One of the challenges of depression is that it affects the entire family system. Often when I am meeting with individual clients in my office, the topic of their spouse or family member and their behavior comes up.
Usually the behavior symptom in loved ones look like those of typical depression, such as failing to do the tasks of daily living, socialize, or do the things you love.
Sometimes, however, the behavior falls more into the category of anger and irritability, which can be even more distressing.
What can you do when you are living with a depressed person, to help yourself and to help them?
Loving a depressed person can be frustrating. When you see someone, you love to suffer from such debilitation, it can cause you to feel angry at them. Often, we confuse the depression with laziness or lack of will to feel better. It can cause you to feel guilty because they aren’t well or happy and you are. Keeping in mind these tips may help you to deal with the more typical forms of depression.
Being in a relationship or loving a depressed person can make it hard to feel it’s okay to enjoy life. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of depression, and the mindset and thinking that goes along with depression. It’s important to keep yourself in good spirits by doing the things you enjoy, getting out of the house, and spending time with people who are not depressed. If you can do that, not only will it help you to have the strength to be kind and compassionate to the depressed person you love, but will buffer you against the effects of their depression.
Depression is an illness, and there is a component of it that is biological. It is not a person’s fault when they are depressed and ill in such a way. However, you are not responsible for their depression, nor does it help to feel guilty. Guilt is an emotion that is only helpful if it prevents you from committing a harmful act. If you anticipate the feeling of guilt prior to robbing a bank, for example, and it prevents you from robbing the bank, that is helpful. In the context of anything else, it is not.
People who are depressed can be angry and irritable. They may behave in ways that appear highly unacceptable to you. Engaging them in an argument or personalizing the behavior as if you deserve it is unhelpful. At the same time, they have to be held accountable for behavior that is hurtful and harmful, and that can also be used as leverage to help them see that they need help. .
It’s important when in a relationship with a depressed person, to focus on keeping the energy in your environment positive. Buy flowers, let in the light, and have people over to your home. Color and light have influences on people’s moods. In fact, light lamps have been shown to help people who have a seasonal depression.
People who are depressed need to be heard, but do not need their depression fed. Getting them to talk and share about their experience can be helpful and therapeutic. Telling them how hard and challenging you know it is for them and reassuring them you are there can be very validating.
Listen to them if they need to talk but point out how their thoughts may be untrue. People who are depressed have thought patterns that are shaded negatively. Often, they are pessimistic and hopeless, because of the way they are thinking. Point out that the way they are thinking may be influenced by their depression, and if they can consider other options it may help them.
In listening to a depressed person share their experiences, you can validate it as one that others who have depression have. You can acknowledge how hard and challenging it is to experience this illness, but at the same time there is help. To improve and feel better, depressed people need tools to fight their illness. They need to have the energy and assistance to fight the depression.
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