Loving Someone with Depression: 5 Things You Should Know
Loving someone with depression can make you feel incredibly helpless. You may think that if you could just do or say the right thing, you could help them feel better. However, depression is complicated. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when loving someone who has depression is to treat the illness as if it is a mood. Depression is a real and debilitating condition that you cannot fix. However, by treating your loved one with care, compassion and patience, you can play a crucial role in their recovery. Here are five things should know about loving someone with depression.
5 Things You Need to Know About Loving Someone with Depression
- Depression is a real illness
Depression is not something your loved one can "snap out of." Unlike ordinary sadness or feeling down after a hard day at work, depression may not be lifted by a good night's sleep or a walk in the fresh air. According to recent statistics, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and although many people with depression never experience suicidal thoughts, depression can still take a significant toll on a person's life. It can lead to issues at work, addiction problems and financial hardship if left untreated.
The good news is, most cases of depression are highly treatable. People with mild depression may find that a combination of therapy, lifestyle changes and a short course of antidepressant medications help them feel better. For those with moderate or major depression, the road to recovery might be longer and more challenging.
- Depression recovery isn’t a straight line
One of the hardest and most difficult steps someone with depression can take is seeking help. It can be frustrating, then, when their efforts to get better don’t pay off right away. It's easy to assume that once someone starts taking medication or going to therapy that everything gets better from there. However, the road to recovery isn't always a straight line.
There will be days when your loved one feels well and seems happy and cheerful. There may be other days when they can barely lift their head from the pillow. This is normal and to be expected. Aside from anything else, managing a mental illness is exhausting. Whether they’re in the throes of deep depression or they’ve been seeking treatment for years, your loved one needs your support and acceptance, even if you don’t always understand what they’re going through.
- There isn’t always a “reason” for depression
When loving someone with depression, it’s important to understand that depression is more than ordinary sadness. Depression is a recognized clinical disorder that affects 300 million people around the world. It is estimated that 15% of the population experiences depression at some point in their lifetime.
While depression can occur as a reaction to stressful life circumstances, there isn't always a reason why someone you love is depressed. Even when life is going well, chemicals in the brain can cause moods to go out of balance, causing symptoms of depression. There is also a genetic component, meaning your loved one is more likely to experience depression if it runs in their family.
- Your language is important
While nothing you say can “fix” your loved one or improve their mood, the language you use is still important. People who are depressed often feel ashamed or guilty. Depression may tell them that they are a burden on their friends and family or that they don't deserve love. If there's anything you can do, it's to rid them of the notion that they are worthless. In short, your job is to help them feel loved when they feel unlovable.
Loving someone who has depression means using sympathetic language to communicate. You may feel frustrated at times, but the last thing you'll want to do is to make a person with depression feel worse about something they cannot control. You want to make your loved one feel accepted and validated while promoting open dialogue. Rather than stating, “You’ve been in bed all day. I’m worried about you,” say, “I’ve noticed you’ve been in bed all day. How do you feel?”
- Sometimes, all you can do is listen
It's easy to feel powerless when someone you love is suffering. However, it's not your job to know the right things to say. Sometimes, the most valuable support you can offer is to listen without judgment.
However, lending an ear to someone who's depressed isn't as easy as it sounds. Depressed people can be very negative; they might express feelings of worthlessness or claim that the world is better off without them. These words can be difficult for loved ones to hear, but it's vital that those with depression feel free to express themselves rather than bottling up their emotions or faking feeling well.
I Love Someone with Depression: What Can I Do?
Loving someone with depression certainly has its challenges. However, depression can also facilitate closeness and help you foster a deeper connection with someone you love.
In terms of what you can do, try not to focus on offering a solution. While suggesting treatment or offering to accompany your loved one to the doctor can be helpful, most depression sufferers don’t turn to others to cure them – they know it’s not that simple. However, if someone expresses suicidal thoughts or feelings – it’s important to act. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) 24 hours a day for free and confidential support.
Smith, E. (2019, March 7). Loving Someone with Depression: 5 Things You Should Know, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/loving-someone-with-depression-5-things-you-should-know