How to Explain Depression to Loved Ones
Depression has been a part of your life for so long now; it’s hard to remember what you are like without it. Depression made its presence known by removing your motivation, reducing your mood and changing you from someone full of hope and optimism into a pessimist. The way you view yourself and the world around you is skewed.
To make matters worse, some of the people in your life are viewing you differently. Rather than understanding, they portray your issues as a character flaw or personal shortcoming. They have said that you are being lazy and unmotivated.
Part of managing your depression is maintaining positive, beneficial supports. If the people in your life have been critical or lacking in understanding, give them an education on depression — maybe you can turn an enemy into an ally.
Know Your Symptoms
Before you can explain depression to anyone else, you must understand it yourself. When did it first present? What are your triggers? What intensity of symptoms do you experience? What is helpful for you when symptoms are high?
Having a grasp of your patterns and building a familiarity of yourself makes you a better communicator to friends, family and professionals in your life.
Do not just guess when you answer these questions; take a serious look over the last weeks and months to gather background information. Additionally, observe your recent behavior over a two-week period to track your symptoms. This activity may provide new information you never considered.
If you are in therapy or receive medication, ask your healthcare professional for information about depression.
Depression is not one-size-fits-all — there are different types of depressive disorders, including major depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, persistent depressive disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and others.
Each of these diagnoses has qualifiers to better individualize the diagnosis. Knowing your diagnosis helps you understand specifics or your disorder.
Know the Criteria
Mental health professionals use a text called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose mental health issues. Each diagnosis has a detailed list of self-reported symptoms that must be met to qualify for the diagnosis.
Professionals will use tools, questionnaires and rating scales to better understand your symptoms to judge if you meet criteria. Stay away from online polls or surveys about your symptoms to determine your diagnosis — these are unreliable and will only yield inaccuracies and confusion.
Did you know you do not have to feel depressed to have depression? Many people with a depression diagnosis experience mood symptoms that are more irritable or anger than depressed and sad.
Did you know depression can trigger an unwanted impact on your attention and concentration? Many people mistakenly think they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when it is actually depression.
Set the Stage
There is an important aspect of explaining depression to loved ones that comes after data collection but before the actual conversation. The aspect is setting up the environment in a way that is more conducive to a productive conversation.
When you want to have a critical discussion, you do not want a loud or distracting setting. You want the situation to be calm and under control.