What is Depression? 

 Depression is a very serious disorder that negatively impacts the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. Anyone can develop depression. Not only does depression affect an individual, but it can also negatively impact those around them. The family and friends of a person who is depressed might feel confused, sad, and frustrated. This can be especially difficult without knowledge of depression, as the way a depressed person acts towards a loved one does not always reflect their true feelings. For example, someone who is depressed might tend to lash out, and this can be upsetting and confusing for a loved one who doesn’t know what’s going on. This is why it is important to not only understand what depression is, but to know what supporting a loved one with depression can include. 

 

Supporting Someone With Depression: Important Things to Know About Depression 

The Emotions of Someone Who is Depressed Can Fluctuate 

A person who is depressed may not always appear to be sad or down. They might also experience feelings of irritability, frustration, confusion, or anger.  

Depression Can Cause Emotional and Physical Symptoms 

A common misconception of depression is that the condition only causes people to feel down emotionally. However, it’s possible to see physical changes in someone who is depressed on top of their emotional symptoms. Feeling tired, eating more or less than usual, or having low energy levels are just a few physical symptoms of depression. 

Being Depressed is Not the Same as Being Sad 

It is completely normal for everyone to feel sad or down at times; it’s human! However, if a person is feeling this way for more than two weeks, that may be a sign that they have developed depression. Additionally, depression may present as feeling numbed out or just not interested in activities they previously enjoyed.

There isn’t Always an Obvious Cause for Depression 

When someone you know is depressed, you might assume that there was a certain event that caused it and that therefore they will “get over it”. However, depression can sometimes be caused by biology and genetics. If you’re trying to help someone with depression, remember it’s not your fault if you can’t help them get to the “root” of the issue. 

Depression is Treatable 

The good news is that depression is treatable. Therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are just a few examples of ways to treat depression. If you believe that a loved one is starting to develop symptoms of depression, it is important to keep in mind that they can absolutely be helped. 

 

Recognizing Symptoms of Depression in Someone Else 

As a close friend or family member, you might recognize depressive symptoms in someone even before they do. It is important to know and understand the symptoms of depression so that you can be well-educated about what your loved one might be going through. 

Although there are many symptoms of depression and they differ with each person, here are a few general symptoms that you might notice with a loved one: 

They Don’t Seem to Care 

As a person’s close friend or family member, you most likely have a pretty good idea of what they are passionate about. One common symptom of depression is losing interest in something that they care about. If you notice that someone has lost interest in something that is usually important to them, this might be a sign of depression. 

They are Sleeping and Eating More or Less than Usual 

Another sign that someone is depressed is that their eating and sleeping habits have changed drastically. This is another symptom that is very common in depression and is definitely something to take note of. A person with depression can develop a loss of appetite or an extremely increased appetite. Additionally, they may develop insomnia or be oversleeping but not feel well-rested. 

They Have Less Energy Than Usual 

Depression can be exhausting. Constantly feeling negative emotions can be extremely draining, therefore someone who is depressed might have less energy than they usually do. Individuals with depression often struggle with focus and concentration and processing with depleted energy.

There are many more symptoms of depression, and everyone responds to depression differently. For more information on the symptoms of depression, check out another one of our blog posts – depression symptoms and when to ask for help

 

Supporting a Loved One with Depression

 When you realize that a loved one is depressed, you might be a little confused or overwhelmed about how to help them. Again, every person responds to depression differently. Here are a few different ways that you can do to help your loved one in this difficult time: 

  1. Listen 

One of the best things you can do to support someone who is depressed is to simply listen. Be a person who they can come to when they need to let their thoughts out, and remember to remain supportive and non-judgemental when they are speaking. It is likely that they aren’t looking for advice, but they are just looking for someone to validate their feelings. 

  1. Learn What To Say and What Not to Say 

Though there are many things you can say to support someone going through depression, there are some things you should avoid saying as well. 

When you’re having a conversation with someone about their depression, it is extremely important to validate them. Saying things such as “other people have it worse”, “it’s just in your head”, “snap out of it”, “stop having a pity party” or “you’ve been sad for a while; why don’t you feel better yet?” are all very invalidating. It sends the message that not only is this person not understood, but it will make them feel more alone. 

Instead, you can say things such as “take things one day at a time and I will be here for you”, “you are not alone”, “this sounds hard”, or “I’m here for whatever you need”. Send the message that they are not alone and that they have someone who will help and validate them if they need. 

  1. Help Them Seek Treatment 

As previously mentioned, depression can result in extremely low energy levels for a person, as well as a struggle with concentration and motivation. Therefore, it can be helpful to aid the person in finding the right treatment for them. Help them look into different treatment options, and assist them in making the appointments necessary for the treatment they think is best for them. Remember, you can help them get assistance but you can’t do it for them. Knowing limits is also important as we often want to help “fix” the problem when supporting a loved one with depression.

It is also important to continue supporting your loved one with depression throughout treatment. Getting treatment for depression is not easy, and they will need your continued support along the way. This can include checking in, asking how they are, and gently reminding of the resources that are available. At our practice we offer therapy for depression for people coping with a loved one who has depression and for the person experiencing depression.

  1. Be Patient 

The road to coping with depression can be long. Your loved one might need to try multiple treatments to find what is right for them, and you might not see a difference in them as fast as you expected. This can be frustrating for them and you as well. Keep in mind that they are doing their best and still need your continued support. 

 

Remember to Take Care of Yourself when Supporting a Loved One with Depression

You cannot help a person who is depressed if you are not engaging in self-care. It can take an emotional toll to help someone who is depressed, and it is important to keep in mind that taking care of yourself throughout this process will help you and your loved one. 

One way to take care of yourself is to set boundaries with your loved one. You can absolutely help someone through their depression while also remembering to take time for yourself. Although you might feel awkward telling them that you need time to yourself, it is important to remain open and honest throughout this entire process. Ultimately, their recovery process is their journey and you can not take it for them.

Additionally, it is completely valid to find your own support when you are helping someone through depression. It could be helpful to find someone to talk to about it, whether you need ideas for how to help or you just want to talk about how this process is affecting you. 

Watching and supporting a loved one with depression can be extremely hard. However, there are many ways that you can help them through this difficult time. Be patient and supportive, and remember to take care of yourself.

 

Thank you to Best Within You Therapy & Wellness intern Jane Goldsmith and Dr. Laura Riss for this blog post about depression. If you would like to schedule a therapy appointment for yourself or loved for therapy for depression one please visit our appointment page.