Talking with loved ones about depression
Often those who suffer from depression are the last to recognize its destructive effects on themselves or their loved ones. This is because symptoms can creep in gradually, and it isn鈥檛 easy to admit to suffering from depression. For years depression has been stigmatized as a weakness; the result of a low willpower or character flaw. But depression doesn鈥檛 just afflict the sufferer. It spills over into work, family and social life and impacts almost everyone we come in contact with.
By its nature, depression clouds ones perspective and makes it nearly impossible to see things objectively. This is why a loved one is the first to recognize a problem. Following these steps may make it easier for a loved one to help a depressed person recognize their symptoms and seek help.
- Be Patient & understanding. Oftentimes, people just need someone to listen to as they talk through their own problems. Remember, women need to talk more, and men withdraw and may become more irritable if prodded. But talking is cathartic鈥攊t helps everyone. It may take some time, but getting someone to talk about their problems helps them to realize they may need help.
- Behavior can change. Often, because depression sufferers are not thinking clearly, they may verbally attack those who are closest to them, or act aggressively or indifferently. Remember that patience is the key here. With proper attention, within a short time, his/her behavior will normalize again.
- Talk about physical symptoms first. It is much easier to talk about and recognize physical symptoms than admitting changed behavior. Talk about his/her lack of sleep or activity, physical exercise, overall energy loss, change in sleep behavior, appetite or weight.
- Don鈥檛 dwell on emotional problems. Depression sufferers usually recognize emotional symptoms in retrospect. For example, unexplained outbursts or crying, mood swings, irritability, etc. are all illogical anyway. It may be more difficult to recognize emotional problems until after he/she is improving. As one recovering person said, 鈥淢y wife got me into therapy for my sleep and energy problem. Later I realized what a jerk I had been.鈥?
- Don鈥檛 say the 鈥楧鈥?word. That might sound silly, but depression actually results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. So talking about the possibility of a chemical deficiency is much more acceptable than saying, 鈥淵ou might have depression.鈥?
- Connect the dots. Lack of sleep, activity, weight or appetite change may well be connected, and helping him/her see this can help him/her want to find out why. This alone may get him to see a doctor, and it might not hurt to privately let the doctor or his nurse know of your concerns before the visit.
- It may not be depression. This is why seeing the doctor is so important. Sometimes these same symptoms may be hiding another illness such as angina or cancer. Recognizing the connection can be the best motivation for seeking professional help.
- It鈥檚 been a long time. Gently ask penetrating questions. When was the last time we went out to dinner or a movie? You used to enjoy running or playing racquetball with your friends, etc. What made you stop? The trick here is to help your loved one see how his life has changed. List several activities he used to enjoy. Be Careful. A natural reaction to such questions is to become defensive and accusative. Preface this discussion with your need to talk and understand some things. Let him know of your love, concern and hope for them.
- Assessment tests. There are several excellent self-assessment tests that help us gauge our well being:
- Depression Test. The depression test on this site has been developed by medical professionals, and is designed to help the taker become aware of his/her emotional well being. The participant can print the test results, and if the score is over 40, he/she should review them with his or her doctor.
- Circadian Rhythm Assessment Test. In addition to the depression test, most sufferers also have a circadian rhythm disorder; that is they have sleep problems and suffer worse at a particular time of day. If this is also the case, an excellent circadian assessment test can help solve those problems. The assessment test developed by Apollo Health, Inc., will determine which circadian rhythm disorder is responsible, the severity of the disorder and create a personalized treatment schedule to best treat the problem. This assessment test can be reached by the following link: https://www.apollohealth.com/apps/circ_assess_survey.html
- Mood Tracker. The mood tracker is an excellent tool that helps identify activities or substances that may trigger a mood problem. Do certain foods or activities cause sleeplessness or anxiety? Do you get anxious at a certain time of day or month? After plotting your mood tracker for a month or so, you will notice patterns that can help avoid destructive influences and improve effectiveness of your treatment. Sharing these insights with your doctor will help convince him/her of the accuracy of your assessment. Doctors may be much more willing to prescribe a course of treatment after reviewing a detailed mood tracker.
Remember, whether or not depression is genetic or caused by some event, it results when the monoamine transmitters (brain chemicals) or their system become imbalanced. This is why simply willing oneself better won鈥檛 work. The sooner you can help someone recognize the need for assistance, the quicker he/she can start on the road to recovery, and will be healthier than if he/she waited for treatment.