What to Do When Someone You Love Suffers From Depression
By Charles Hopkins
Published 07/6/2006 | Health
When you love someone who suffers from depression or bipolar disorder you may find yourself frustrated, angry or losing your ability to tolerate their behavior towards yourself, your children or other friends and family. Sadly, while great strides have been made to treat these disorders, the family and friends coping with sufferers often feel hopeless or discouraged by their attempts to help.
If you are living with, or close to someone who is diagnosed or appears to be suffering from depression or bipolar you will find the following tips beneficial for helping both the individual and yourself from the terrible effects of depression.
If the person you love has not been diagnosed with depression it is important for you to analyze their behavior and act on it. If the person displays symptoms of depression they may not realize it on their own. Depression often causes a person to feel like a failure and they may blame their lack of interest, energy or ability to show affection as a personal weakness rather than a medical problem.
Individuals who have bipolar disorder frequently assume bouts of manic symptoms can simply mean they have high energy rather than a problem that needs attention. Using a questionnaire online or from a pamphlet can help you or your loved one identify symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder.
If you feel that your loved one is displaying symptoms of depression, including an inability to show interest in activities that they usually enjoyed, sleeping more or less than usual, unexplained crying, withdrawing from interactions and talk of suicide, it is crucial that they seek medical intervention right away.
If the individual refuses to seek treatment you may need to enlist the help of others to speak to them, including anyone they might respond to - friends, teachers, counselors. You can even ask your own physician for help if nobody else can convince them. If they talk about suicide call 911 or a suicide emergency help line immediately.
Probably the most important action you can take, aside from getting the person medical treatment is to remain nonjudgmental and consistently supportive.
The symptoms of depression can vary in intensity but their affect on a relationship is always negative. A depressed person feels unworthy and weak. This self-depreciation furthers the depression. Losing the ability to work, communicate or enjoy life will erode relationships, lead to financial problems and affect intimacy.
It is important to remember this is not the true nature or feelings of the person suffering from depression. A depressed person may start arguments or tell you they don't love you. Do not believe them or take their comments to heart. Indulging their grievances will only further the depression.
If the person is being treated for their depression remind them that treatment will eventually work and remain positive. Remind them that this is a medical problem and that they are not to blame. Don't push them to do more than they are capable of and never suggest that they just "pull themselves together" since that will lead to more feelings of worthlessness. Regularly inviting the person to go for a walk, enjoy a movie or other outing, or simply listen to them talk can help when the person feels able to do these activities.
If you have been through several bouts of depression with the one you love, remember the episode will eventually end. If you are having trouble keeping perspective you might seek out a support group for friends and family of those suffering from depression to help you feel connected to others dealing with similar situations.
Find a confidant who will listen without judgment. Especially when dealing with a depressed spouse you may feel unloved or hopeless. Having a friend or therapist who you can share your feelings with will help you remember that it is not the person or yourself causing this turmoil, it is a medical problem that must be viewed as temporary and treatable.