When someone you care about is hurting it can make your own heart ache as well. You feel badly for your loved one, knowing they are suffering, but don’t know what to do to help them through a serious bout of depression. Knowing how to approach the friend or family member, learning how to be an asset and not a liability, provides the confidence for helping your loved one with depression get the professional help they need and deserve.
Signs of Depression
At first it is very common to dismiss the signs of depression as just a bout of the blues, a transient condition that we all experience during difficult chapters in life. Your loved one may seem lackadaisical and gloomy, but this isn’t all that worrisome initially. You assure yourself that the low mood will soon pass and your family member will be themselves again.
However, when a cluster of symptoms persist for more than two weeks, then it is appropriate to consider that the situation may be more serious than you had thought. If five or more of the following symptoms, outlined in the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder, then it is time to visit a mental health professional:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair
- Difficulty concentrating or in making decisions
- Loss of interest in formerly enjoyed activities or hobbies
- Change in eating habits, weight gain or loss
- Slowed thinking or motor skills
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Inappropriate feelings of guilt or shame
- Thoughts of death or suicide
8 Ways for Helping Your Loved One With Depression
Here are 8 helpful tips for helping your loved one with depression:
- Listen. Finding a quiet, private moment, have a non-judgmental and compassionate conversation with your loved one about what they are going through. Really listen to them and offer empathetic responses, such as “I am here for you,” and “How can I best help you?”
- Remain positive. Your loved one needs to feel your positive vibe, so try to be an upbeat, encouraging presence for them.
- Learn. If you suspect your loved one has clinical depression, do your research on the topic. This allows you to be proactive in acknowledging the elephant in the room and to learn about effective treatment methods.
- Be there. If you do not reside with the loved one, make sure to visit or check in regularly. This is important, as their condition could deteriorate without your knowledge, making suicide a risk.
- Find a therapist. Your loved one may not have a clue where to find help for his or her depression, so by offering to assist them in finding a provider in their insurance network helps overcome a major barrier. Offer to accompany them to their first appointment if they would like that.
- Get them outside. A nice walk is an excellent way to help your loved one, offering a breath of fresh air, some exercise, as well as the mood enhancing effects of cardio activity. Better yet if you offer to make it a regular practice.
- Offer help with daily tasks. When someone is mired in the depths of depression, even putting in a load of laundry can seem overwhelming. Ditto for paying bills or grocery shopping. By offering to help out a little, you lift a huge burden from them while they are battling depression.
- Plan activities. While they may decline the offer, at least reach out and ask if they would like to go see a movie or a concert, or some activity that can distract them from their own thoughts for a few hours. Sometimes being around people is very difficult for depressed individuals, but others may welcome the offer to get out of the house.
While it is commendable that someone is willingly helping their loved one with depression, it is also important that they also take care of their own health and wellbeing. It can be depleting to care for someone who is in deep depression, so be sure to get regular exercise, see your friends, participate in normal activities, and eat nutritious meals. This way you will keep your strength up and continue to be an asset to your loved one.
Treatment for Depression
Once you have successfully gotten your loved one in to meet with a psychiatrist a thorough evaluation of your family member’s condition will ensure. The psychiatrist will conduct an initial consultation to get a feeling for the acuity of the depressed state, including whether there are any warning signs of suicidal behavior present, if there is a co-occurring substance use disorder, or a co-occurring mental health disorder. They will arrive at a diagnosis from a wide range of depressive disorders, and then design a tailored treatment plan for your loved one.
In most cases, antidepressant therapy combined with psychotherapy is the standard approach to treating major depressive disorder, or most depressive disorders. The doctor will select the drug they feel is a fit and ask the patient to trial it for 4-6 weeks to see if it helps minimize symptoms. Psychotherapy involves one-on-one and/or group therapy sessions that can help explore any underlying factors that may be contributing to the depression, such as trauma, abuse, grief, divorce, a job loss, or a move to a new community.
For patients who are not responsive to the antidepressants, even after trialing several different ones, an alternative approach may yield better results. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a brain stimulation therapy that helps reset brain chemistry in individuals with medication-resistant major depressive disorder, and offers many people significant relief from the symptoms of depression.
Anew Era Psychiatry Provides Comprehensive Depression Treatment
Anew Era Psychiatry is an Orange County-based full-spectrum outpatient mental health center with a specialty in treating depression. Helping your loved one with depression is the primary mission for the compassionate mental health professionals at Anew Era Psychiatry. In addition to providing conventional depression treatment protocols, Anew Era Psychiatry also offers TMS therapy for depressed patients who have not responded successfully to antidepressants. For more information about our comprehensive approach to treating depression, please contact Anew Era Psychiatry today at (949) 577-6853.