Taking Care Of Yourself
Theres a natural impulse to want to fix the problems of people we care about, but you cant control someone elses depression. You can, however, control how well you take care of yourself. Its just as important for you to stay healthy as it is for the depressed person to get treatment, so make your own well-being a priority.
Remember the advice of airline flight attendants: put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. In other words, make sure your own health and happiness are solid before you try to help someone who is depressed. You wont do your friend or family member any good if you collapse under the pressure of trying to help. When your own needs are taken care of, youll have the energy you need to lend a helping hand.
Speak up for yourself. You may be hesitant to speak out when the depressed person in your life upsets you or lets you down. However, honest communication will actually help the relationship in the long run. If youre suffering in silence and letting resentment build, your loved one will pick up on these negative emotions and feel even worse. Gently talk about how youre feeling before pent-up emotions make it too hard to communicate with sensitivity.
What Do You Do When The Person You Love Hurts You
The only way to truly stop feeling guilty after youve hurt someone you love is to forgive yourself. Self-forgiveness is the only way to truly recover and move forward after youve hurt someone you love. Before forgiving yourself for having hurt someone you love, though, youll want to apologize to them first.
The Switch From Deep Depression To Considering Suicide
Looking back, the change that should have signaled to me that something was wrong was when I started to have passive suicidal thoughts.
Id feel disappointed when I woke up each morning, wishing I could end my pain and sleep forever.
I didnt have a suicide plan, but I just wanted my emotional pain to end. Id think about who could take care of my dog if I died and would spend hours on Google searching for different suicide methods.
A part of me thought everyone did this from time to time.
One therapy session, I confided in my therapist.
A part of me expected her to say that I was broken and she couldnt see me anymore.
Instead, she calmly asked if I had a plan, to which I responded no. I told her that unless there was a foolproof suicide method, I wouldnt risk failing.
I feared the possibility of permanent brain or physical damage more than death. I thought it was completely normal that if offered a pill that guaranteed death, I would take it.
I now understand those arent normal thoughts and that there were ways to treat my mental health issues.
Thats when she explained that I was going through a major depressive episode.
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Tips To Help Someone Who Seems Down
- Let them know you care and are there to listen.
- Accept them as they are, without judging them.
- Gently encourage them to help themselves for example, by staying physically active, eating a balanced diet and doing things they enjoy.
- Get information about the services available to them, such as psychological therapy services or depression support groups in their area.
- Stay in touch with them by messaging, texting, phoning or meeting for coffee. People who are depressed can become isolated and may find it difficult to leave their home.
- Try to be patient.
- Take care of yourself.
Be There For Them During Treatment
When it comes to health issues, everyone wants a quick fix. Thats unlikely with depression.
Your friend may lose motivation and feel like their therapy, their medication, or both, arent worth bothering with anymore. It can feel really challenging to find the energy to maintain treatment.
Remind them that they should try to keep up their treatment, but support their wishes. If they truly dont click with their therapist, or the side effects of the medication have become too much, help them learn about different options.
In both cases, encourage and support your friend during the times they may want to cease all treatment, as this is a common experience for many people struggling with depression. Many types of therapy and medication regimens require ongoing sessions.
Finding a new therapist or discussing a different dosage of meds are much better than stopping completely and suddenly.
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How Do You Know If Your Friend Is Going Through A Tough Time
Sometimes its hard to know the difference between the regular ups and downs of life, and mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. Someone experiencing mental health concerns might feel ashamed, and worried about how their friends might react if they talk about it.
Not everyone experiences depression or anxiety in the same way, and symptoms can vary however, there are changes in the way a person going through a tough time acts that you can look out for. If your friend is experiencing depression, they might:
- seem down or tearful a lot of the time, or cranky more often
- stay up really late or sleep in a lot, or have problems with sleep
- miss a lot of school, work or their regular activities
- miss hangouts or often cancel at the last minute
- eat more or less than usual
- drink alcohol or take drugs more than usual
- talk about feeling empty, tired or worthless
- seem more pessimistic and hopeless, and like they have less energy in general.
If your friend is experiencing anxiety, they might:
- be obsessed with details, such as being a perfectionist or wanting to plan things out thoroughly
- have difficulty making decisions
- avoid new people, situations or unfamiliar places
- have trouble keeping to schedules or plans
- seem disinterested, forgetful, distracted or scattered
- have digestive issues
- have a need to reassurance about how you feel, whether plans make sense, triple checking times
- have difficulty sleeping
Learn more about what anxiety is and how to recognise the symptoms.
The Risk Of Suicide Is Real
What to do in a crisis situation
If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave them alone.
In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
In other countries, call your countrys emergency services number or visit IASP to find a suicide prevention helpline.
It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain theyre feeling.
Since suicide is a very real danger when someone is depressed, its important to know the warning signs:
- Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself a preoccupation with death
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
- Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways
- Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye
- Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects
- A sudden sense of calm after depression
If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, dont wait, talk to them about your concerns. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a persons life, so speak up if youre concerned and seek professional help immediately!
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Recognizing Depression Symptoms In A Loved One
Family and friends are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. Thats why its important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice the problem in a depressed loved one before they do, and your influence and concern can motivate them to seek help.
Be concerned if your loved one:
Doesnt seem to care about anything anymore. Has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities. Has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
Expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life. Is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody talks about feeling helpless or hopeless.
Frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain. Or complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
Sleeps less than usual or oversleeps. Has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and out of it.
Eats more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
Drinks more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers, as a way to self-medicate how theyre feeling.
How To Help Someone With Depression
Dr. Borland recommends some dos and donts to get the conversation going:
Do: Practice assertive communication
Rather than making depression taboo, talk openly with yourfriend about your concerns. Dr. Borland recommends cultivating the art ofassertive communication: You take ownership of your feelings and concerns andcommunicate them without finger-pointing. And you listen and provide yourfriend with unconditional emotional support.
To do this, practice using Istatements. Begin sentences with, Im worried, Im concerned or Ive noticed.Then explain your concerns to your friend, he suggests. Avoid saying, Youdont seem like yourself, or You havent been hanging out as much as youusually do. They can create defensiveness in the person receiving the message.
Do: Show empathy
Put yourself in your friends shoes in a nonjudgmentalway. Think about how you would feel if you were coping with symptoms ofdepression and how you would want friends to react. Maintain eye contact whenlistening, and say things like, That sounds hard. Im sorry you are goingthrough this, and Im always here for you.
And if youve dealt with depression yourself, self-disclosure can be very powerful, Dr. Borland points out. Youre giving your friend a gift by opening yourself up and sharing that you understand.
Do: Set boundaries
Do: Be patient
Dont: Think you can fix it
Dont: Give up
But what if your friend rejects your efforts even when youvedone all the right things?
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How Can You Tell If Someone Is Dealing With Depression
Depression touches most Americans, whether they experience it personally or it affects someone they know. In fact, The National Institute of Mental Health reports its one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States an estimated 17.3 million adults were living with depression in 2017.
So how can you tell if a friend is just a bit sad or hassomething deeper brewing? There certainly are telltale signs, Dr. Borlandnotes. But since you dont necessarily see that person every day, you may haveto do more detective work.
He recommends watching for behavioral changes or anything that could be out of character for your friend. Some depression symptoms include:
- Lack of engagement:They lose interest in activities they used to enjoy or want to hang out less.
- Change in communication patterns: Youused to chat or hang on the regular, and now theyre MIA.
- Changes in hygiene and sleepingpatterns: Theyre sleeping less or all the time. Their appearance andhygiene no longer seem to be a priority.
- Displays of sadness or anger: Theirtemper now has a hairpin trigger, or maybe they seem more down than usual.
- Withdrawal from social outlets:Theyre missing from activities where they were formerly fixtures.
Take Them At Their Word
Its a common myth that people talk about suicide to get attention. This is not the case for most people, so its always best to assume your friend means what they say.
Brushing off their mention of suicide invalidates their distress. They may feel reluctant to share their thoughts with anyone else or reach out for professional support.
Instead, they might continue carrying their pain in silence, believing things will never improve.
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What To Avoid If Youre Suffering From Depression
Although depression is a common problem, each persons case is different and needs dealing with differently. However, there are several typical lifestyle issues which can get in the way of recovery. Here are 12 things its best to avoid if youre suffering from depression or anxiety.
1) Dont ignore your issues. They wont solve themselves. Seeking help and addressing your problems is the only way forward, even though it can be painful to begin the journey.
2) Dont drink alcohol, especially not to excess. Although it can make you feel better in the short term, it doesnt solve anything, and can quickly introduce new issues. Also, it acts as a depressant, hindering other recovery efforts.
3) Try not to stay in bed or to let your sleep patterns become chaotic. Insomnia can make depression much worse, and sticking to a regular sleep routine is the best way to avoid this.
4) Dont lock yourself away indoors. Ideally, you should try to maintain social contact, but if you really cant face this, at least get some fresh air and sunshine. Studies repeatedly show that spending time outdoors is a powerful way of reducing depression and anxiety.
5) It might be tempting to escape into video games or other virtual distractions, but dont overdo this. At best its avoidance, but at worst it further isolates you from the outside world, giving your problems a space in which to grow out of proportion.
Understand That Anxiety Looks Different On Everyone
Anxiety can manifest as a deep tiredness and can also cause sleeplessness. It can be experienced as restlessness, agitation, and an inability to concentrate. It causes irritability for some, and irrational fears for others. Anxiety can also be experienced as frightening chest pains and uncomfortable muscle tension. The diverse and sometimes misunderstood symptoms of anxiety are real. Let your friend know you care and want to know about their experience.
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Providing Support And Reassurance
Encourage Them To Talk About It
When someone you love mentions suicide, you might believe avoiding the subject entirely and encouraging them to think about brighter things will help them feel better.
Its normal to feel scared or uncertain of the best response, but shying away from the subject wont help.
Your friend might take your avoidance as a sign you arent comfortable talking about suicide. They might also get the message you dont appreciate the depth of their pain, even when thats not the case. In either case, they might stop confiding in you.
The idea that discussing suicide will make someone more likely to act on suicidal thoughts is . People who have the chance to open up about their thoughts and share their pain with an empathic listener often feel some relief from the most overwhelming feelings of distress.
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Encourage Them In Their Chosen Path
If you notice a friends moods are improving with a particular therapy or medication or habit theyve chosen, give them that feedback. You seem to be having more good days since you started . Do you feel that way too? That objective input from someone caring can be helpful to remember on the days when keeping with the habit feels difficult.
They Only See The Negatives
If your friend used to be quite confident about life but now only has bad things to say about themselves, it could be a sign of depression. Losing self-confidence is a common sign of depression, and often people cant see the positives in any situation nor in themselves. This resource looks at ways to break negative thought loops.
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Dont Try Forcing Or Encouraging Any Specific Treatment
There are many different ways of treating depression, and just as many different types of medication. Which one your friend ends up taking is their decision.
You may have strong views on certain depression treatments. Whichever way you lean, your opinion is going to have to stay tucked inside your head.
There isnt a guaranteed cure when it comes to depression. Finding out whats right is often a case of trial, error, and discovering what the individual is comfortable with.
Its a really personal decision so leave it to your friend and their healthcare professional. Even if you think that their decision is totally wrong, keep your lips sealed. Throw your energy behind supporting whatever decision they make instead.
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How Do I Know Which Type I Have
If you think you might have any type of depression, its important to follow up with a doctor. All depression types discussed in this article are treatable, though it might take some time to find the right treatment for you.
If youve had a previous episode of depression and think it may be happening again, see a therapist or another mental health professional right away.
If youve never had depression before, start with a primary care physician. Some symptoms of depression can be related to an underlying physical condition that should be addressed.
Try to give your doctor as much information about your symptoms as you can. If possible, mention:
- when you first noticed the symptoms
- how theyve affected your daily life
- any other mental health conditions you have
- any information about a history of mental illness in your family
- all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take, including supplements and herbs
It might feel uncomfortable, but try to tell your doctor everything. This will help them give you a more accurate diagnosis and refer you to the right type of mental health professional.