9 Tips to Help with Depression
- Know depression. You have been observing some troubling symptoms of your loved one for some time but the criteria for being diagnosed with depression is quite complex as is depression as a whole. Biologically, many view depression as a lack or imbalance of key neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain. Antidepressant medications often work by allowing more serotonin to be available. Symptoms of depression and depressive disorders cover a wide array of behavioral and cognitive changes. Depression can even cause some to have delusions or hallucinations. The symptoms look differently for each person and can change over time. Perhaps, your loved one’s mood is sad and then irritable later. This does not mean that they have bipolar disorder as irritability is a symptom of depression. Read trusted information and talk to others about depression to get as much information as possible. Being a valuable resource will help your loved one.
- Know the difference. With the complex nature of symptoms, you can easily confuse something else for depression. Likely candidates are ADHD, bipolar disorder, alcohol or drug use, physical illnesses and other causes that are a normal part of life. If your 14 year-old daughter broke up with her boyfriend, it is typical for her to be sad and staying to herself for a period of time. This would not qualify as depression. Knowing the difference means that you do not overreact to smaller issues and that you do not underreact to bigger ones. Finding this balance is not easy and takes practice. Look at your past judgments to see if they were accurate or lacking in ways. Making small, thought out adjustments will help find balance.
- Acknowledge the depression. If your loved one seems to match with information you have gathered, set aside time to have an honest conversation. Communicate effectively with what you have seen and what concerns you have. Be sure to attach feeling words to your statements to let the loved one know that you are invested in them. Sometimes people with depression stigmatize themselves because of the illness. They think it is a failure or character defect so they hide it while feeling ashamed. Acknowledging it helps to reduce the stigma and makes it easier to discuss.
- Be a partner but not a therapist. The need for solid boundaries is crucial. It is a great thing that you want to assist your loved one, but be realistic about your abilities. Therapists and psychiatrists go to school for many years and have experience helping a variety of people with a range of symptoms. Even if you have experience in mental health, trying to treat someone you have a personal relationship with is unethical and is likely to end badly. You can do more good as a partner and leaving the treatment to the professionals.
- Encourage treatment. Some people will get better by working hard on their own to address their depression. More people benefit from therapy and medication. Research has shown that people do best when they have a combination of talk therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication management. It will be a good use of your resources to encourage treatment and assist your loved one in attending appointments. If they are feeling their therapist or psychiatrist is a poor match, suggest they try again or make a switch. Building a rapport with a mental health professional takes time and may require a few trials. Talk about appointments and goals being worked on in session to the comfort of your loved one. This will help them stay engaged and will further reduce the stigma.