How To Deal With Someone Who Is Severely Depressed – Like heart disease and diabetes, depression is a common and treatable health condition. Recognizing the signs of depression is the starting point for getting the help they need.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and helpless when a loved one is depressed or when you suspect but don’t know how to know.
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For starters, it’s important to know the difference between feeling depressed and a more serious mental health issue that needs treatment, says April Thames, PhD, a professor at the UCLA Brain Research Institute in Los Angeles.
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A mood swing is usually a temporary setback caused by an external event, such as an argument with a family member or failure at work, says Dr. Thames. It doesn’t interfere with daily activities for a long time, and someone who feels this way usually resolves it after a few days, or at most a week, and continues to do some of the activities they enjoy. .
In contrast, clinical depression often includes symptoms like withdrawal from friends and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and these symptoms last longer, says Thames. The American Psychiatric Association says that for someone to be diagnosed with clinical depression, symptoms must last at least two weeks and demonstrate a change from a previous level of functioning.
Depressed people also have a very different way of thinking than depressed people. “A depressed person usually hopes that things will change for the better,” says Thames. “A depressed person feels that their situation is hopeless and will not change.”
If someone you care about has been diagnosed with depression or has any of these symptoms, it’s important to know how to react. Here are six ways to help.
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If you notice signs of depression in a loved one, it’s important to share your concerns in a calm, nonjudgmental way, says Ole Thienhaus, MD, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. It is also important to give your loved one space to talk about their feelings.
To get them talking, says Thienhaus, you can start by sharing recent changes that are bothering you. In doing so, don’t be judgmental – just state the facts you see in a neutral way, pausing frequently to let them respond to what you’re saying.
“Beware of any suggestion that they have no reason to be so sad,” adds Thienhaus. This means not saying things like, “Look at all the good things in his life” or “See how bad so-and-so is, but he doesn’t let his problems get him down.”
Why is this harmful? Thames says many people with depression believe they need to “get over it” or be “mentally strong” anyway, which can keep them from seeking treatment for their depression.
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Someone with depression may need help seeking care, either because of stigma or shame, or because their illness makes it difficult for them to manage tasks like finding or making appointments with a health professional. Offering to do these things for them, reminding them when to go to the appointment, and accompanying them to the appointment can help them get treatment sooner rather than later.
If they’re reluctant to see a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist, see if they’re willing to see their primary care physician, especially if it’s someone they already know and trust, says Thienhaus. While it’s best to consult someone who specializes in mental health, the important thing is to seek some form of help when needed.
Thames says you may also need to rethink the words you use to talk about depression treatment, as different people can have different perspectives on the illness. Some people, for example, don’t know how to use the word “depressed” to describe how they feel and may instead describe their symptoms as “stressed out” or “not themselves”.
While starting treatment is an important component of managing depression, your loved one may still need help with daily activities. A good way to help, says Michelle Riba, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is to offer to go to therapy appointments with them to hear directly from a mental health professional.
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You can also offer to help them with tasks that can be overwhelming, like shopping, doing laundry, or cleaning the house, or just taking them for a quick walk around the neighborhood to get them outside, Dr. says Riba.
Creating a routine is also very helpful, says Thames. For example, you can try to do this walk every day. Thames says regular physical activity can help reduce stress and release endorphins and other neurotransmitters, or chemicals, in the brain that play a role in improving mood.
According to Bala Cynwyd of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Pennsylvania, one form of treatment for depression is behavioral activation, which involves engaging in activities that the person finds meaningful, such as an enjoyable form of exercise or volunteering.
It’s important to encourage your loved one to engage in activities that bring them personal satisfaction — but don’t overdo it with activities and socializing, cautions Thames.
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“Most people try really hard to fix the situation by forcing their loved one to be active and socialize,” says Thames. “This isn’t always a good thing because it can create additional stress and inadvertently make symptoms worse.”
There are lots of little ways to tell when a treatment is working—it will be obvious by your loved one’s appearance and behavior, says Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of outpatient clinical services at the clinic. . . Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
As it gets better, someone with depression may start to make better eye contact with you instead of looking down to avoid eye contact because they feel vulnerable or anxious. According with the doctor. However, other signs of improvement include:
On the other hand, a lack of such symptoms likely means the person’s depression isn’t getting better and could be getting worse, notes Halaris, noting that the main concern with a lack of improvement is whether or not your loved one is having suicidal thoughts. .
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“You should very gently ask here if they have short-term thoughts that their life isn’t worth living,” Halaris says.
If your loved one is thinking about or planning to commit suicide, Halaris and Riba recommend taking steps to reduce the risk of attempting or completing suicide, such as
If you are concerned that your loved one is getting worse but they are ignoring any dangerous behavior or showing signs, ask to accompany them to part of their next psychiatric or counseling session or see their doctor. Riba says you can offer to attend regular counseling sessions with the psychiatrist or therapist. This will give you feedback on how the treatment is working, hear what your loved one and your doctor have to say, and get a better understanding of how you can help.
When you are with someone who has suffered from depression for a long time, it is important to understand that depression is a chronic illness with symptoms that can flare up from time to time, just as you would expect with physical conditions like heart disease or depression. diabetes.
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“Recognizing and accepting that there will be ups and downs can help reduce any personal frustration you may feel when dealing with a depressed loved one,” says Thames. “Family members or loved ones who are dealing with someone suffering from depression may want to seek personal therapy to help them cope and adjust to the person’s state of mind.”
While depressive episodes can go into remission with the right treatment, the potential for future relapses can strain relationships, says Thienhaus. This makes it important to talk to your loved one in remission so that together you can create a plan for how to quickly recognize and respond when a relapse is on the horizon.
There are many free resources available to help you find treatment and support your loved one or yourself as a caregiver.
SAMHSA has a treatment locator for a variety of mental health issues, as well as a free and confidential 24/7 treatment referral hotline. You can contact their hotline at 800-622-HELP (4357).
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This helpline consists of a nationwide network of crisis centers that provide confidential 24/7 support with a focus on suicide prevention. You can reach this lifeline at 988.
NAMI has support groups for patients, families and caregivers, as well as support in crisis situations and online chat. You can call the NAMI helpline at 800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.
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