and adjust to the person’s mood.
Although depressive episodes can go into remission with proper treatment, the potential for future relapses can take a toll on relationships, says Thienhaus. That makes it important to talk to your loved one when theyre in remission so that together you can form a plan for how to recognize and respond quickly when a relapse is on the horizon.
Recognizing the early signs is important in order to gently intervene, Thienhaus says.
You can also encourage lifestyle habits that may help keep depression at bay, Riba says, such as:
- Healthy eating and exercise habits
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Get Help From A Mental Health Provider
If youve tried everything else and your loved one still hasnt gotten better, then it might be a good idea to ask for professional help from a mental health professional. Suppose they have agreed to see someone about their depression but arent taking any of the steps that need to be taken to get better .
In that case, this is an indicator that something more serious might be going on, such as a mental illness or maybe even obsessive-compulsive disorder. In these cases, its best if somebody close to them takes charge by forcing them into getting the treatment they need.
How To Identify Signs Of Depression In Others
Sadness is a normal emotion, and everyone experiences it from time to time. But when someone starts feeling sad or moody more often than not, it could be a sign of depression.
Clinical depression is a serious mood disorder characterized by sadness, hopelessness, or loss of interest, with or without a clear cause. Although there are many common signs, depression affects different people in different ways.
If youre concerned that a loved one might have depression, look for changes in their outlook on life or their behavior, including:
- Angry outbursts
Depression can also cause physical symptoms, such as:
- Appetite changes
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Unexplained changes in weight
These are some of the most common signs of depression, but remember that only qualified mental health professionals can reach a diagnosis. If you think your loved one could be suffering from depression, the first step is talking to them about ways to seek professional care.
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Support Them In Continuing Therapy
On a bad day, your friend might not feel like leaving the house. Depression can zap energy and increase the desire to self-isolate.
If they say something like, I think Im going to cancel my therapy appointment, encourage them to stick with it.
You might say, Last week you said your session was really productive and you felt a lot better afterward. What if todays session helps, too?
The same goes for medication. If your friend wants to stop taking medication because of unpleasant side effects, be supportive, but encourage them to talk with their psychiatrist about switching to a different antidepressant or stopping their medication entirely.
Abruptly stopping antidepressants without the supervision of a healthcare professional may have serious consequences. Typically, reaching out to a healthcare professional before stopping medication use can prevent health complications.
Taking Care Of Yourself
Theres a natural impulse to want to fix the problems of people we care about, but you cant control someone elses depression. You can, however, control how well you take care of yourself. Its just as important for you to stay healthy as it is for the depressed person to get treatment, so make your own well-being a priority.
Remember the advice of airline flight attendants: put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. In other words, make sure your own health and happiness are solid before you try to help someone who is depressed. You wont do your friend or family member any good if you collapse under the pressure of trying to help. When your own needs are taken care of, youll have the energy you need to lend a helping hand.
Speak up for yourself. You may be hesitant to speak out when the depressed person in your life upsets you or lets you down. However, honest communication will actually help the relationship in the long run. If youre suffering in silence and letting resentment build, your loved one will pick up on these negative emotions and feel even worse. Gently talk about how youre feeling before pent-up emotions make it too hard to communicate with sensitivity.
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Dont Shy Away From Talking About Suicide
You may think you should avoid discussing suicide for fear that talking about it may increase the odds of your loved one thinking about it. But acknowledging it and broaching the subject may actually help them open up in a way they may not have felt they could before.
Research has actually shown that acknowledging and asking questions about suicide may actually reduce distress and suicidal thoughts, says Dr. Ong. Even though suicide may be incredibly difficult to talk about, its important not to shy away from bringing it up if you are concerned.
It may be helpful to start the conversation by letting your loved one know that you care about them and that they arent alone. Saying something like I cant imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand, may show that while you dont know exactly how they feel, you can empathize, and are there for them. Similar to ways in which you may talk about depression, be non-judgmental and accepting with your words and behaviour. Asking specific questions, including whether they have thought about suicide or attempted it, may seem daunting but may actually be helpful in creating an emotional bond and connection with someone who may be feeling very isolated.
If you or a loved one needs urgent or emergency care:
Crisis text line: Text HOME to 741741
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 18334564566
Take Good Care Of Yourself
Finally, remember to pay attention to your own well-being. Consider therapy for yourself, or join a support group. This is a crucial step to lessen your own risk for depression, because caregivers have high rates of depression and anxiety. Other forms of self-care can be very helpful, too.
Numerous mental health organizations sponsor such groups and can also provide you with information on the illness, the latest treatments, and coping tips. With encouragement, knowledge, and support, youll feel stronger and more empowered to help shepherd your loved one through this difficult illness.
About the Author
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Mental Health Services Are Available From Telus Health
Dr. Lephuong Ong is one of many dedicated clinicians working on the TELUS Health team for the TELUS Health Care Centres, where in-person appointments with psychologists and other mental health professionals are available in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. If you would prefer to speak with someone by video chat, virtual appointments with counsellors are available throughTELUS Health MyCare in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Quebec.
Make Plans To Socialize But Be Flexible
One of the signs commonly associated with depression is withdrawing from social activities. Your loved one may not feel like initiating plans to get together. But prolonged isolation may in fact make depression symptoms worse.
Make loose plans to get together, but understand that in doing so, there is a chance they may not be up for socializing when the time comes. Remind them that you are flexible, and that you understand they may not want to meet up if they are in a particularly rough patch, but that you will be happy to see them when they feel ready.
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What Does Depression Look Like
Just like a common cold, where you might have a runny nose, sore throat, or cough, the symptoms of depression may vary from person to person. Here are a few of the most common symptoms according to Mayo Clinic:
- Feeling sad, empty or hopeless
- Easily irritated, frustrated and having angry outbursts
- Loss of interest in things that usually give pleasure
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt for past events
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Recurring mentions of death or suicidal thoughts
- Unexplained physical problems
How Can Friends And Family Help
This information is for friends and family who want to support someone with depression.
The support of friends and family can play a very important role in someone recovering from depression. Here are some suggestions for how you can help.
- Support them to get help. You can’t force anyone to get help if they don’t want it, so it’s important to reassure your loved one that it’s OK to ask for help, and that there is help out there. See our pages on how to support someone else to seek help for their mental health for more information.
- Be open about depression. Lots of people can find it hard to open up and speak about how they’re feeling. Try to be open about depression and difficult emotions, so your friend or family member knows that it’s OK to talk about what they’re experiencing.
“The best things that friends and family can do is simply listen. They often don’t need to say anything, just being willing to listen to your problems makes you feel less alone and isolated”
- Keep in touch. It might be hard for your loved one to have the energy to keep up contact, so try to keep in touch. Even just a text message or email to let them know that you’re thinking of them can make a big difference to how someone feels.
“Talking… not even talking about how I felt. Just talking about stupid things that didn’t matter over coffee, without pressure and knowing that I can talk about the tough stuff if I want to.”
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You Are Their Support Not A Cure
Depression is a treatable illness that many people are able to cope with and overcome, but dont take that responsibility for wellness on yourself. Their condition is no ones fault, not yours or theirs, and the best things that you can do is listen, support, and simply be there for them.
Remind them that you are there, that they are important to you, and dont let them feel like they are alone, because they arent.
A Folder Of 20 Supportive Encouraging Quotes
Each day, The Depression Project emails over 50,000 people a supportive, encouraging quote to help them through their depression. And, when you buy this book, we’ll give you a folder of 20 downloadable images depicting our favourites – which you can send to your loved one to uplift and inspire them!
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How To Be Supportive Of Someone With Depression
If you have a loved one struggling with depression, you may feel helpless and unsure of what to do. Depression is a serious mental illness that can make everyday tasks seem impossible. But learning how to be supportive of someone with depression is possible.
Here are some tips on how to be supportive of someone with depression:
- Educate yourself about depression The more you know about the condition, the better equipped you will be to help your loved one. Read books and articles, and talk to mental health professionals to learn as much as you can.
- Be there for your loved one Let them know you are there for them and support them. Listen to them, offer them comfort, and be a shoulder to cry on.
- Help them with everyday tasks Depression can make it hard to motivate oneself to do even the simplest tasks. Offer to help your loved one with grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and other errands.
- Encourage them to seek professional help Depression is a serious condition that requires professional treatment. Encourage your loved one to see a therapist or counselor and to take medication if prescribed by a doctor.
- Help them find a support group Many groups are available to help people with depression. Help your loved one find one they feel comfortable with and to which they can relate.
- Be patient Depression is a long-term condition that takes time to heal. Dont get frustrated if your loved one isnt getting better immediately. It takes time, patience, and perseverance.
Dont Try To Cheer Them Up All The Time
This is one of the worst things you can do because it invalidates their feelings and makes them feel like theyre not allowed to be sad or down in the first place! Its important to let your loved ones know that its okay to feel however theyre feeling, without any pressure from you to change how theyre feeling.
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Does Your Loved One Have Depression
Here are some signs to help you spot depression in a loved one:
- Feeling of sadness, teariness or hopelessness
- Loss of pleasure in otherwise enjoyable activities
- Lack of appetite
- Trouble thinking and making decisions
- Anger outbursts or irritability
- Frequent or recurrent mention of death, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts