When someone has depression, they often look “normal” on the outside, and are dealing with a million different conflicting thoughts in their own mind. Depression is lonely, it is painful, and it is often devastating to people who suffer from it. The best thing you can do is be there to support your loved ones, but first you might need to know when they are in most need of help. Here are some signs to look out for.
Detachment and Isolation
If your friend or loved one begins canceling plans, not showing up to events, and ignoring phone calls or text messages, you might want to check in on them. Isolation and feeling detached from others is a very common sign of depression. This is often one of the first things people do when going through a depressive episode. They call into work more often and just don’t feel like they can be social at all. It is often accompanied by no longer being interested in the same things, and almost disappearing completely.
Aches and Pains
Many times, depression manifests itself in physical ways, which is another way to notice it in your friends or family members. Have you noticed that they seem to have an increase in aches and pains? While this could be a legitimate pain, where it just comes from a physical condition or injury, there are some things to note when it might be mental. Constant and chronic pain that is never relieved by medication, friends who seem to constantly have a new thing that is hurting, or when they seem blue and low while also complaining of aches and pains could be some signs to look out for.
They Are Becoming Angry or Irritable
This is something else to look out for in your friends or loved ones. People with depression often go through mood and behavioral changes as a result of their mental illness. Do not take this personally, as it might actually be a silent cry for help. If suddenly your friend with depression is becoming irritable, easily agitated, or downright angry all the time, it might be time to nurture their feelings.
This can be difficult when their anger is hard to be around, but try to remember they are struggling with this more than you are, and people who push others away often need the most love and support.
How to Help Your Depressed Friends and Loves Ones
You have probably arrived here because you have someone close to you who is suffering from depression, and you want to help. You have just made the first most important step, which is to learn how you can help them. Here are some things you can do (and avoid) when it comes to supporting friends and loved ones with depression and other mental illnesses.
What Not to Do
Before talking about ways to help people with depression, let’s take a moment to discuss what you should not do or say. These are sometimes objective since everyone is different, but they provide a good general guideline. Helping others means never judging them, first of all. It is okay to not understand how depression works, but you are there to be supportive. Don’t try to cure their depression, assume it will go away if they try hard enough, or be critical of how they deal with their mental illness.
Try to avoid saying things like just relax and deal with it. This is only going to make them feel worse and like they can’t even do depression the right way. Don’t avoid being around them or talking to them just because you don’t understand what they are going through. And lastly, just because your friend does not return your call, does not mean you should not continue reaching out. They might not be in a place where they can talk, but they will still appreciate the gesture.
Invite Them Over
A really easy way to connect and check in on someone who suffers from depression is to simply be there for them. Don’t ask them to let you know if they need anything, because even if they do, they will most likely say no. They feel worthless and lack confidence and don’t want to be a burden on others. Instead of that approach, think of something casual and fun you can do together, that they would also enjoy doing. It can be as simple as inviting them over for dinner or going out for coffee or to a movie.
Show Your Concerns in a Gentle Way
Asking questions about their health or showing that you are concerned about them is a good way to check in on people with depression, but always be kind, gentle, and non-confrontational. You should not make them feel judged or like they are being criticizes. Instead, let them know you have been thinking about them, tell them you are concerned when you are, and ask if there is a way you can support them.
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