Conditions

A Guide to Helping Someone with Depression

Discovering depression’s silent grip demands awareness and understanding. Learn the signs, causes, and strategies for supporting loved ones.

therapist sean abraham By Sean Abraham, LCSW

Updated on May 12, 2024

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Depression is a prevalent condition affecting millions of people globally. A National Institute of Mental Health report found that 8.4% of Americans had experienced a major depressive episode at least once in the past year. 

Depression may cause intense pain and hurt, not only to those suffering but also to their loved ones.

With the right support and treatment, you can help someone with depression take steps toward recovery. This article explores the signs of depression, its causes, and how to help someone with depression.

How to Recognize Signs of Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that may interfere with your thoughts, feelings, or routine activities. Although specific symptoms vary with the type of depression that you or a loved one may be suffering from, there are few indicators to watch out for.

Feeling Unmotivated

One of the major telltales of depression is withdrawal and loss of interest in things you once enjoyed. So, if your loved one has withdrawn from everyday activities, like sports or other hobbies, they may be struggling with depression.

Changes in Appetite

People who are depressed may experience changes in their appetite; they may eat too much or too little. While some people may use food as a comfort mechanism, others may turn away from eating due to low moods.

Fatigue

One of the main reasons why depressed people may withdraw from activities they love is because they feel overly tired. Consistent tiredness and lack of energy can be debilitating signs of depression.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

People struggling with depression may develop a neurochemical change in their brain which could affect their sleeping patterns. Additionally, depressed people may feel exhausted, which may cause them to oversleep.

Substance Abuse and Other Risky Behavior

People that are feeling depressed often look for different ways to cope with those feelings. As a result, they may start using alcohol or other drugs to deal with their negative emotions. Changes in spending habits, eating habits, sex habits, gambling, etc. can also develop among those suffering depression.

Feeling Worthless or Guilty

Depressed people often develop feelings of worthlessness or guilt. They may think that it’s their fault they’re experiencing depression. Additionally, some people may feel they don’t positively impact the world or have nothing good in their life.

High Risk of Suicide

Suicidal thoughts are a common symptom among people suffering from depression. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 50% of Americans who have died by suicide suffered from a major depressive disorder.

Note: It’s important to be open and direct when discussing suicide with those potentially at risk. Often people assume that we should not say the word “suicide,” and instead say things like “Are you going to do something you’ll regret?” If someone is planning to end their life, they may say no to this, as they don’t think they’ll regret it.

Other Warning Signs 

Some other common signs of depression include:

Common Causes of Depression

Depression is not a condition with one single cause. According to the World Health Organization, the interaction between biological, psychological, and social factors play a role in depression.

Social Factors

The social risk factors that contribute to depression include the following:

Violence

People previously subjected to violence are at a high risk of depression. Whether they were abused in childhood or adulthood, their negative experiences can ultimately cause mental disorders.

Gender

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women have a higher depression prevalence than men. Further, women are at a higher risk of depression during pregnancy, after birth, and when they reach menopause. Additionally, according to another study of transgender people in a clinical setting, transgender patients had increased prevalence for all psychiatric diagnoses queried, with major depressive disorder being the most common diagnoses (31%).

Lack of Support System

If people don’t have a support group to share their problems, they risk being depressed. In addition, people with mood disorders might develop depression if they feel lonely or excluded.

Life Transitions

Significant life transitions like having a baby, losing a job, or the death of a loved one may lead to depression. Other life changes that increase the risk of depression include:

Biological Factors

The following are biological factors that increase the risk of depression:

Genetics

Depression can be inherited. If a close family member has depression, the condition may also be passed down to future generations.

Hormones

Changes in hormonal levels also increase the risk of depression. For instance, women may develop a hormonal imbalance during birth, leading to postpartum depression.

Brain chemistry

Low levels of certain brain chemicals — including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine — may lead to the development of depression.

Psychological Factors

The psychological contributors to depression include the following:

Personality

Personality traits play a significant role in depression. Pessimistic people with low self-esteem are at risk of depression as they cannot speak out about their burning issues.

Illness

People suffering from mental and physical illnesses are at risk of depression. For example, those suffering from chronic pain, thyroid, and cancer are at risk of developing depression.

Tips for Coping with Depression

When you’re depressed, you can’t just decide to get out of it. However, you can take steps to gain control of your life, boost your mood, and reduce your depression symptoms. 

Here are various strategies for coping with depression:

Avoid Stressors

Minimizing stress is an essential tool for managing depression. Identify potential stressors that could pull you into depression. Also, lifestyle changes can help avoid stress, hence managing depression.

Journal Your Experiences

Writing down your experiences is an excellent way of dealing with depression. Write what you feel, think, or what you could be afraid of. Writing down your concerns and challenges with depression can help express your negative emotions. Additionally, it can help identify and address any destructive thinking and behaviors.

Stay Active

When depressed, you may feel unmotivated by the things you love doing. Whether it’s due to low self-esteem or lack of interest, withdrawing from these activities may only worsen your situation. Exercise can be very helpful too. It can burn cortisol, which is related to stress and anger.

Boost Your Self-esteem

It’s normal to experience low self-esteem when you are depressed. However, looking for ways to make you feel better and boost your esteem is vital to managing your condition. You can increase your self-esteem in the following ways:

Avoid Substance Use

While some may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb their pain, it can be destructive. Regular or excessive use of alcohol or other drugs may make your depression worse. Also, alcohol and drug use can interfere with many medications.

Connect with Family and Friends

Connecting with family and friends is an excellent option for lessening the side effects of depression. Sharing your concerns with them can help you feel better when depression has pushed you to the corner. Plus, loved ones can help you stick to your treatment plan and provide counsel when appropriate.

Maintain a Routine

Not having a routine can lower self-esteem and affect your functionality and overall well-being. So, plan a daily routine of what you want to do and how you will accomplish it. For instance, you may schedule when to wake up to improve your sleep patterns.

Practice Self-Care

It is essential to take care of yourself when you are struggling with depression. Focus on improving your diet to maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly can also help improve your mood and manage stress.

Confront Your Fears

When you are depressed, it might seem challenging to face your fears. You might lose confidence interacting with others or even going out. Confronting your fears helps to make them easier to handle.

Get Professional Help

Talking to a healthcare professional is a crucial way of coping with depression and improving mental health. A mental health professional can help you deal with and cope with existing stressors. They can also help restore your self-esteem, vital for stress management.

Depression treatment is available

Get help

Ways to Offer Support to a Loved One with Depression

If your loved one has been diagnosed with or is showing signs of depression, offering them support can be an essential step in their recovery. Knowing how and when to respond can help them overcome negative thoughts, alienate symptoms of depression, and rejuvenate their energies. Here is how you can offer support to a depressed family member:

Raise Your Concerns

When you notice signs of depression in a friend or family member, it’s essential to share your concerns with them. Let them know they have your support. You may ask them questions about their feelings and allow them to express themselves.

According to Tahara DeBarrows, a therapist at Grow Therapy, “Simply just listening can be a helpful tool in supporting someone experiencing depression. Creating a safe space for the individual by not judging their statements allows them to relieve pent-up thoughts and emotions that may be bothering them.”

Help Them Get Treatment

A depressed person may find it hard to find a mental health professional. In addition, they may also not realize the condition they are dealing with. Therefore, you can help them get a therapist for their condition or remind them of upcoming therapy sessions.

Assist Them in Their Daily Activities

Depressed people may forget to accomplish their daily tasks. Shopping, cooking, eating, laundry, and paying bills may feel overwhelming at this time. So, remind them of the activities they should complete or help them accomplish them.

Visit Them Regularly

Isolation is a common effect of depression and can worsen the condition. Hence, plan regular visits to check on them and invite them to meet and interact with others when appropriate.

Check if the Treatment is Working

Monitoring your loved one’s treatment can help you understand if their condition is getting better. Check for any signs that may indicate the improvement or deterioration of their depression. Observe their eating and sleeping patterns and whether they socialize more or less with others.

Treatment for Depression

The American Psychiatric Association reports that 80-90% of people diagnosed with depression respond well to treatment. Treatment options available for depression include medication, psychotherapy treatments, and physical therapies.

Medication

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it may take up to four weeks for the benefits of antidepressants to occur. After this period, your sleep patterns, appetite, and ability to concentrate may begin to improve.

However, the duration of taking medications often depends on the patient’s symptoms and the possibility of depression recurring.

Psychotherapy 

In psychotherapy, patients share their emotions, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. It involves approaches such as cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal therapies.

For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on breaking the negative feelings and behaviors that make depression worse. Behavioral therapy focuses on identifying and modifying negative behaviors, and interpersonal therapy eradicates depressive symptoms that weaken interpersonal relationships.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can also be used to relieve symptoms of depression — and can be a good option for patients who don’t want to take medication. Physical therapy helps to improve a patient’s nervous system, relieving stress. 

Examples of physical therapy exercises used to treat depression include:

Talk to a Therapist Today

Depression can cause ongoing pain and hurt to those suffering and their loved ones. However, recognizing the signs and symptoms early may help cope with the condition and prevent further effects. 

Offering support and treatment to someone depressed is a critical step toward their recovery. If your loved one is suffering from depression, talking to a professional therapist can help them overcome and heal. 

At Grow Therapy, we make it easier to find a therapist who’s right for you and takes your insurance so you and your loved ones can get the help you need.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
therapist sean abraham Sean Abraham, LCSW

Sean Abraham is a licensed clinical social worker who works with those who have struggled with substance use, depression, anxiety, loss, communication problems, student life, as well as other mental health concerns.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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