Depression is a serious and common mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, which means chances are, you know someone who struggles with it. That in mind, you may be wondering how you can offer support. Well, the first step is recognizing that someone has depression, because many people aren’t going to simply volunteer that information.
How can I recognize someone with depression?
Recognizing depression in someone can be challenging, especially if they’re trying to hide their symptoms. Some common symptoms of depression include persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness or guilt, physical aches and pains, and thoughts of suicide.
The warning signs of depression are varied and can manifest in different ways in different individuals. The most common signs include prolonged feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, changes in appetite leading to overeating or not eating enough, changes in sleeping patterns, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms such as headaches, unexplained aches and pains, slow or fast movements, and digestive problems.
Of course, it’s important to note that experiencing one or two of these symptoms does not necessarily mean someone has depression. However, if these symptoms persist nearly every day for at least two weeks or more, that’s an indicator of clinical depression.
Depression can also have physical features that are often overlooked. These physical features include headaches, other unexplained aches and pains, unusually slow or fast movements, and digestive problems. These physical symptoms can be challenging for individuals to recognize as being related to depression.
Depression is a severe illness that can impact a person’s daily life significantly. Individuals with depression may find it challenging to function in their daily lives, including work or school obligations. They may also have difficulty maintaining relationships with friends and family members.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States affecting over 19 million American adolescents and adults, and it’s about twice as common in women as in men. It’s also known to run in families, suggesting that genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing this disease. However, environmental factors such as stress, trauma, and substance abuse can also contribute to the development of depression. And it’s essential to note that depression can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity
How can I help?
Helping someone with depression may involve assisting them in seeking treatment and supporting them in their daily routine. Some people may need help scheduling appointments or accompanying them to visits due to stigma or difficulty managing tasks.
Depression is a difficult condition to deal with, not only for the person who has it but also for their friends and family members. It’s essential to understand that depression is a chronic illness, and the symptoms can flare up periodically. Supporting a loved one with depression requires patience, understanding, and effort. Here are some techniques that you can use to support your loved one:
- Seek personal therapy: Dealing with a loved one’s depression can be emotionally draining and stressful. Seeking personal therapy for yourself can help you cope and adjust to their mood. A therapist can provide you with tools and strategies to handle the challenges that come with supporting someone who has depression.
- Talk to your loved one when they’re in remission: It’s important to have open communication with your loved one about their depression. When they’re feeling better, talk to them about how you can recognize the signs of a relapse and respond quickly. Together, form a plan for how you can support them when they need it.
- Encourage healthy lifestyle habits: Encouraging your loved one to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating nutritious food can be helpful in managing their depression symptoms.
- Seek support: There are many free resources available to get support for your loved one or yourself as a caregiver. SAMHSA’s treatment locator and NAMI’s support groups and crisis support are good starting points. Seeking professional help early on can prevent the condition from getting worse.
- Approach your loved one calmly and nonjudgmentally: If you suspect that your loved one is experiencing depression, approach them calmly and nonjudgmentally to express your concerns and give them space to talk about what they are feeling. Listening is the most important part of beginning to help.
- Help your loved one seek treatment: Suggest that your loved one sees a mental health provider or visits their primary care doctor, whom they already know and trust. Accompanying them to appointments can provide emotional support and show that you are there for them.
What should I avoid when trying to support someone with depression?
There are certain things that should be avoided when trying to provide support for someone with depression. For one, it’s crucial to avoid suggesting that they should be able to “snap out of it” or “be mentally strong.” Depression isn’t a choice, and suggesting otherwise can make the person feel worse about their situation. It can also make them feel like seeking treatment is pointless if they are supposed to be able to handle it on their own.
In addition, when bringing up concerns about someone’s depression, it’s essential to avoid being critical or judgmental. Instead, calmly express the changes that have been noticed in their behavior and listen to them without dismissing their feelings or suggesting that they have no reason to feel sad.
It’s also important not to be too forceful or overwhelming when trying to help someone with depression. Offering practical assistance with tasks such as scheduling appointments or accompanying them to therapy can also be beneficial. Establishing a routine and encouraging physical activity can be helpful in managing depression symptoms. This may involve suggesting exercise classes or taking walks together.
What are the available treatments for depression?
Fortunately, there are several available treatments for depression that can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
One of the most common treatments for depression is psychotherapy or counseling. Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional who can help patients identify and change negative and unhelpful thoughts, build coping skills, improve relationships, and work through major issues that may contribute to depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are two types of psychotherapy that have been shown to be particularly effective for treating moderate to severe depression. In cases of mild depression, active monitoring of the patient is recommended along with moderate psychological intervention.
However, in some cases, medication may also be necessary in addition to talk therapy. Antidepressants can be prescribed in combination with talk therapy and can help alleviate symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, and lack of energy. It’s important to note that antidepressants can take up to 3 to 4 weeks for them to take effect and patients may need to try more than one antidepressant to find the right one.
Complementary therapies such as second-degree antipsychotics or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can also be used for treatment-resistant depression. ECT involves sending electrical currents through the brain while the patient is under anesthesia and has been shown to be particularly effective for those who have not responded to other treatments. Hormonal therapies also show potential as complementary treatments, especially for women who may have unique clinical presentations due to ovarian hormone fluctuations, leading to conditions such as PMS, PPD, and PMD.
Remember: There are free resources available for finding treatment and support for individuals with depression, including SAMHSA’s treatment locator and crisis hotline (800-622-HELP) and NAMI’s support groups and crisis support. Also, take a look at how Kith + Kin can help.