What is Depression?
Depression is a disorder of mood. Many of us often confuse mood to be short-lived and labile, but that is a misconception! If you accidentally spilled coffee on your clothes in the morning you become upset and you come to work and complain, “I am in a bad mood today!” or if you got a promotion at work, you start walking around with a jump in your step saying, “I am in a great mood today!”
However, these reactions are only temporary and are actually just your emotional response to a life event or a situation that you are in, which changes very frequently. The mood on the other hand is actually an emotional response that is pervasive (it affects all activities you participate in) and persistent (present all day every day).
Depression is such a disorder of mood, which causes a sadness that is different from the one we experience on a day-to-day basis. The quality of this sadness is such that it does not change in response to a life event or a situation such as getting a promotion. You feel sad or hopeless about everything and this changes very little on a daily basis and affects participation in your occupational roles.
How You See Your Family Member Dealing with Depression- An Outsiders Perspective:
Being an outsider to a person experiencing depression can be extremely frustrating, especially if you have never experienced it yourself. Imagine depression to be a heavy bag pack that is stuck to you. This bag pack contains a lot of negative thoughts and emotions and you have carried it around all day. Imagine having to carry this burden when you wake up in the morning, when you eat, go to work, or go outside. It is heavy and you get so exhausted carrying it that you prefer lying down or sleeping to give yourself some rest.
Since this bag pack is imaginary, you don’t tend to notice it. A person might still be able to participate in all the tasks they are required to, but may not seem to take interest or pleasure in doing them. This does not indicate that they are ‘back to normal or that it is ‘just a phase’. Depression is not a failure that you can ‘shake off’ with your strong willpower, it is a serious mental health condition that requires medical help.
Living With a Family Member Who Is Depressed:
It is easy to miss out on the signs of depression in a loved one since we all lead busy lives and don’t often notice small changes in behavior until they build up and lead to an emotional outburst. As mentioned before you can feel very helpless and frustrated when anything you do does not seem to make a difference in the other person’s mood.
A. Here Are Some Things to Remember When You Feel Helpless:
- You cannot ‘fix’ depression: someone else’s is depression is not your fault even if sometimes they might say it in a fit of rage. Don’t take it upon yourself ‘save’ them from it or ‘fix it’.
- Be patient: seeing your loved one go through a difficult time is hard, but patience is the key, especially if progress is slow or stalled.
- Talk to someone yourself: When a family member is depressed they might reject the idea of seeking therapy or they might refuse to discuss their problems with you. If that is the case, it might help you to talk to a counsellor about how this is affecting you and your mental health and how you can respond in a more effective way to the situation. You can join a support group or confide in a close friend or relative.
- Don’t feel guilty about taking some time for yourself: It can be burdening and stressful being responsible for others’ well-being all the time. Take time for yourself to engage in some leisure activities or going out with your friends. You are not betraying your loved one if you leave them with another family member occasionally.
B. Some Things You Can Do to Support Someone Who Is Depressed
- Be a good listener: It is misguided to assume that you know what is best for someone or what they need. It is better to ask them, what kind of support they need from you. Example: Being available to help them in household chores might be what they need from you and not to find a suitable therapist or counsellor for them.
- Create a safe conducive environment for recovery: A person who is depressed might easily be triggered by any environmental stimulus or event. Create a safe environment, by giving the person space to be alone. Don’t constantly hover around them or keep interfering with something they are doing alone. Identify any objects/colours that may cause anxiety and remove them.
- Establishing consistency: Ensuring some amount of consistency in routines and habits of all family members can motivate the depressed individual to follow a routine and continue to perform basic day-to-day tasks like bathing, eating at a proper time. Frequent changes in routine can sometimes be overwhelming and may cause them to not engage in those activities
- Encourage activity: As much as possible suggest (do not tell or impose) doing activities together with your loved one. Do not force them or expect that their temporary interest or enjoyment in the activity will manifest. Don’t be discouraged if you are unsuccessful. Keep trying and be gently persistent.
- Change your communication style: Certain conversations regarding sensitive issues (example: weight, marriage etc.) can trigger a severe emotional response and cause conflicts within the family. NaNundefinedThis can be avoided by modifying style of communication. Talking in a suggestive manner instead of instructive manner and providing autonomy by giving a choice (example which therapist to consult) etc.
For example, commenting on the weight of depressed individuals who may already have body image issues may trigger their anxiety since they might not have the motivation to exercise. Instead, you can suggest going together for a walk so as to motivate them to stay active.
C. Some Things to Avoid While Dealing With A Depressed Individual:
- Being oblivious or poorly informed: Either you or any family member who is not well informed can say things like, ‘Everyone goes through tough times, ‘get over it, ‘Get over it, ‘Look on the bright side/ be positive’, ‘this is all in your head’, ‘you have so much to live for’. This can be more detrimental to them over not doing anything at all. It would make them feel like no one will understand what they are going through and isolate themselves further.
- Abandoning them: Even at the peak of your tolerance, you must refrain from saying things like, ‘I can’t deal with your problem anymore’, ‘I am done helping you and ‘nothing will change for you. This to a depressed individual may feel like you abandoning a sinking ship. They need you even though they might not be able to ask you for help or may reject your help.
- Reinforcing guilt: Since someone with depression feels guilty and like a burden to the family members. Praising them can reinforce their guilt. They will feel useful if they are helping others in some way and not themselves.
D. Dealing with Anger
- Anger is a common way of expressing negative emotions, especially in the male population suffering from depression.
- Due to societal norms and reservations, men do not have the skills to effectively communicate or express feelings of sadness other than through anger.
- They may become abusive, physically violent, turn to drugs/ alcohol and even harmful to themselves or others.
- In such a situation, the first step is to ‘DISENGAGE’. It is not impractical to reason with them or communicate with someone who is angry because their information processing decreases and they are stuck in their own negative automatic thought cycle. It is important to give them space in such a situation.
- On a day to day basis, if you find that the anger is getting out of control and you are worried that they are a threat to themselves or others or are excessively become dependent on unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with these negative emotions (drug use, physical violence, alcoholism etc.) You must immediately bring it to the attention of a professional.
How We Here at KareOptions Can Help:
- We provide an online platform with numerous options to select from. We provide the following services:
- Getting a second opinion on your current diagnosis and treatment options
- Continuous monitoring of your treatment and health conditions in conjunction with your treating therapist.
- A holistic multidisciplinary review by experts on your diagnosis and treatment plan. This can include a psychiatrist, psychologist, physician etc.
- Assuring that you receive services conveniently located for you.
Depression not only affects the person suffering from it but also the people surrounding them. Constant social support and re-enforcement from family and friends along with medical help and other adjunctive therapies can get the person on a path of mental and emotional stability.
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