Talking About Difficult Subjects: Knowing When To Acknowledge
I knew it would be hard for her to talk about this with us, but two years after the divorce, she had become withdrawn from her friends and severely depressed. The only interaction she had was with us, and that was only because we came over uninvited. She did open up a little and talk about what she had been going through since the divorce, but still found it hard to admit that she had depression or needed help. She assured us she would snap out of it.
How To Deal With A Depressed Parent
This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 83% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 322,420 times.
Its difficult to know your role when your parent has depression. Depending on your age, there may be very little you can do to help, but there are some things which may help you to deal with having a depressed parent.
What Causes Depression In Moms
During the first days after giving birth, many women will experience “baby blues” marked by mood swings, crying, anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating and sleeping. These blues usually go away within two weeks and dont require treatment.
If the symptoms persist and worsen over the next several months, the condition is considered postpartum depression. Untreated PPD lasts for a year or longer. By that time, though, moms are less likely to connect their depression to childbirth.
No one yet completely understands the origins of depression, although researchers now believe that the condition is a dysfunction of the brain’s neurotransmitter system that affects emotions, sleep, and appetite.
The textbook definition of depression is a constant state of malaise, lethargy, weight gain , and excessive sleeping . But it may take on different guises, especially in mothers. Often it feels like the worst kind of hopelessness, combined with an inability to cope with daily activities and a lack of interest in much of anything.
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She Cries To Get Her Way
While theres nothing wrong with crying, toxic moms tend to use tears to their advantage. Henry says she might cry to get sympathy to get her way, particularly if you arent budging. And that is not OK.
“A parent should be able to communicate their needs and feelings without trying to manipulate you into bending to their will, she says. This includes crying or running off into another room. All of these actions create drama that you just don’t need.
If I Am Taking Antidepressants Can I Breastfeed My Baby
Breastfeeding provides many health benefits for babies. It also helps mothers and babies bond. If you are taking antidepressants, small amounts will come out through your breast milk. But studies have shown that children exposed to these drugs through breast milk have not had problems.
Even if you are taking antidepressants, you can breastfeed your baby for as long as you wish. Stopping an antidepressant during breastfeeding may cause the depression to return.
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The Effects On Children
For parents with depression, there are the obvious detrimental symptomsemotional pain, lack of motivation, loss of joy in once-joyful activitiesand even physical troubles such as gastrointestinal distress and reduced immunity. But research has found that children of depressed parents are about three times as likely to suffer from major depression, anxiety disorders, or substance abuse as children whose parents hadn’t been depressed.
All kids have developmental needs that include feeling securely attached to a safe, caring adult and having a caregiver who is both physically and emotionally present and can model adequate coping mechanisms, says LaToya Gaines, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and former school psychologist in New York City. Untreated mental-health concerns can threaten a parent’s ability to fulfill these needs. “When we’re depressed, we have difficulty connecting,” says Kristen Granchalek, LCSW, a Chicago-based therapist specializing in women’s issues, anxiety, and emotional reactivity. “Our faces don’t respond in a way that mirrors our children’s emotions, which they need for healthy development and to feel cared for.” With anxiety, kids can absorb their parent’s chronic worrying and, says Granchalek, “internalize the belief that the world is not okay.”
You Have To Walk On Eggshells
Perhaps one of the most telling signs? Feeling as if you have to walk on eggshells around your mom, says Reena B. Patel, LEP, BCBA, a parenting expert, licensed educational psychologist, and board-certified behavior analyst. Whether youre worried shell take your words out of context, embarrass you, or have a big emotional reaction, you always choose your words carefully for fear shell overreact.
Its tough having a toxic mom, but remember there are things you can do to cope. As Patel says, You are not your mom. You can take control and detach yourself. Seek support and therapy if needed. Do not react, take this personally, and do not feel responsible for your moms feelings. It is not our job to rescue her.
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Supporting Mom In Treatment
Finally realizing that she couldnt go on as she was, pushed our mother to the point of finally accepting treatment. The potential to finally get out of this funk, to experience less pain, to enjoy the things she used tothis is what helped us help her.
Once in treatment at the facility we found, my sister and I continued to support Mom. We visited when possible and participated in treatment when allowed. Family therapy really helped all of us learn how to communicate better. It helped me and my sister understand how to help Mom once she returned home.
Treatment for depression is hard for many people to accept, especially older adults. There has long been a stigma associated with mental illness and weakness ascribed to needing help. It was a long road of several months to get Mom into treatment, but Im so glad we persisted. And so is she.
How Does A Mothers Depression Affect Her Children
Its important to remember that depression is treatable. But if depression is not treated, children will be affected.
Other things in a womans life may make the depression worse, such as financial or marital problems, or a very stressful life event .
Depression can cause mothers to be inconsistent with the way they care for their children. They may be loving one minute and withdrawn the next. They may not respond at all to their childrens behaviour or they may respond in a negative way. Depending on how old children are, they will be affected by their mothers depression in different ways.
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How Did My Mothers Depression Shape My Life
While it seems strange to say this, I think my mothers depression did arm me with some very useful skills, and there are positives to it.
I am super independent. I am not intimidated by doing things on my own. From a young age, I was very self sufficient. So when it came time to leave home and make my own way in the world, I launched from the arms of my family and home and went out into the world.
My ability to handle myself, and to handle challenges led me through college, to professional school and an advanced degree, to a six figure salary, to traveling around the world.
I dont need people to make decisions for me, or to do things for me.
I have enough money to live, I worked in a career that people respected or even envied. I got married, had a big house, had children.
The things I learned to overcome my mothers absence in my life as a child have been a strength.
But also a weakness.
I am uncomfortable asking people for help. I like to do things on my own, prefer it, actually. Im a control freak. I need to know that there is food in the pantry, in the fridge, in my diaper bag.
I dont let people in. So much so that while I managed to shepherd a relationship all the way to marriage, I couldnt maintain it, couldnt do the things I needed to do in order to stay married.
I continually push people away, preferring the safety and security I feel when I am on my own.
I dont honestly know if Ill ever succeed in a long term relationship or marriage.
This Is One Of The Most Difficult Things You Can Experience But Know That Youre Not Alone
The isolation that a depressed person feels is one of the hardest things to cope with. When you acknowledge their pain and remind Mom or Dad that theyre not alone, youre letting them know that theyre being seen and heard. This isnt easy and there are no quick solutions. But you can let them know that you are truly there for them. Knowing this might help your parent remember their own value and worth.
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What Is Complicated Grief
Grief is a normal, expected set of emotions that can occur after the loss of a loved one. However, some people experience a more significant and longer-lasting level of grief. This is known as complicated grief.
Complicated grief may share many of the same symptoms of depression. It can also lead to depression, or worsen depression in someone who already experiences it.
Symptoms of complicated grief include:
- trouble thinking about anything other than your loved ones death
- lasting longing for your deceased loved one
- difficulty accepting that your loved one is gone
- long-lasting bitterness over the loss
- feeling as if your life no longer has meaning
- trouble trusting others
Taking care of yourself is not a selfish action when youre experiencing grief. Instead, it can be a part of the process that helps you feel better mentally and physically.
Some ways to care for yourself include:
- exercising regularly, such as going on a walk, riding a bicycle, using an elliptical machine, or taking an exercise class
- getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night
- exploring a new skill, such as taking a cooking class, joining a book club, or enrolling in a seminar at your local college
- joining a support group for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one
Just as some approaches can help, others may not. Turning to drugs or alcohol to escape your thoughts is not productive behavior, and can actually make you feel worse over time.
The Best Way To Help Someone You Love Is To Be Persistent And Present
Check-ins changed my life.
While it is hard to see someone you love in pain, there is a lot you can do to support them. Ask your loved one how they are feeling and do so consistently and regularly.
Listen to them without shame, judgement, or stigma. Keep the but you have so much to be happy about comments to yourself.
Dont try to fix them because you cant. Instead, offer empathy and companionship. You should also try to help them get support.
Create activities to get your loved one out of the house. Go for a walk with them, have lunch, meet-ups, etc. Offer them rides to and from therapy and be yourself, Whittaker says. The point isnt what you do, its that you are persistent and present.
And ask them what they need. They may not have an answer at least not right away but as someone who has lived with depression for nearly 2 decades, I can tell you: Pointed and direct questions are useful.
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Shes The One Who Needed You
Once you’re an adult, nothing’s better than having your mom as a best friend someone you can hang out with, confide in, laugh with over brunch, etc. But if she tried to pull the whole BFF thing when you were a kid, well… it very well may explain why you have anxiety.
“When this happens, children often feel a mix of privilege and overwhelm to be there for their mom, which can result in a hero complex, an absence of a distinct sense of self, poor boundaries, and chronic and debilitating anxiety in adult relationships, says licensed psychologist Kate Balestrieri, PsyD, CSAT-S.
Make A Charitable Donation
A great way to honor a mom is to make a donation to her favorite charity.
Consider making a donation to any organizations where your mom may have volunteered.
If your mom passed away due to a medical condition such as cancer or heart disease, making a donation to that organization in honor of your mom is also a great idea.
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What To Know About Depression In Older Adults And How To Help
I recently received a letter from a reader: “Dear Dr. Koepp, My mom has recently become depressed. She’s 94 and lives alone. My family and I aren’t sure what we should be doing . Where should we go from here?”
I have tremendous respect for this reader for reaching out to learn more about depression in older adulthood.
Let me start by saying that depression is not a normal part of aging, but depression is the most prevalent mental health condition among older adults. Unfortunately, depression in late life often goes undetected and untreated largely due to the false belief that with age comes depression.
This is why it is so important to learn about depression and have tools and resources to help older adults get treated for depression if and when they need it.
Where To Find Mental Health Professionals That Specialize In Older Adults:
- Psychology TodayIn this resource portal, you can search for psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in older adults, simply select your age category
- Geriatric Mental Health FoundationThe doctors listed on their website are members of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry .
- Major Medical Centers and UniversitiesIf your older loved one lives near a major medical center or medical university, go online to see if they offer mental health care for older adults. Here are some common terms to help you in your search: geriatric mental health, behavioral health for older adults, geriatric psychiatry program, etc.
This is where you come in! First, you can begin to shift your view that with age comes depression . Secondly, you can help your older loved one get connected to providers and resources that can help treat suffering and ease pain.
Please dont ignore the signs and symptoms of depression in older adults. Instead lean in, share your concerns, and help your older loved one get connected to providers.
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What If I Need More Help
Sometimes talking to a parent is all you need to start feeling better. Sometimes you need more help. That’s OK, too.
If you are having a sad or bad mood that lasts, let your parent know. Ask them to set up a health visit to check for depression. You might need to talk with a therapist even after you’ve had good talks with your parent. Your parent can set this up for you. And if you see a therapist, a parent’s help still matters.
We Can’t Snap Out Of It Or Just Think Positive Thoughts
At any given moment, I have intrusive, negative thoughts. This is a direct result of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder , which is connected to my depression. They’re intertwined in an attempt to pull me from any happiness, no matter how deserving.
Some don’t know how to respond to depression, so instead of getting into the gritty specifics, they’ll throw around these phrases like “choose to be happy” or “think positive.” As great as those things sound , they don’t apply to someone with a mental illness. It has to do with chemicals inside the brain, not a lack of positive affirmations.
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Does The Doctor Know How Youre Feeling
Depression is a very real illness. This means its often treatable and manageable. Encourage your mom or dad to talk with their doctor if theyre feeling depressed, because there are options for resolving the issue. Be honest with your parent: Tell them that youre concerned about their well-being and that you think a health care professionals opinion might be helpful.
Helplines Hotlines And Resources:
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to741741
You can and should reach out to a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, trusted doctor, community leader, and/or your friends.
If you believe you are struggling with depression, talk to your medical doctor or seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional, Whittaker says.
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