Seeing someone you care for experience the life-altering pain of depression can be an overwhelming experience. Searching for the “right” thing to do can be equally overwhelming as you’re bombarded with varying advice and information.
Before anything else, it’s essential to know that you are not alone in how you’re feeling. Searching for strategies to help your loved one is a courageous feat of compassion.
Let’s ease the burden a bit and look at some of the things you can do to help.
Signs of Depression
If you feel your friend or loved one needs help managing depression symptoms, more often than not, it is probably safe to say, “trust your instincts.”
A few common signs and symptoms are below:
- Depressed Mood: expressed hopelessness, guilt, or emptiness
- Irritability: increased agitation, rage, easily upset, or expressed pessimism
- Low Energy: lethargy, slower movements, showing a sense of fatigue
- Social withdrawal: decreased communication, spending more time alone, general lack of interest in pleasurable activities.
- Appetite changes: eating more or less than normal
- Concentration issues: difficulty making decisions or heightened forgetfulness
- Hygiene changes: decreased interest in appearance or generally neglecting personal hygiene
- Inadequate sleep or sleeping more often
- Suicidality: talking about death or suicide
This list is not exhaustive in any way, and symptoms will vary widely as every person’s experience of depression differs.
Five Ways to Offer Support
Talk To Them
A great way to extend a helping hand to a depressed loved one is to simply let them know you’re available to talk if they need. Trying to meet in person can be helpful as it can strengthen opportunities to connect while also offering you the ability to observe their physical behavior.
While making an effort to have a conversation with your loved one is immensely meaningful, it’s crucial to enter the dialogue with patience and openness. Depression can be devastating, and it takes some people a bit of time to open up fully. Ask them open-ended questions about how they’re feeling and then leave time for them to respond. Actively listening is critical to creating a safe environment to talk.
Support Their Journey
Without pushing them into something they are not ready for, help your friend realize the types of support available to help them. Searching for a therapist can sometimes feel like an impossible feat, stirring up a variety of challenging emotions. You can support your loved one by researching available options for therapy and then helping them set up their first appointment.
If your friend is already in therapy, supporting them is equally important for maintaining their ongoing treatment. Offer encouraging words when they do not want to attend and support them as their progress ebbs and flows. Navigating depression is not a one-way path ahead.
Supporting a friend or loved one struggling with depression can often take incredible patience. If you’re feeling frustrated, try your best not to blame yourself and know that we all have a right to our own emotions. It is how we manage them that matters most. For example, someone experiencing depression may frequently cancel plans for social outings. Social withdrawal commonly occurs in those with depression.
As frustrating as it may be, try and remain as flexible as possible. Guilt and shame often rear their ugly heads; making someone feel bad for frequently canceling can exacerbate these sensations. Depression is isolating, and even if they don’t attend an event, the sheer fact of being invited could help significantly.
And who knows? Maybe one day they’ll be ready, and you can rejoice in their progress to reengage socially.
Offer Physical Help
Depression can cause a person to feel utterly immobilized. The thought of having to perform daily tasks such as cleaning, grocery shopping, or personal hygiene can feel impossible. Joining them to offer some company and assistance with chores can do wonders for your depressed loved one. Take out the trash, drop off groceries, fold laundry, the list goes on.
Spend Time Learning
Have you ever had to repeat the same thing over and over again? Was it exceptionally irritating? Most people would answer with a resounding yes. If not, your patience is worthy of applause.
Asking your friend to continuously describe their feelings or what it means to feel depressed can further the challenging emotions they’re already facing. Take time to study and learn about depression, therapy, and medications to better understand what they’re going through. This is an action you can take on your own time that will show up in how you help your friend. The fact that you’re reading this now means you are already well on your way.
Offering to help your depressed friend is an essential and courageous act of love. Try not to take the rough moments personally, don’t jump to advice-giving, and try not to minimize what they’re going through. The road may not always be smooth, but if you’re prepared for the bumps along the way, you will be able to offer the help you’re aiming to achieve.
Look After Yourself
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to also look after yourself when trying to help a loved one navigate depression. Compassion fatigue, a term typically reserved for those in helping professions, can also occur when you’re the primary caregiver of a friend or family member. In its simplest definition, compassion fatigue is the emotional impact of helping someone through a traumatic event, and it can have devastating effects.
While it may be challenging to pull yourself away from your helping role, it’s important to set boundaries and set aside time to care for yourself. If you give everything to helping others, you will not have time to help yourself. Over time, this can lead to no energy left to continue supporting those you love. It’s okay to take a break when you need one.
When It’s Time to Act Fast
If your friend is harming themselves or expressing a risk of suicide, you must act quickly in seeking support. Stay present with them and call their therapist if they have one. Call 911 or take them to an emergency room in the most urgent of situations.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.
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