It can be challenging to take care of a person suffering from depression and anxiety, especially if it’s something you haven’t encountered before.
If you think a friend or family member has anxiety and depression, start by arming yourself with awareness and understanding of these conditions. It’s the only sure way for you to find out how you can authentically support your loved ones as they work their way towards recovery.
Clinical depression is a mood disorder that can negatively affect how a person feels, thinks, and behaves in response to everyday life situations. It’s not your average kind of sadness; depression is incredibly persistent and interferes with one’s daily life.
It causes dysfunction and impairment in various executive processes required of a person to perform everyday activities, leads to various health issues, and in some cases, prompts someone to commit suicide.
Clinical depression may or may not become triggered by stressful life events. It is a condition caused by a combination of social, psychological, and biological elements.
The good news is that treatments for depression are over 60% to 80% effective, so seeking medical intervention is recommended if you suspect that your friend or family member is depressed.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Someone diagnosed with depression will have experienced several of these symptoms spanning about two weeks:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities and various hobbies they used to enjoy
- Low energy and easily fatigued
- Persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, emptiness, and hopelessness
- Anger issues or becoming quickly irritated over the smallest of concerns
- Inability to maintain normal work or school schedules, withdrawal from social obligations, and neglecting relationships
- Inappropriate guilt
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Weight changes due to decreased appetite or bingeing
- Slowed speaking and actions
- Unexplained bodily aches or pains (e.g. headaches, back problems)
- Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or suicide attempts
People will have different experiences with depression, and many sufferers are ashamed of their condition. In attempts to hide it, they might turn to drug or alcohol abuse, which might worsen symptoms.
Children may not be able to articulate their feelings or symptoms as adults do, so you have to keep a close eye on them if you suspect that they are depressed. Among the two most common symptoms that might be spotted in depressed children are excessive clinginess, anxiety, withdrawal from social settings, high levels of irritability, and negativity.
How to Minimize Burnout When Caring for a Depressed Loved One
Looking after your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing while caring for a depressed person is non-negotiable. Here’s a self-care checklist to help address your core needs as a caretaker while also improving your overall ability to support your loved one.
- Accept and embrace your feelings
You might be flooded with an overwhelming range of emotions as you take on the responsibility of caring for your loved one. Reflect on how you feel and accept that it’s normal to have feelings of fear, guilt, shame, grief, confusion, isolation, and all other uncertainties. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and build enough self-awareness to recognize when you need support or time off.
- Set boundaries
Always remember that you are an individual with a life outside of being a caretaker. Only you can determine how you can best support your loved one since you will know your capabilities and limits.
Perhaps you can help them with daily tasks, support them financially, or simply spend time with them when you are available.
Giving more than what you can offer will inevitably result in exhaustion and resentment, so seek help when and where you need it.
- Take care of your health and wellness
Prioritize your health and wellness by eating and sleeping well, doing relaxation exercises, and other self-care activities that cater to your interests. Seek support from your network of friends or family who know what you are going through if you need constructive viewpoints or a sounding board for your honest thoughts.
If doing these isn’t enough to relieve the tension, find a local counselor, therapist, or a support group to help get you out of your head.
How to Encourage Treatment for Depression
Often, those with depression may not recognize the symptoms themselves. In some cases, they might even be in denial.
Start the conversation with your loved ones by expressing what changes or symptoms you have observed in them, and why you are concerned for their welfare. Let them know that it is not a character flaw or weakness and that seeking help from a licensed counselor, psychiatrist, or therapist is nothing to be ashamed of.
If their depression seems to be getting worse, encouraging medical intervention and working with a mental health provider to devise a treatment plan is the best course of action.
You can get things started by helping them prepare a list of questions for their attending physician, scheduling appointments, or offering to go with them on their sessions.
What to Do Once There is Medical Intervention
Know about treatment plans and antidepressant medications
Ask the healthcare provider about available psychological treatments your loved one may undergo like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), and other group or individual treatment formats.
Take note of the antidepressant medication they prescribe to relieve any symptoms, which could be tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and the like.
Understand suicide risks and take action when necessary
If they have severe depression or are having a major breakdown, watch out for suicide warning signs and ensure that they aren’t left alone for extended periods.
Make sure that they are in a safe environment free of objects that may be used for suicide attempts (firearms, weapons, ropes, sharp objects, toxic chemicals, high-risk medications, etc.).
Keep your local emergency contacts and suicide hotline numbers close by at all times. US residents may reach the toll-free hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) 24/7.
You are Never Alone
Trying to support a loved one diagnosed with clinical depression can be exhausting. Seeing them suffer is already difficult and heartbreaking, and caring for them daily may even cause you to experience similar symptoms that can feel intense at times. You may feel fearful of the future, experience bouts of anger and guilt brought by the situation, and has waves of intense emotions at certain moments.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone in this fight. Whenever you are starting to feel overwhelmed or drained, don’t hesitate to seek support for yourself so that you can be there for your loved one in the best possible way.
Tina Castro is an associate from Mountain Cove Care, a luxury senior care facility in Arizona. After working in hospice care for 3 years, she moved to Mountain Cove Care with a passion for advocating health and wellness to the community. In her spare time, she teaches yoga classes and goes on hiking trips.