7 Ways to Help Someone With Depression

March 7, 2020 , Agape Treatment Center

how to help someone with depressionDepression is a common psychiatric disorder that many of our friends and loved ones suffer from. In fact, it is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses worldwide. Consequently, many of us wonder how exactly we can help someone with depression. It’s hard to stand by and watch a loved one suffer alone, and of course, we want to help. All too often, people become distraught and confused about how exactly they can support or offer help to a loved one with depression. Depression is a lonely and difficult disorder that can drive wedges between an individual and their loved one – further worsening a person’s depression. In order to avoid this, it is vital to learn how to properly support your loved one who is suffering from depression. Consider the following suggestions when trying to help your loved one.

 

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of overall sadness and the loss of motivation. Additionally, people with depression often feel as if they will never feel happy again. Commonly, people confuse depression with normal feelings of sadness. However, depression is a consistent and looming feeling of despair rather than a normal fluctuation of mood and emotion. Depression is caused by major life events such as the loss of a parent or financial instability. Consequently, doctors only diagnose patients with depression if their grief continues over a long period of time. 

If left untreated, depression can lead to serious side effects such as:

  • Excessive weight gain or loss 
  • Physical pain or illness 
  • Social anxiety, panic, or phobias 
  • Broken relationships and isolation from loved ones 
  • Suicidal ideation or suicide attempts
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as self-mutilation

In addition, depression can lead to the development of alcoholism or substance abuse. This occurs when an individual with depression begins to attempt to self-medicate. Depression and addiction are often linked and can be life-threatening without treatment. As a result, it is extremely important to offer support to and to help friends or loved ones who suffer from depression. While you can’t force someone into treatment, you can offer love and support until they are ready to receive professional help. 

 

How Can I Help Someone with Depression?

Listen

When someone is suffering from depression, they often feel as if no one understands them or that no one cares about their pain. This may cause them to isolate or mask their problems from their friends and family. In order to keep an open line of communication, being there for your loved one and listening to them when they vent is extremely important. As a result, they may begin to feel as if they have hope for recovery. 

Never Judge or Criticize 

While it is important to set healthy boundaries, you should never judge or criticize someone whom you are trying to help with depression. For example, when you tell your loved one that their depression is “all in their head”, they may feel as though you think they are choosing to feel depressed. 

Depression is not a choice. Instead, you could say something like, “I understand that this is a hard time, but I am here for you no matter what”. This kind of statement lets a person know that you are hearing their truth and supporting them simultaneously. Oftentimes, depression makes you feel as if everything is your fault. Knowing that your loved one is there for you makes fighting your depression a bit easier. 

Avoid Offering Advice

While it may seem fruitful to offer advice to someone with depression, it is quite counterproductive. When someone is depressed and people are constantly telling him or her how to fix their depression, it may make them feel as if they are inadequate. As a result, they may detach further from their loved ones, which is dangerous. Instead of offering advice, you could simply ask them what you can do for them. This shows them that you want to help them without insinuating that you know better than they do. 

Don’t Compare 

Naturally, we want to show our loved ones that they are not alone. However, it is common for people to use blanket statements such as, “I know how you feel”. This is damaging to someone with depression, especially if you have never experienced it yourself. While you were only trying to help, you are unintentionally minimizing their experience by saying you understand it. 

End the “Tough Love”

Many people believe the misconception that tough love will inspire a loved one with depression to receive help. While this may seem like a way to motivate them, it does quite the contrary. For example, giving someone an ultimatum such as, “get help for your depression or I will leave you”, only makes them feel like they are burdening you. As a result, they will begin to hide their depression from you. This may cause them to feel even more alone, resulting in their depression worsening. 

Additionally, ignoring someone’s depression is just as detrimental. Many people ignore symptoms of depression because they believe they are avoiding enabling their loved one. While enabling is harmful, not acknowledging cries for help is just as dangerous. Instead, offer them support and a shoulder to cry on. This will keep the line of communication open, allowing you to be aware of the severity of their depression. 

Learn More about Depression

In order to avoid damaging behavior, you must educate yourself on depression to help someone with depression. Once you begin to understand the causes, symptoms, and risks of depression, it will become much easier to support your loved one. One of the main things that many people aren’t aware of, is that depression may come and go. People who suffer from depression will have bouts of happiness, where they seem totally healthy and content. Sometimes, people mistake this for a sign of their loved one’s depression being “cured”.  However, people with depression can laugh at jokes, maintain jobs and schoolwork, and partake in activities and still suffer from the effects of depression internally. 

Be Patient 

Individuals with depression often feel as if they burden their loved ones. However, when you remain patiently supportive throughout their depression, you prove that you are planning to stick by them. Additionally, it shows them that you have hope for their recovery. This, in turn, may give them hope for themselves. One of the main issues that people with depression suffer from is a constant feeling of hopelessness. So, remaining patient in their recovery allows them the support and space they need to become hopeful again. 

Figuring out how to help someone with depression might feel tiring and difficult. However, remaining supportive and patient throughout their recovery will help to motivate them to get better. Always remember to ask them how you can help, give them a shoulder to cry on, and be patient with them. Recovery is possible for anyone suffering from depression, especially when their loved ones have their back.