Dealing With The Winter Blues
For some people, the reduced daylight hours of winter lead to a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder . SAD can make you feel like a completely different person to who you are in the summer: hopeless, sad, tense, or stressed, with no interest in friends or activities you normally love. No matter how hopeless you feel, though, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your mood stable throughout the year.
Bring Up Your Concerns With Your Loved One
If you notice signs of depression in your loved one, its important to calmly share your concerns in a way thats nonjudgmental, says Ole Thienhaus, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. Its also crucial to give your loved one space to talk about what theyre feeling.
Listening is the most important part of beginning to help, Dr. Thienhaus says.
To get them talking, you may start by sharing the changes youve observed recently that worry you, Thienhaus says. When you do this, dont be critical just state the facts as you see them in a neutral way and pause often to give them room to respond to what you have to say.
Avoid any suggestion that they have no reason to feel so sad, Thienhaus adds. This means not saying things like, Look at all the good things in your life or Look at how much worse off so-and-so is, but she doesnt let her problems get her down.
Why is this harmful? Many people with depression already believe they should be able to snap out of it or should be mentally strong, Thames says, feelings that can stand in their way of seeking treatment for depression.
Support Them To Seek Help For Depression
All types of depression are treatable, whether your loved one is struggling with clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder or any other type of depression, and this is a key message to try and reinforce to your loved one. Connecting with a mental health professional means that your loved ones condition can be evaluated and some proactive next steps put in place but only if they feel ready.
If theyre nervous about speaking to a professional, offer to go with them to any initial appointments and help them to make a list of their symptoms to talk through.
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What Treatment Should I Be Offered
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence writes guidance on what treatment doctors should offer you. But your doctor does not have to give you these treatments. And the treatments may not be available in your area.
Different treatments may be available in your area. Your doctor might think these suit your symptoms more than the recommended treatments.
NICE recommend that depression is treated in different steps depending on how severe the condition is for you. The steps are as follows.
Step 1: Everyone who may have depression
Your doctor should offer you:
- an assessment of your symptoms,
- support, such as regular appointments in person or by telephone,
- information on how to deal with your symptoms,
- monitoring of your symptoms and follow-up, and
- referral for further assessment and treatment if needed.
Step 2: Mild to moderate depression
Your doctor may offer you:
- low-intensity interventions, such as self-help guided by the doctor or computerised cognitive behavioural therapy ,
- physical activity programmes,
- group cognitive behavioural therapy ,
- medication if you have a history of moderate or severe depression, or you have had symptoms for a long time, and
- referral for further assessment and treatment if needed.
Step 3: Moderate to severe depression, or mild to moderate depression when other treatments havent worked
Your doctor may suggest:
Step 4: Severe and complex depression or if your life is at risk Your doctor may suggest:
How To Help Someone With Anxiety
All of us worry and get scared from time to time. But those with anxiety may feel consumed by fears of things that might seem irrational to others. It can be hard to relate to these concerns, and as a result, many people dont know how to best help someone with anxiety. People are often dismissive of people experiencing anxiety, says Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. With other medical illnesses, you may be able to see physical symptoms. But with anxiety, you dont necessarily see what the person is dealing with. So its important to be sensitive to what the person with anxiety is going through, even if it doesnt make sense to you. Its distressing to watch a loved one experience panic attacks and face anxiety every day, but there are things you can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding the best ways to support your loved one.
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Treatment Options For Patients With Anxiety
There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
- Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.
During therapy, continue to show your support by:
- Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
- Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
- Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
- Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isnt a good fit.
Where Can I Go For Help
If you are unsure of where to go for help, ask your family doctor or health care provider. You can also find resources online including the NIMH website at www.nimh.nih.gov/FindHelp, or check with your insurance carrier to find someone who participates in your plan. Hospital doctors can help in an emergency.
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Psychological Treatments For Depression
Psychological treatments have been found to be an effective way to treat depression. They can help you change your thinking patterns and improve your coping skills so you’re better equipped to deal with life’s stresses and conflicts.
As well as supporting your recovery, psychological therapies can help you stay well by identifying and changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviour.
There are several different types of psychological treatments including:
- cognitive behaviour therapy
- behaviour therapy
- mindfulness-based cognitive therapy .
CBT is one of the most commonly used psychological therapies. It helps people with depression to monitor and change negative patterns of thinking and improve their coping skills so they are better equipped to deal with lifes stresses and conflicts.
Support Her Without Being Asked
Helping her without asking can look like:
- watching the baby so she can shower
- going outside of your usual chores to help her with more household tasks
- offering to attend doctors appointments, pediatricians appointments, or lactation clinics
- buying or making her favorite food
- taking care of the older children or caring for her pets
Theres so much you can DO to help her out, and you dont always need to ask her How can I help?. When you see something that needs done, do it.
If youre nervous about stepping out, grab the bonus template in the Postpartum Support System. It is fully customizable for new moms to fill out and refer to each time a friend or family member asks to help out.
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How Can Friends And Family Help
This information is for friends and family who want to support someone with depression.
The support of friends and family can play a very important role in someone recovering from depression. Here are some suggestions for how you can help.
- Support them to get help. You can’t force anyone to get help if they don’t want it, so it’s important to reassure your loved one that it’s OK to ask for help, and that there is help out there. See our pages on how to support someone else to seek help for their mental health for more information.
- Be open about depression. Lots of people can find it hard to open up and speak about how they’re feeling. Try to be open about depression and difficult emotions, so your friend or family member knows that it’s OK to talk about what they’re experiencing.
“The best things that friends and family can do is simply listen. They often don’t need to say anything, just being willing to listen to your problems makes you feel less alone and isolated”
- Keep in touch. It might be hard for your loved one to have the energy to keep up contact, so try to keep in touch. Even just a text message or email to let them know that you’re thinking of them can make a big difference to how someone feels.
“Talking… not even talking about how I felt. Just talking about stupid things that didn’t matter over coffee, without pressure and knowing that I can talk about the tough stuff if I want to.”
Help Them Find Support
Your friend may not be aware theyre dealing with depression, or they may be unsure how to reach out for support.
Even if they know therapy could help, it can be daunting to search for a therapist and make an appointment.
If your friend seems interested in counseling, offer to help them review potential therapists. You can help your friend list things to ask potential therapists and things they want to mention in their first session.
Encouraging them and supporting them to make that first appointment can be so helpful if theyre having a hard time with it.
Connect Them With A Social Worker
If your loved one is working with a mental health therapist, they can be referred for case management services through the mental health center. If not, you can help them reach out to a social worker or county caseworker. They are professionals who support someone with severe depression access community resources to improve their health.
A few examples of resources available include the following:
- Medical professionals
Helping someone be successful in other areas of their life may help ease their depressive symptoms.
How To Help Someone With Depression Who Wont Talk
Everyone has had a bad day, been in a bad mood or experienced a difficult time in their lives, but this isnt the same as being depressed. And if youve never experienced a major depressive disorder, it can be very difficult to understand how it affects everything in your life and can make even the smallest tasks difficult. Some common, but not so helpful ways, people may try to cheer up a depressed person include telling them the situation isnt as bad as it seems, acting as if they can just magically get out of depression with the right playlist or a walk around the block or trying to commiserate too much and end up enabling the person into even more negative behaviors.
While these are all usually done out of concern for your loved one, it can be very frustrating when people with depression arent getting better. The truth is that depression is isolating and can be a very complex mental health condition. It requires a combination of various therapeutic techniques and often medication to start seeing an improvement in symptoms of depression.
However, this doesnt mean that you cant still be of help. Here are some ideas on how to help a friend with depression.
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Avoid Judgment And Blame
If someone you love is depressed and no longer able to do the activities they used to, including working or helping around the house, you may feel like they are lazy. When you get frustrated, try to remember that someone who is depressed isn’t lazythey’re ill. Everyday activities like cleaning the house, paying bills, or feeding the dog may seem overwhelming, if not impossible, to someone who is depressed.
If your loved one’s responsibilities around the house are piling up, you may not be able to take them on yourself.
In addition to resisting the urge to blame your loved one, try not to blame yourself either. Know that it’s OK if you need to ask for help.
Supporting Your Loved Ones Treatment
One of the most important things you can do to help a friend or relative with depression is to give your unconditional love and support throughout the treatment process. This involves being compassionate and patient, which is not always easy when dealing with the negativity, hostility, and moodiness that go hand in hand with depression.
Provide whatever assistance the person needs . Help your loved one make and keep appointments, research treatment options, and stay on schedule with any treatment prescribed.
Have realistic expectations. It can be frustrating to watch a depressed friend or family member struggle, especially if progress is slow or stalled. Having patience is important. Even with optimal treatment, recovery from depression doesnt happen overnight.
Lead by example. Encourage the person to lead a healthier, mood-boosting lifestyle by doing it yourself: maintain a positive outlook, eat better, avoid alcohol and drugs, exercise, and lean on others for support.
Encourage activity. Invite your loved one to join you in uplifting activities, like going to a funny movie or having dinner at a favorite restaurant. Exercise is especially helpful, so try to get your depressed loved one moving. Going on walks together is one of the easiest options. Be gently and lovingly persistentdont get discouraged or stop asking.
Need to talk to someone?
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Risk Factors For Depression
Depression can affect anyoneeven a person who appears to live in relatively ideal circumstances.
Several factors can play a role in depression:
- Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
- Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
- Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
Be Concrete In Planning How To Help
Another great way to support her is by creating a plan alongside her to get her help through a therapist or find a healthy coping mechanism. The important part is to be concrete with this. Dont speak in hypotheticals or use generalizations. Sitting down to email multiple perinatal therapists or signing up for activities to get involved in is better than staying in the research phase.
A great tool for writing out a concrete postpartum plan is the Postpartum Support System.
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What To Do When A Loved One Is Severely Depressed
There are no easy answers for helping someone struggling with depression, especially if youve already tried and tried. Here are some tips from experts.
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Reports of Kate Spades suicide and struggle with depression instantly transformed her from symbol of polished prep to a blunt reminder that suffering affects all types. Three days later we woke to the news that another beloved figure, Anthony Bourdain, had taken his life.
These two tragedies have inspired hundreds to tweet some version of the same message: Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.
But deep in the comment threads, some have also been debating a more uncomfortable question: What do you do when a friend is depressed for such a long time that youve started to feel that that nothing you can do will make a difference, and your empathy reserves are tapped out? There are no easy answers. But here are some tips from experts:
Meet Yourself Where You Are
Depression is common. It affects millions of people, including some in your life. You may not realize they face similar challenges, emotions, and obstacles.
Every day with this disorder is different. Its important to take your mental health seriously and accept that where you are right now isnt where youll always be.
The key to self-treatment for depression is to be open, accepting, and loving toward yourself and what youre going through.
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Types Of Diagnostic Tools
Researchers have been using such scales since the 1960s. One of the first, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, is still sometimes used today. However, there are many more scales available that are better suited for doctors to use with patients. There are even scales patients can use on their own to track or self-report depression symptoms.
While scales can offer key insights, they tend to be quite different from one another. The way they are administered, the questions they ask, and the way the answers are interpreted may not be the same from one scale to the next.
The inconsistencies of the tools, their use, and interpretation can make it challenging to determine the severity of someones depression, as different scales may provide different results. That said, when used along with other diagnostic measures and the judgment of an experienced clinician, the scales can be useful tools.
How Can I Help Someone With Depression
Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it but also impacting everyone around them.
If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. Its not easy dealing with a friend or family members depression. And if you neglect your own health, it can become overwhelming.
That said, your companionship and support can be crucial to your loved ones recovery. You can help them to cope with depression symptoms, overcome negative thoughts, and regain their energy, optimism, and enjoyment of life. Start by learning all you can about depression and how to best talk about it with your friend or family member. But as you reach out, dont forget to look after your own emotional healthyoull need it to provide the full support your loved one needs.
Understanding depression in a friend or family member
Depression is a serious condition. Dont underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a persons energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one cant just snap out of it by sheer force of will.
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