In general, depression involves persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities a person once found enjoyable. Treatments typically include a combination of therapy and medication. If a loved one has depression, you may feel unsure about how to support them. It can be helpful to learn about depression, listen to them without judgment, and maintain communication with patience and positivity. Other effective strategies can include connecting them with mental health resources, encouraging them to attend therapy sessions, helping them with daily tasks, and continuing to invite them to social activities. You might suggest online therapy to them as a helpful resource, or if you’re experiencing mental health concerns yourself, you could consider trying it as well.
What Is Depression?
When your feelings of sadness aren’t temporary and don’t fade with time, you may be living with a mood disorder such as depression. If your symptoms persist for at least two weeks and significantly impair your ability to function in one or more areas of your life, consider speaking to your physician or mental healthcare provider about getting an assessment for a depressive disorder.
Recognizing Depression Signs And Symptoms
Symptoms during depressive episodes often occur throughout most of the day, nearly every day. For most people experiencing depression symptoms, they are severe enough to cause functional impairment, affecting their work, school, social life, or relationships. These symptoms can include the following:
Intense feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Periods of anger, irritability, or frustration, often over insignificant issues
Loss of interest in things you previously enjoyed, also called anhedonia
Changes in your sleep patterns, either sleeping too much or not enough
Persistent fatigue to the point that even small tasks require additional effort
Changes in appetite and weight loss or gain
Restlessness or anxiety
Decreased speed in thought, speech, and movement
Feeling worthless, guilty, or fixating on past failures
Difficulty concentrating, thinking, remembering, and making decisions
Suicidal thoughts or ideation (Note: This requires immediate treatment.)
Unexplained physical pain without an apparent cause, such as headaches or back pain
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
Exploring Mood Disorders
According to the experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine, mood disorders are generally a class of mental health conditions that medical professionals use to describe mental illnesses, such as depression or bipolar disorder, that can affect your mood, thought patterns, functional ability, relationships, and behaviors.
Mood Disorder Classifications
Major Depressive Disorder
Depression can be a serious mental health condition that often affects nearly every part of your life. Rather than a weakness or character flaw, major depressive disorder can be a diagnosable and treatable mental health condition likely caused by a combination of brain chemistry abnormalities and environmental factors.
Previously known as manic depression, bipolar disorder typically causes drastic shifts in mood, concentration, energy, and functional ability. This mental health condition is normally characterized by periods of mania involving excessive energy and exacerbated symptoms, cyclically alternating with more extended periods of depression and sadness.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
When symptoms of depression are seen primarily at the beginning and end of seasonal changes, seasonal affective disorder may be at play. Patterns typically coincide with either the summer or winter season changes.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
A diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder generally refers to chronic, low-level depression. While symptoms may not be as intense as major depressive disorder, they often persist longer. This mental health condition generally requires at least two years of symptoms for qualification.
Postpartum Depression Disorder
Some parents and guardians experience a drastic shift in their emotional state after welcoming a child to their home. Fathers and even adoptive or foster parents can also experience postpartum depression.
Treatments For Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, treatments for depression usually include medication, psychotherapy (talk therapy), or a combination of both. If the desired results are not achieved, brain stimulation therapies may be an option to help reduce symptoms. Your mental healthcare provider should tailor your treatment plan to your individual needs and situation.
How To Help A Loved One With Depression
One of the things depression tends to do is isolate a person from their support network, often by convincing them that they are a burden to their loved ones. If you see signs of depression in someone you care for, you might try some of the following strategies to show your support.
Educate Yourself About The Disorder
Make an effort to educate yourself about depression and how it may affect your loved one. Knowing how the symptoms may present and influence their behavior, thoughts, and emotions can make it easier to decide how to help them best.
Listen Without Judgment
When you sit down with your loved one to talk about their depression, it can be best to actively listen to their concerns without expressing any judgment. Let them talk about what’s bothering them and how they feel, then talk through their emotions, possibly helping to point out where their depression may be altering their perspective of the situation. Try to avoid being pushy and asking too many questions. Express your concern and allow them to share what they are comfortable discussing.
Maintain Patience, Communication, And Positivity
Working through depression is not usually a fast process. Let your loved one know you will be there to help them through it with patience, positivity, and support. Their symptoms may come in waves, presenting challenges when they least expect them. There is generally no cure for depression (although there are treatment options), so it can be helpful to meet their frustration with understanding and practical communication when they’re having a bad day due to symptoms.
Connect Them With Mental Health Resources
Some people with depression don’t realize they have a problem or may not know where to seek help. Taking the first step to finding treatment can often be an insurmountable task for someone in the midst of intense depression symptoms. You might offer to help connect your loved one with mental health resources, find a therapist, and attend sessions if that is the type of support they need.
Encourage Therapy And Continue Supporting Them
Therapy can be an excellent tool to help someone identify negative thought patterns and behaviors, so they can work toward shifting them to healthier habits. You might encourage your loved one to seek therapy as part of their depression treatment and maintain that support through the rough patches. Therapy often leaves the patient feeling raw and exposed after sharing their intimate details and personal pain.
Offer To Help With Daily Tasks
Depression can interfere with your loved one’s ability to function in many areas of their lives. If they can’t muster the energy to get up and clean, you can offer to help. If they aren’t up to cooking a nutritious meal, try swinging by with some ingredients and an uplifting visit. Helping them complete small tasks can give them something positive to focus on, which can offer some perspective and help them work through depression symptoms.
Continue Inviting Them To Activities
Depression often affects a person’s ability to take enjoyment from hobbies, activities, and social contact. Your loved one may find it challenging to reach out or follow through with plans for outings. They may feel guilty over canceling and assume they won’t be welcome in the future. Continue to invite them to activities, even if you think they may say no. Express your understanding if they can’t come, but make it clear that they are invited, and that you would be happy to see them.
How Therapy Can Help You Cope With Depression
Whether you prefer in-person or online sessions, therapy can be a valuable tool to address depression symptoms and help you improve your mental health.
Benefits Of Online Therapy
Working with a licensed therapist online through a virtual therapy platform such as BetterHelp can help you find healthy ways to cope with your depression symptoms and build communication skills to express your feelings and needs effectively. Online therapy tends to be less expensive and involve shorter wait times than treatments in the traditional setting. With flexible appointment formats, it can be simple to fit therapy into your busy schedule.
Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
According to a recent study, online psychotherapy treatments can be as effective as therapy in the traditional clinical setting for addressing depression symptoms. Medical professionals typically agree that the effectiveness of treatment usually increases with the number of sessions attended, and many patients said the convenience of online therapy helped them make it to more appointments. Many also said the added physical distance made sharing personal details with their therapist easier.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the number 1 cause of depression?
Several risk factors can play into depression, often including biological and environmental factors.
What color is associated with depression?
Black, gray, and blue can be common colors associated with depression.
Is it possible to diagnose yourself with depression?
No, you cannot self-diagnose depression. Only a licensed mental health professional can provide an official diagnosis.
What is the most reliable symptom of depression?
While symptoms tend to vary between individuals, feelings of sadness and a persistent low mood tend to be very common.
What are the 4 types of depression?
There can be many types of depression, including major depression, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder, and postpartum depression.
What are the 5 signs of mental illness?
Each mental health condition tends to have its own signs and symptoms, but five common signs of a mental health condition can include:
Changes in sleeping patterns
Changes in eating patterns, which may result in weight loss or weight gain
Social isolation, social withdrawal, loss of interest, and particularly loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed a lot
Inability to carry out daily life
If you’ve noticed these signs, it can be vital to reach out for professional help.
*If you or someone you know are currently in crisis, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline now at 988. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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