For many people, this time of year presents a cherished opportunity to make memories with friends and re-live beloved traditions with family.
For some, however, the season may not be ‘merry and bright’.
Depression is lonely and bleak no matter what time of year it strikes. But, if you have a loved one struggling with depression, the stress of the holidays can be especially difficult to overcome.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals report increased rates of depression in clients during this time of year, according to Psychology Today.
If someone you love is living with depression, it’s important that you take their symptoms seriously. While you can’t make their problem go away, you can offer support to help them get through this difficult time.
Read on to find out what you need to know if your loved one is showing signs of depression!
Is Someone You Love is Living with Depression?
If you suspect that a family or friend is suffering from major depression, you may feel helpless.
Major depression, otherwise known as clinical depression, is more than just having a bad day, or experiencing the blues. It is a widely recognized mental health condition that’s listed in the current diagnostic manual commonly used by medical professionals.
This type of depression will occur in 20-25% of the population at some point in their lifetime. Some people may be more prone to recurring depressive episodes than others.
While it’s unlikely that you will be able to get your loved one to ‘snap out of it’, you can be helpful in other ways.
Signs and Symptoms to Look for
Understanding the signs and symptoms will help you to know whether someone is experiencing severe depression, or if they are simply feeling sad or ‘under the weather’.
Everyone feels sad from time to time, but not everyone will be depressed.
The diagnostic criteria for major depression are defined as a depressed mood for most of the day, sometimes particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships. Not only will the person exhibit these symptoms, but they will be present every day for at least 2 weeks.
There may be additional noticeable signs and symptoms as well. These include:
- Fatigue or loss of energy during the majority of the day
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Lack of concentration
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in normal daily activities
- Restlessness or lethargy
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Significant weight loss or gain
If someone you love appears to exhibit the symptoms listed above, or if they indicate the threat of suicide at any time, you should urge them to seek professional help.
If they are unwilling to seek immediate help and you suspect they may be suicidal, it’s best to notify someone. Even if they are not happy with you doing this, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
What You Can Do to Help a Loved One Cope
If you feel that someone you care about is experiencing clinical depression, there are several things that you can do to support them.
Just Be There
Be available if they want to talk, although this might be a rare occurrence when they are in the throes of depression. Sometimes, just sitting with them or checking in on them is enough to let them know that you care.
Even if it appears that they prefer to be alone, you can send them a text or leave a voicemail. Perhaps you can drop off a homemade dessert or bring them a good, uplifting book to read. They may not show their appreciation, but your concern won’t likely go unnoticed.
Don’t Use Guilt or Shame
Never use tactics to guilt or shame anyone living with depression. People who suffer from depression tend to have these feelings already, and you would probably be making their situation worse. Not to mention, guilt and shame rarely work as constructive motivators when someone is depressed.
Even if you are trying to convince them to do something that you feel is positive, this isn’t the way to go about it.
For example, you may be trying to persuade your friend to get out of the house, and so you complain that they are no fun and never do anything with you anymore. You remind them of all the times that you have done things when they have asked. Perhaps you even resort to telling them that their behavior is absurd or that they are drowning in self-pity.
There’s a good chance that your friend still won’t get out if they don’t feel up to it. Many times, when someone is depressed they can’t force themselves to participate even when they want to.
Don’t Minimize or Compare
It may seem appropriate to try to relate their situation to a time when you were feeling down. But, you should know that living with depression has a different impact than typical feelings or emotions.
Your loved one may not even be able to explain why they feel the way they do. Meanwhile, you compare their feelings to a time when you felt sad because of your life’s circumstances.
This may only make them feel less understood.
Also, don’t try to dismiss their feelings by telling them that their life isn’t ‘that bad’ or reminding them of reasons they should be happy.
They probably are just as confused as you are about how they are feeling and hearing that they should feel differently just exacerbates their frustration and sadness.
When someone you love is living with depression, they may be irritable and it can feel as though they are angry at you when they really aren’t.
It can also hurt your feelings when someone you are close to prefers to be alone or refuses to make plans with you. Then, when you do spend time together, they may appear uninterested, or incapable of having fun.
Trust that this is frustrating for them as well. Do your best to exercise patience, even when you feel like they are being unreasonable or negative. Understand that healing from depression takes time and is often beyond their control.
Above all, make sure that you take care of yourself.
When your loved one is saying or doing things that you find offensive, take a break. Don’t set your expectations too high, believing that you can ‘fix’ them because you will soon be disappointed.
Be careful not to take their lack of joy, complaints, or isolation personally. Their present circumstances have not been caused, nor can they be reversed, by you.
Want More Tips for Self-Care?
Although you may not be experiencing depression, you can still suffer from the stress of the holidays. Many people find that this time of year adds pressure to their lives.
Avoid the pitfalls of anxiety, exhaustion, and disappointment this holiday season by taking care of yourself.
To find out how to find peace naturally in the flurry of seasonal festivities, check out our blog!