Just under 300 million adults and children live with depression, you are not alone, and neither is your loved one.
Identifying Depression Symptoms in a Loved One
People experience depression in different ways. This means the symptoms can vary from person to person.
If your loved one is going through depression they could:
- More sad or tearful than normal
- Seem more negative than usual or even hopeless
- Make comments about feeling empty, guilty, or worthless a lot
- Less interested in spending time together and/or talk less
- Quick to anger or seem more irritable
- Low energy than normal and move slowly
- Neglect their appearance and/or basic hygiene
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping way too much
- Not seemed interested in their normal activities and interests
- Eat less or eat more than normal
- Forgetting things more and/or having trouble concentrating
- Having difficulty in deciding on things
- Talks about death and/or suicide
How to Help
Here are some tips that can possibly help you support a friend who is going through depression.
1. Start a Conversation
Letting your friend know that you’re there for them is one of the biggest things you can do for them. You can do that by starting a conversation with them by sharing your concerns. You might ask them what’s been on their mind, because you’ve noticed that they’ve been having a hard time lately. If they seem like they have been down.
You can ask them if they have anything they want to talk about because you noticed they have seemed a little down at the same time you both hung out. Also, if your friend happened to approach you and mentioned that they were going through hard times. Follow up with them, and ask them how they are feeling about everything.
It’s important to keep in mind your friend may want to talk about their feelings, but may not want any advice. Therefore, it’s important to engage in listening techniques. For example, asking more questions to get more information. Don’t just assume you understand what they mean. Try to validate their feelings when you can, you could say, “That sounds very difficult. I am sorry to hear that you have experienced that.” Be empathetic and show genuine empathy along with interest through your body language.
It’s normal if your friend may not feel like talking at first, especially if it’s the first time you ask. Though, it’s still important to continue to remind them that you’re there for them and that you care. It’s good to ask open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling today?” Just to try to get them to open up, but without being pushy.
Even if you and your friend live in different locations, or have busy schedules and can’t meet up. Which makes it where you can’t have conversations in person. You can always try FaceTiming or video chatting.
2. Help Them Find Support
Your friend may not know they are going through depression. If they do know they are going through depression, they may just be unsure of how to reach out for help and support.
When you are depressed the simplest tasks can seem like monstrous tasks. Picking up a phone to call a therapist is easy, but yet can be daunting, may be too complicated and overwhelming nevertheless for someone struggling in the midst of depression.
If your loved one seems interested in seeing a therapist or going to counseling sessions, you shoud offer to help them review potential therapists in their area or even online therapists. You can even help them make a list of questions to ask potential therapists to see if they would be a right fit for them. Making a list also about what they want to talk about in their first session could be very beneficial for them if they’re open to sharing with you.
Encouraging them and giving them support to make that first appointment can be very helpful. Even if you have to sit by them when they make the call to schedule. No matter what, being there for them to help them take the step to get help is another thing you can do to support your loved one going through depression.
3. Support Them in Continuing Therapy
Some Days your loved one may not feel like even leaving the house due to their depression. Depression can just suck all the energy from you and consume your desire to self-isolate.
If your friend starts making comments like, “I’m just going to cancel my therapy appointment today.” Encourage them not to, and give them positive reasons why they shouldn’t.
Remind them, how when they went for their last session they felt so much better afterwards. That after today’s session they will more than likely feel the same way too, for an example.
It can be the same for medication. If your friend expresses a desire to stop medication, encourage them not to. If they want to stop due to an unpleasant side effect, encourage them to call their psychiatrist and talk to them about switching to a different medication, versus stopping on their own entirely without an alternative.
Stopping antidepressants abruptly could have serious consequences. It’s important to reach out to a healthcare profession before quitting medication to prevent health complications.
4. Take Care of Yourself
When taking care of someone who is struggling and living with depression it can be overwhelming and taxing. It’s tempting to self-sacrifice and drop everything to be there for them to support them in every which way possible 24/7.
It’s not wrong to want to help a friend. Although, it’s not realistic for you to give that kind of level of support. You must give yourself the time and self-care you need to take care of yourself. If you are feeling burned out or frustrated, you won’t be much help to your friend or anyone else.
Here are some ways you can take care of yourself:
Set realistic expectations that work for you.
For example, if you have to get up early for work and it’s not practical for you to wake up any earlier prior to work. Then let your friend know that you’re only available to talk on the phone after you get home from work and before a certain time before bed. That would be setting a healthy boundary.
If you are concerned about feeling they can’t reach you because of something emergent. Come up with a contingency plan to put into place. If they need you during the work day, they instead first call a hotline number. If that doesn’t work they text you a special work or code through text. However, this is only if they’re in a serious crisis.
It can take a lot of emotional toll on someone when you spend an extended amount of time around a person who has depression. Understand your limits around difficult emotions and make sure you allow yourself time to recharge. Give yourself space.
5. Learn About Depression on Your Own
It’s good to have at least general knowledge about depression. Especially, so you’re not rehashing the issue up with the person who is suffering from it several times over about what it is.
It’s okay to talk with your loved one regarding any specific symptoms they have or how they’re feeling with their mental illness. However, to have them continuously explain over and over what their mental illness is, can be exhausting for the person who is suffering from it.
It’s good to read up on symptoms, causes, and treatments. Although people experience depression differently, being somewhat familiar with the overall scope of what depression is. Its general symptoms along with the terminology can be beneficial. It will help you have more deeper conversations with your friend about their mental illness.
6. Offer to Help With Everyday Tasks
Day-to-day tasks can feel overwhelming. Grocery shopping, laundry, paying bills can easily begin to pile up which then can make it hard to know where to start.
Your friend may appreciate the offer to help with the daily day-to-day tasks, but they may be unsure where to specify where exactly they need help with. Which may be more helpful to ask your friend, “What do you need help with today?” Versus, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you,” Which is more open-ended.
7. Extend Loose Invitations
Loved ones going through depression have a difficult time reaching out to friends or loved ones when it comes to keeping plans. Though, when they cancel plans due to their depression it can lead to a lot of guilt.
When there is a pattern of canceled plans it might lead eventually to fewer invites from family and friends, which increases isolation. These feelings can worsen your loved one’s depression.
To help reassure your friend they are wanted and loved. Continue to extend invites out to them, even if you know they may not accept or even cancel at the last minute. Let them know it’s okay if they decide not to keep plans and there is no pressure. Just give them a gentle reminder that you’re happy to see them whenever they feel up to it.
8. Be Patient
With treatment depression usually improves, but it can be a slow process. It usually involves trial and error too. It can involve medications which may change frequently until the right medication is helpful for all their symptoms. Even different counseling approaches or seeing different counselors can take time until you find the right therapist and approach for you.
Depression doesn’t always go away entirely even with successful treatment. Your friend may continue to have depression symptoms from time to time. Through their depression they will have some good and bad days. Try to not think of their good days as if they are “cured,” and try not to get frustrated when they have a series of bad days, as if they will never improve.
9. Stay in Touch
It’s important to let your friend know that you always care about them as they continue to work through their depression.
Even if you are unable to spend a whole lot of time with them on a routine basis, try to check in as often as you can. Sending a quick text, phone call, or even coming by for a quick visit shows that you care.
When living with depression it’s easy to become more and more withdrawn. Your friend may avoid reaching out which is why you may find yourself doing a lot more to maintain the friendship overall. Though try to continue to be a positive supportive person in your friend’s life. It will make all the difference to them, they just might not be able to show that to you at the moment.
10. Recognize the Different Forms Depression Can Take
Many people recognize depression involving sadness as low mood and/or sadness. Though, depression has many other symptoms as well that are not as well known.
Many people don’t realize depression can include symptoms, such as:
- Excessive fatigue
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty with memory
- Trouble focusing
- Physical symptoms
- Stomach pains
- Frequent headache
- Back and muscle pains
It wouldn’t be unusual for someone who is going through depression to feel exhausted most of the time or even be in a sour mood. It’s important to be mindful that what they are feeling is a part of their depression, even if it’s not stereotypical of what depression is known to be.
Contact us today to get help for someone with depression.