Helping a Loved One Struggling With Depression
When we see someone we care about struggling with a problem, we can’t help but want to try and fix it for them. It could be a close friend, a family member or the person you’re in a relationship with. All we want is to see them be happy. When it comes to depression, this is a big challenge because you’re limited to what you can do. Trying to “fix” it, does not help.
Sometimes you do and say things that you think are helping, but in reality it’s not helping at all. Instead of saying what pops in your head thinking that it could help, try these Do’s and Don’ts to help.
“get over it” or “you have to think positive”.
Depression is caused by different reasons. Sometimes it’s caused by physical problems, like hormonal imbalances as in the case of thyroid issues and puberty changes. Other times it’s due to negative experiences people go through in life. Although there are people that love attention, for the most part people don’t typically choose to be depressed. Depression affects people’s day to day lives such as trouble focusing in school and work. Some people even struggle with symptoms for many years as it could be difficult to get out of the depressed mood, especially with no help.
If it was as simple as thinking more positive, they would have done that already.
… I know you’re going through a hard time and want to be here for you. Then, help them get their mind off things. Invite them for a walk, watch a funny movie together, etc.
Also ask them about something good that happened that day or simply point it out to them. People with depression get stuck in a loop of negative thoughts and it helps to have someone on the outside remind them of their strengths.
“what do you have to be depressed about, you have so much to be grateful for?”
Them what depression is like for them. Having them talk about their symptoms gives you a better understanding of what they’re experiencing.
Depression affects people differently. Sadness, irritable mood, always feeling tired and trouble sleeping are all symptoms. Therefore don’t expect their mood to always be sad.
Most importantly, depression has nothing to do with what we have. People from all races, income levels, relationship status and health could suffer from depression. On the outside it may appear that they have it together. But no one knows how that person really feels on the inside.
Ignore them or give them too much space.
Be there, in the background.
This is a hard one because people who are struggling with symptoms of depression want to be alone. Being around people is too draining for them, so they will tell you that they don’t feel like doing anything when you invite them to places. However, leaving them alone just prolongs their symptoms and sometimes makes them feel worse.
Instead, remind them gently that you’re there for them and keep an eye on them, from a distance. Send them a text or call them every few days or once a week just to check in with them.
This is important because research shows that social connections is one ingredient to happiness. Ignoring them completely just feeds into their belief that they’re all alone.
Lecture them by judging them or telling them to stop complaining.
Listen to how they feel. There’s a time and place for tough love, but not when someone is feeling down. You’ll be more helpful by being a good listener and helping them problem solve when they ask for advice.
For example, if a friend is depressed after a break up, telling them how lucky they are and how good this change is doesn’t help. Instead remind them that’s it’s normal and okay to be sad about the relationship ending. Allow them to cry and be sad without judgement.
Take good care of yourself.
Dealing with a loved one that is depressed can be very draining and frustrating. The last thing you want to do is become depressed yourself. Practice self-care daily,especially before interacting with the person. If you live with the person struggling with depression, make sure you have alone time to relax and re-energize.
It’s very challenging dealing with a loved one with depression. But with patience, support and understanding, the symptoms of depression start to get better until eventually they could live a more balanced life.
*National Suicide Hotline text “HOME” to 741741 or call 1-800-273-8255
About the author.
Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.