Depression is a complex mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide, impairing their day-to-day activities. If someone you care about is struggling with depression, and you would like to provide support, this guide is for you. You will learn everything you need to know about this serious mental condition, including what it actually is, how to recognize its symptoms in family or friends and the top ways you can help someone on their journey towards recovery. Let’s get started.
Depression is a common mental disorder characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and a complete loss of interest in things that were once enjoyable . While it’s normal to feel moody, sad, or low from time to time, when things stay that way for weeks, months, or even years, especially without any direct reason, it’s considered depression. This condition can affect people’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors towards others in ways that often impair relationships, performance in school or at work, and overall quality of life.
Depression is not a mild health issue to be waited out; it is a serious medical condition that requires urgent medical support and treatment. While researchers do not fully understand what causes it, they suggest it may be linked to genetics, brain chemistry, and certain underlying medical conditions.
Recognizing Depression Symptoms and Signs in Someone
Most times individuals with depression may not fully recognize or acknowledge their condition. This is why it’s crucial to be able to recognize its existence in someone you care about. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms that could be an indication someone has this mental disorder :
- loss of interest: They may suddenly cease to be interested in activities they once found pleasurable;
- sleep disturbances: Sleep often marked by restlessness, nightmares, or insomnia;
- sudden change in appetite or weight: Depression often causes increased cravings in some individuals and weight gain. In some others, it causes loss of appetite and weight loss;
- low energy levels: Many people with depression often find themselves constantly feeling fatigued, even after sleeping throughout the night;
- difficulty concentrating: Depression can impair cognitive function, leading people living with it to experience difficulty concentrating, remembering things, and making decisions;
- sudden outbursts: They may get irritated, frustrated, or annoyed over small matters;
- isolation: In several cases, they may withdraw from friends and family, completely abandon their social media platforms, and become socially isolated.
What’s more, individuals with depression may sometimes experience physical symptoms such as upset stomach, headaches, or dizziness. It is worth noting that in several cases, these symptoms can become so serious that they impair proper function, causing noticeable problems in the patient’s daily life. If you notice one or more of these symptoms showing up too frequently or lasting for weeks in someone you care about, talk to them and try to find out how they’re feeling and recommend that they see a specialist.
Once you’re able to recognize signs or symptoms in someone you care about, the next step is to know how to support someone with depression. But how can you do that? Here are some of the most effective ways you can provide help to them .
The first step you need to take towards supporting and helping someone with depression safely and effectively is to educate yourself about the disorder and how it affects people. This knowledge will enable you to provide informed and helpful support.
Sometimes something as ordinary as offering a listening ear can go a long way in helping people with depression. Show them that you care and that you’re there for them not to judge but to stand as a shoulder to lean on.
Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), among other forms of therapy, are effective treatment options for depression, and they can help improve the quality of life of depressed individuals. Encourage your loved ones to seek help from healthcare professionals who specialize in these forms of treatment.
If your family member or friend is already taking medication or undergoing other forms of treatment for depression, encourage and help them remember to follow the treatment judiciously. Sometimes, healthcare providers typically recommend the use of medications such as modafinil to improve specific symptoms that may be directly affecting the individual’s day-to-day activities.
Modafinil helps eliminate excessive daytime sleepiness, and it is commonly used off-label to improve mood, increase focus, and enhance cognitive function, ultimately helping to improve performance. Many people buy modafinil online since they can get it without a prescription. However, it is always advisable to seek guidance from a doctor before taking any medication.
Supporting someone with depression can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining and can make you easily lose yourself. Always remember to prioritize your own mental and emotional health, as you can’t render any help if you yourself are not in good shape. If need be, don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or even a therapist.
At this point, it is worth noting that it can take quite some time for people to recover from depression. Keep this at the back of your mind when caring for your loved one and be patient and unyielding to the possible ups and downs they may experience.
When providing support to someone grappling with depression, there are certain things you need to understand and avoid doing at all costs .
Living with or providing support to someone with depression can be quite challenging, as they may sometimes react in certain ways or say things that may get you frustrated. However, always remember that their actions are not necessarily directed at you. Don’t take things personally.
It’s easy to want to fix everything that seems broken around you. However, it is crucial to note that you simply can’t fix depression. Do not constantly offer solutions or pressure your loved one or any other person with depression to feel better.
Giving unsolicited advice to someone with depression is often counterproductive. Instead, give them a listening ear and only offer advice if they directly seek your guidance. Pumping them with advice at every opportunity you have can make them feel unheard, which can worsen their feelings of isolation and hopelessness.
Sure, it’s good to stay positive and say optimistic things. However, when it comes to dealing with someone with depression, it helps better when you don’t minimize their struggles with oversimplified reassurances such as, “Everything will be alright,” “You will be fine,” etc.
It’s worth noting that everyone’s experience with depression differs. Avoid the urge to make comparisons or suggest that you or someone else handled their own condition faster, better, or had it much worse.
What’s more, do not tell them “to snap out of their condition” or “just try harder.” Also, do not deny their feelings or dismiss their symptoms. Remember that educating yourself better about depression is the best way to truly provide help.
Sometimes, depression can lead to a crisis or thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you recognize the symptoms or signs of depression in others and have reasons to believe they are experiencing a crisis or maybe in immediate danger, you need to step up. But how can you do that? Here are steps you can take on how to help someone with depression in a crisis:
- stay calm: Remain calm and provide reassurance. However, remember not to provide false or oversimplified reassurances;
- listen actively: Encourage the person to talk about their feelings without being judgmental towards them;
- remove potential hazards: While you get them talking, take away possible means of self-harm and ensure that the environment is safe.
What’s more, if things seem to be getting out of hand, seek urgent professional help. Refer to a mental health professional, making sure to mention how urgent the situation is, or contact a crisis helpline.
Supporting someone with depression requires lots of patience, empathy, and understanding. If you intend to help a loved one you care about, educating yourself and learning how to tell if someone is depressed and how the disorder affects them are the best ways to go. Once you’re familiar with all that, including the dos and don’ts, offering real help becomes slightly easier. Always remember not to lose yourself while supporting others. If you don’t take care of your mental and emotional well-being, you will not be able to help anyone. Be sure to seek professional help as soon as the need arises.
- Depression Explained. Retrieved: September 23, 2023. Betterhealth.vic.gov.au.
- Depression (Major Depressive Disorder) – Symptoms and Causes. By Mayo Clinic Staff. Retrieved: September 23, 2023. Mayoclinic.org.
- Depression: Supporting a Family Member or Friend. By Mayo Clinic Staff. Retrieved: September 23, 2023. Mayoclinic.org.
- What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed. Written by Nancy Schimelpfening. Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS. Retrieved: September 23, 2023. Verywellmind.com.
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