According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 350 million people all over the world with depression. We will take a look at 10 things to remember if your loved one has depression.
Depression is a mental disorder characterized by at least two weeks of sadness and low mood that is present across most situations. It is often accompanied by low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, low energy, and pain without a physical explanation. Major depressive disorder can negatively affect a person’s personal life, education or work life, as well as sleeping and eating habits, and general health.
As the psychiatrist Christian Maciel puts it in his article on Lifehack.org, “One of the most devastating aspects of dealing with depression is the stigma and negative criticism that comes from others. Furthermore, people may not even know that their behaviors and comments are being negative or hurtful … sometimes even make the depress[ed] [person] feel worse.”
Here are 10 things to remember if your loved one has depression so that you can help them cope with depression better.
First Thing to Remember if Your Loved One Has Depression: Depression is a Brain Disorder, Not a Character Flaw
Depression does not happen because you have a weak or flawed character. People like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill have suffered from depression and they were anything but flawed in character. Rather, there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression. This is an important thing to remember if your loved one has depression. It will determine your attitude towards the depressed one.
They Are Not Seeking Attention
Depression is not a ploy for getting attention. In fact, depressed people do not want to burden the people they care about. Most often they may push to be alone because they do not want to impact anyone negatively. And yet, they need help. They need people to be there for them. So you have to convey your unwavering love and support for them, without making it seem like a burden to you. If they do happen to hurt you or offend you, remember that they are not the enemy – their depression is the true enemy.
They May Not Be Able To Handle Criticism
Be gentle with them. Do not be critical of their behavior, lifestyle or thinking patterns. Suggest ways by which they can improve themselves but do not do so in a harsh or overbearing manner. Depressed people tend to be hypersensitive to criticism. They can feel hurt even by innocuous statements that are far from being a criticism. For instance, even statements such as “Blue suits you better” can be perceived as criticism. So, try to be as neutral as possible.
Their Physical Symptoms May Not Have Definite Causes But They Are Not Pretending
Sometimes people with depression report body pain where no medical cause can be found. Headaches, stomach pain, and back pain are the ones most frequently reported. Most of these symptoms improve as the depression responds to treatment. But, they feel these aches and pains actually and they are not merely faking it and pretending to have them.
Fifth Thing to Remember if Your Loved One Has Depression: They May Frequently Have Suicidal Ideation
People with depression think about death frequently. They may merely fantasize about committing suicide. But, sometimes they make active plans about committing suicide. Tragically, often they carry out these plans successfully. So, it is important that you take any talk of theirs about death or suicide seriously and immediately report it to their physician or psychiatrist. Their talk about suicide is actual and not merely something to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do.
Exercise Helps 30% of Depressed Patients
Something as simple as regular physical exercise can improve the symptoms of depression. This improvement with exercise is seen in 30% of depressed patients. So, it is important that you try to coax them to the extent you can to exercise. If need be, you set an example to them by you yourself exercising regularly. This could motivate them into following suit.
Medications Work Only in 30% of Cases of Depression
Do not build up your hopes too high that your loved one will become alright once the medication is started. This is not so in 70% of cases. If the medications do not work, do not lose hope; instead, get them to give psychotherapy a try. One of the psychotherapies that have been shown to be very effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT works by getting them to recognize and challenge their negative thinking patterns.
Do Not Expect Immediate Results
Do not expect the depressed person to get well overnight once medication or psychotherapy is started. It takes anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks for the medications to have a visible effect on their symptoms. Similar is the case with psychotherapy where they are required to patiently follow the instructions and advice of the psychiatrist week after week.
Do Not Despair If One Medication Does Not Work
People with depression often fail to respond to the initial medication tried. This can happen despite giving it sufficient time for it to work. But, all is not lost because there are plenty of other medications to choose from. In different people, different medications work. The only way to find out which one works is through trial-and-error.
Last Thing to Remember if Your Loved One Has Depression: Social Support Is Crucial
Besides medications and psychotherapy, the single most important factor for alleviating depression is the presence of adequate social support systems. Social isolation worsens depression. As a loved one or family member you have a very important therapeutic role to play. Be caring and support by lending a sympathetic ear whenever they need it. Your very strong, silent but reassuring presence in their lives is enough to make them feel better.
Those are the 10 things to remember if your loved one has depression. If you pay attention to those 10 things, you can make a real difference in their lives.