Are You a Caregiver for Someone Depressed?

Being a caregiver for someone depressed isn’t easy at all be it a partner, friend, or family. This article discusses a few things you should know and other helpful tips.

caring for depressed people
Photo by Matthias Zomer 

A Caregiver For Someone Depressed- One Challenging Responsibility

It is really challenging to be a caregiver to someone depressed whoever it is. Worse if you really know next to nothing about what that person is battling or going through. For many people with depression, the symptoms are severe enough that you have the extra responsibility to help them with even their day-to-day activities (attending school or getting to work each day). If someone in your life has depression, whether or not that person has a diagnosis, you might feel at a loss for how to best support that person.

The most important step toward helping a loved one with depression is to understand the symptoms. It is true that the course of major depressive disorder is variable, and symptoms vary from person to person, but familiarizing yourself with the possible symptoms will help you better understand what your loved one is experiencing.

Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

The essential feature of a major depressive episode is a period of at least two weeks marked by either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities. In children and adolescents, the mood is more likely to present as irritable than sad.

A few other symptoms include the following:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts and irritability
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities (sports, interests, even sexual activity)
  • Changes in appetite causing significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Psychomotor agitation (restlessness) or retardation (slowed down)
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating or indecisiveness nearly every day
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent thoughts of suicide, or a suicide attempt or suicide plan
  • Symptoms cause impairment in social and occupational functioning

Ways You Can Help As A Caregiver To Someone Depressed

Sometimes you might get really frustrated and angry that the one you have been trying to assist does not really appear appreciative or open up. You need to understand that most times people with depression might not even acknowledge that they’re struggling. At times, lack of awareness about symptoms of depression can cause people to consider their feelings normal or dismiss them as a time-limited struggle. In some places, the stigma of seeking treatment for mental illnesses including depression can cause people to be secretive and attempt to overcome treatment independently.

If you have these in mind, you will less likely be mad at such ones. Here are things you can do to help as a caregiver to someone depressed

Encourage Seeking Treatment

Depression seldom gets better without treatment, and it can actually worsen over time. Research shows that both antidepressant medications and cognitive therapy are effective in alleviating symptoms. Other treatments include interpersonal therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and neurofeedback.

It can be difficult to encourage treatment, particularly if the person doesn’t acknowledge the depression. It helps to consider some talking points:

  • Share what you’ve noticed and talk about why you’re concerned.
  • Suggest a physical with a general practitioner as a first step to rule out any other medical issues that might cause the symptoms
  • Explain what you’ve learned about the symptoms of depression and how depression can negatively impact people
  • Offer to accompany your loved one for the physical and to any other appointments
  • Help your loved one prepare a list of questions to ask the doctor or psychotherapist

If you want to help someone you love schedule an appointment with a therapist, click here. Reassure him or her that it is totally private, anonymous and confidential especially if that one is not comfortable talking about it.

Show Empathy, Listen Compassionately

If your loved one tends to internalize emotions, he or she might feel overwhelmed when you share your concerns about possible symptoms of depression. The best thing you can do at the moment is to listen compassionately and show how much you care. Your loved one’s depression is not for you to fix, but being present and listening to your loved one talk can help that person feel heard and understood.

Photo credits: Jack Sparrows from pexels

Use these phrases:

  • I am here for you
  • You’re not alone in this
  • I might not understand exactly how you feel right now, but I want to help you
  • Tell me what I can do to help

Avoid using these kinds of phrases:

  • This is just a phase; it will pass
  • Everyone feels this way sometimes
  • Why can’t you see the positive?
  • Snap out of it
  • The more you think about it, the worse you will feel
  • Think about all the great things in your life!

More often than not, sitting in silence and use nonverbal cues to communicate support is more helpful than trying to find the perfect words.

Offer Assistance

Depression can make everyday tasks, like driving and grocery shopping, feel impossible. Ask your loved one how you can help in small ways:

  • Help schedule appointments
  • Provide a ride to and from appointments
  • Grocery shop and do other tasks with your friend
  • Offer to take walks together a few times a week
  • Ask if you can help around the house
  • Offer to go watch movies or get out of the house together

4. Recognize a Crisis and Respond

The risk of suicide exists at all times during major depressive episodes. The most consistent risk factor is a past history of suicide attempts, but most completed suicides are not preceded by unsuccessful attempts. Living alone, being male, and having prominent feelings of hopelessness also increase the risk of suicide.

If you believe your loved one is at risk of suicide, do not leave that person alone. Dial 9-1-1 and stay with your loved one.

Do Not Forget

While caring for a loved one with depression can be frustrating, complicated and overwhelming, remember to take good care of yourself. Make sure you yourself too do not get depressed. Do not neglect yourself, be sure to attend to your own personal needs, create appropriate boundaries, and seek help from a therapist or support group.

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