If you’ve never suffered from depression (and even if you have), it can be extremely difficult to live with someone with depression. From your perspective, it might seem scary or inscrutable. It might seem like your loved one is being excessively negative.
However, it’s important to realize that depression is a serious disorder. In fact, it’s the single leading cause of disability in the United States. The World Health Organization recognizes depression as a priority condition due to its debilitating features.
If you’re living with someone with depression —whether it be a spouse, a friend, a sibling, or a child —it’s important to adopt strategies that will help your loved one cope with the challenges of this disease. At the same time, it’s of vital importance to take care of yourself and prioritize self-care.
Symptoms of depression
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, these are some of the major symptoms of depression:
- Feeling sad, anxious, and empty
- Feeling useless, worthless, pointless, and guilty
- No more interest in people, places, and things that used to excite
- Changes in appetite, sleep, and energy levels
- In serious cases, suicidal thoughts or ideation.
If the person you’re living with is suffering from these symptoms or has been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, hopefully, they’ve been seeing a mental health professional to manage their symptoms. In addition to expert care, here are 5 strategies you can adopt in this situation:
1. Understand that depression is serious
This is the first step towards living with something with depression. If you have the suspicion that depression is all “in their head” or just a result of negative thinking, it’s important to challenge those assumptions. Depression is a legitimate mental health disorder. It is marked by key characteristics in the brain and specific symptoms.
If you’re living with a person with depression, resist the urge to try to “fix” them or tell them to just “be positive.” Though it’s always kind to be encouraging and offer hope, a person suffering from depression can’t just decide not to be depressed.
2. Research the disease
If you’re living with someone with depression, part of maintaining your own mental health is to foster a better understanding of what depression actually is, and how it will change a person’s mood and behavior. Depression is a complex mental health condition that can be caused by biological, cognitive, and genetic factors. It can change the way the depressed person sees the world and interacts with people – including you.
It can truly be disheartening when your loved one lashes out or says negative things to you. A little research might help you to understand that many of the things they’re saying are a result of their disease—and certainly are not a reflection on you as an individual, friend, or spouse. Depression can attack anyone, at any time. You’re never to blame for a loved one’s mental health.
3. Find a support network
With more than 16 million Americans suffering from major depression, it’s important to realize you’re far from being the only person living with a depressed person. You’re not alone. Even if you realize that your loved one isn’t expressing negative thoughts or feelings as any reflection on you, it’s so important to get yourself the help you need.
It may be helpful to receive counseling alongside your loved one. In addition, just practice just self-care. Prioritize relaxation. Practice meditation. Journal about your issues. Take long walks, hot baths, or use the power of aromatherapy to help ease your stress. If you’re not taking care of yourself, it’s going to be even more difficult to stay positive while living with a depressed person.
4. Involve your loved one in the care
It’s so important to practice good self-care when you’re caring for someone with depression. One of the greatest perks about this is that you can share your routines and techniques with the person you’re living with.
Just discovered a breathing technique that helps ease anxiety? Share it with your loved one. Have you started cooking meals that incorporate tons of healthy nutrients? Invite your loved one to eat with you. Even if they choose not to, it’s important for the person you’re living with to feel loved and supported. To realize that you’re there for them now – and you’ll be there for them when they start breaking through their depression.
5. Know the signs of things getting worse.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, depression is more commonly associated with suicide than any other psychiatric diagnosis. They have estimated that 15% of people treated for depression will eventually die from suicide.
If you’re living with somebody with depression, it’s important to recognize when your loved one’s behavior has crossed a threshold, where they might actually become a danger to themselves. If their situation worsens critically or they start expressing suicidal thoughts, make sure you know to reach out for help.
When it comes to caring for someone with depression, you don’t have to go it alone. And you don’t have to lose hope: professional treatment for depression is effective 60-80% of the time.
Most importantly, make sure that you and the person you’re living with are in touch with trained mental health professionals every step of the way. If you are living with someone suffering from depression, feel free to contact us for more help and guidance.