How to help a loved one suffering from depression?
Published Sep 20, 2022 • By Rahul Roy
Considering the fact that 5% of adults are estimated to suffer from depression, it is not uncommon for a loved one near you to be suffering from it. People affected by depression, experience an intense range of emotions that completely overwhelm them and derail their way of life.
So, what is depression? How do we know if a loved one is suffering from it? And what steps can we take to help that person feel better?
We dive into it in this article!
What is depression?
Depression is a complex mental disorder that persistently affects a person's mood in the way of sadness, anger and loss of interest. It is a condition that can impact a person's sleep, diet and health and curiously, most people suffering from it are unaware that they are dealing with depression.
So, what are the reasons for depression to exist? To put it plainly, it is caused by a multitude of factors that include the genetic makeup of an individual, psychological influences and environmental circumstances. For example, when an individual is put in a vulnerable position that brings about memories of traumatic experiences, it can ignite a mixture of feelings that a person would not be ready to deal with. This feeling can grow over time, sinking deeper and deeper until it totally overwhelms them and renders them feeling helpless and all alone.
Depression can also be caused by drug abuse especially for those individuals who started at a young age. These kind of events can cause a chemical imbalance in their brain and hinder their development.
If not handled properly, depression can lead to adverse consequences such as suicide. According to the WHO, 700,000 people die from suicide every year and a major cause of that is the mental instability triggered by depression.
It is interesting to note that more women suffer from depression than men, and that the way it affects individuals varies across genders and age groups.
Therefore, it is important to tackle the issue seriously and to get professional help as soon as possible.
How do we know if a loved one is suffering from depression?
It is important to understand the difference between being sad and being depressed. It is normal to be sad and grieve in emotional moments but exhibiting sustained level of sadness with lack of interest in any activities, persistent irritability, low levels of energy and concentration and generally feeling low is a sign that that person might be dealing with depression.
Although depression mainly affects the mind, it can also affect a person’s body. Some people who endure depression let themselves go in a health sense- they do not get enough sleep, they hardly exercise, and they scarcely find time to maintain a healthy diet.
A person with depression might be very hesitant to talk about their feelings, and if they do talk about it, they might mention their lack of motivation, feeling of guilt, lack of self-worth etc., These kind of behaviors could indicate the possibility of depression
Movements and mannerisms can also reveal that something is wrong like if they express a marked departure from their regular day to day activities over an extended period of time.
In general, the symptoms are:
- Feelings of prolonged sadness, emptiness, and anxiety,
- Lack of interest and energy in tasks and general day to day activities,
- Changes in appetite, body movements and memory,
- Physical problems such as body pain, headaches, and digestive issues on a recurring basis,
- Difficulty in sleeping, and communicating effectively,
- Regular emotional discharges in the form of crying and irritability,
- Suicidal tendencies and self-harm efforts.
What can we do to help someone that is depressed?
The first and most important action is to speak to the person. Dialogue plays a big role in helping someone cope with depression and making them feel comfortable is paramount to that goal. Depression is a serious condition but ultimately it is still treatable.
It is very difficult to accept that a loved one, is affected by depression but convincing them that they require professional help is a significant step in the recovery process. Nonetheless, it is important to know that if the person doesn’t want to seek professional help, forcing them can be worst.
There is a wide range of treatments available depending on the severity and intensity of the depressive episodes. Therefore, it is essential that the afflicted individual is properly diagnosed by a licensed and qualified health care practitioner. Some examples of psychological treatments include interpersonal psychotherapy (personal relationship-based therapy), psychodynamic therapy (talk-based patient focused therapy), group therapy (sharing-based therapy), cognitive behavioral therapy (psychology-based talk therapy) to name a few.
There are also medications (Tolvon, Avanza) that exist to help the person, but it is important that they be recommended by the practitioner in the prescribed doses. Be aware however that these anti-depressants are capable of side effects, more details in this recently published article.
Letting them know that they are not alone in dealing with this problem is important. The support from a near family member, friend or relative will provide comfort and a sense of security.
Being with them at every step of their recovery process can help. Remember that even though they are fighting the battle, loved ones can play a role in creating an ideal atmosphere to allow them to overcome this hurdle.
Easing them into developing a routine and a schedule to help them grab more control of their lives when they are at an advanced stage of recovery can be another tool to help them cope.
These small steps, on a regular basis, will make a big impact on the long terme. Depression can sometimes be a really dark place for some people, but when there is darkness, there is also light and helping our loved ones understand and supporting them can make all the difference.
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