Depression is a complex but often serious mental condition that affects different people in different ways. It alters a person’s mental state and can have physical effects as well as mental ones. Depression doesn’t just affect the person suffering from it, but also those people close to them such as family members.
Since depression is an extremely common form of mental illness, chances are that you know someone with the condition. If you suffer from depression, it’s important to realize that your family members may be affected as well.
Can You Recognize a Family Member With Depression?
Unlike some mental illnesses, it’s not always immediately obvious when a person has depression. You may not be able to know if one of your family members has depression unless they reach out to you and talk about their feelings. Even if you’re unaware of a family member’s depression, that doesn’t mean it won’t affect you. Studies show that people with depression often use sad or somber facial expressions and negative words to describe their emotions or state of mind. These subtle signs can also have subtle effects on people around them. Think about how you feel when you’re around someone who smiles all the time and talks positively vs. someone who does the opposite.
What Are Some Subtle Depression Symptoms?
If you’re concerned that one of your family members might have depression, it’s important to consider some of the subtle signs like the following:
• Having a constantly messy room
• Wearing unwashed clothes or never grooming their hair
• Skipping meals
• Avoiding others and canceling plans
• Spending hours in bed
• Losing interest in things they like
These symptoms might be hard to interpret as depression, but they can also be significant warning signs. Some depressed people are also very good at hiding their condition from others. They might be able to show up and act normally in social situations, but then retreat into themselves when no one’s looking.
Effects of Depression On Family Members
The other issue that can appear when family members know about one member’s depression is guilt. This is true whether the member with depression is a parent or a child. They may worry that they caused the depressive state in some way. They may also feel like they should do something to “fix” the issue. It’s important for family members to understand that a depressive disorder isn’t caused by a single thing. It’s caused by a combination of factors, including environment, genetics, hormones, diet and many other things.
Studies show that relatives of depressed patients often experience significant effects associated with their family member’s illness. They may even experience some form of illness themselves. The following are some possible effects on family members of depressed patients:
• Other psychological issues
It’s also common for family members to feel a certain amount of fear, anxiety and sometimes anger towards the depressed family member. They may be afraid that their loved one will harm themselves or someone else. They might also feel angry and wonder why the person can’t just “snap out of it.”
Unfortunately, irritation and hostility from family members can make it harder for the depressed person to make progress in treatment. Research shows that negativity from family increases depressive symptoms in those suffering from the illness.
How To Help a Depressed Family Member
There are good and bad ways to interact with and try to help a family member with a depressive disorder. One of the most important pieces of advice is to take care of yourself first. You can’t support your loved one if you let yourself get overwhelmed and depleted. Even though you can’t “catch” depression like a virus, it’s possible for similar environments to affect more than one person living in them. For example, if there’s something about your home environment that’s contributing to your loved one’s depression, it’s possible that it could affect you as well.
Research depression and find out the myths and facts. There continues to be a stigma against mental illness that makes it hard for sufferers to reach out for help. Don’t be someone who contributes to the myths and stereotypes.
Be supportive towards your loved one. Sometimes simple support makes a big difference. This is especially true if your loved one seeks therapy or treatment for their illness. Having support from family can encourage them to stay in treatment.
Understand that it’s not personal. A depressed person may have fluctuating moods and be less inclined to interact with others. Don’t take it personally if your loved one avoids you or doesn’t want to talk to you. Try to keep in mind that it’s their depression speaking and not how they actually feel about you.
Treatment Can Help
Therapy for depression can make a big difference in your life and the life of your loved one. Doctor Howard Samuels is a compassionate and experienced Depression therapist in Los Angeles who can help you or your loved one recover from depression. Contact him today for more information and to set up a consultation.