One word but thousands of emotions.
A serious yet treatable illness that has engulfed half of the population and had thrown them into the bin. According to the World Health Organization, around 300 million people in the world have depression. It is also estimated that 15% of the adult population once in their lifetime will experience depression.
When such an excruciating illness hits your loved ones, you may feel completely blank for a second. What can I do is the first question in your mind. Seeing your near and dear ones going through so much agony and insufferable pain might break your own faith. It's time you understand their illness, stand up for them, and help them out.
To be honest, depression is real and extreme. It sucks away the joy and life out of your loved ones. It squeezes the cheerfulness and makes them dull, so dull, that they just experience the darkness or blues. Yes, it's true that depression is disastrous, tragic, and grievous. But, and there is always a but, it can be treated and healed with medications, love, and faith. Isn't it?
So if you know someone who deals with depression, what are some actual ways in which you can help? Before proceeding ahead into discussing anything more, it's the time we understand what depression is and how is it caused.
What is Depression?
Imagine you have a friend. His name is Brooky Blue. Your friendship with Brooky Blue starts with a bang. You hang around a lot, watch movies, eat snacks, and study together. It is the happiest of times and you're sure that your friendship with Brooky Blue is the healthiest. But what you don't know is that Brooky Blue is one little demon with bad intentions. He slowly wins your trust and gains control over your emotions. Then he tosses you in the vicious circle of self-worthlessness, sadness, and apathy.
Brooky Blue is depression.
You don't know it's coming over you. And when you finally know, it's too late!
According to Medical News Today, in medical terms, depression is a mental health disorder characterized by low mood, loss of appetite and sleep, the feeling of worthlessness, and continuous sadness. If the symptoms remain present for more than 4 weeks, you can be officially diagnosed with Depression.
“It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling – that really hollowed-out feeling.” — J.K. Rowlingback to menu ↑
Major Statistics about Depression
According to the World Health Organization:
- 300 million people around the world suffer from depression
- 50% of people diagnosed with depression also suffer from anxiety disorders
- 15% of the adult population once in their time will experience depression.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide
- Women are more affected by depression than men
Symptoms of Depression
Here's a list of symptoms of depression to help both you and your loved one understand and self-diagnose depression at its earliest:
Did you or your loved one just lose interest in playing your favorite sports?
One of the core symptoms of depression is loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. A person who shows less interest and pleasure in day-to-day activities including bathing, reading, going out, etc is surely exhibiting signs of depression.
Another core symptom of depression is feeling sad or having a persistent low mood. You know you're watching that comedy film, but it doesn’t make you laugh anymore. A person with a depressive low mood may report feeling empty, cryish, and sad for no reason.
Most of the people suffering from depression reports about feeling tired all the time. Depression brings with itself a lack of energy and overwhelming fatigue. Increased fatigue eventually leads to loss of interest in activities and low mood.
Changes in appetite
People suffering from depression may exhibit a change in their appetite and weight. They may like to eat more or less. Some of them might end up increasing their weight while some of them might lose.
Did your loved one randomly started to cry, laugh, or get angry? Well, it might be a cause of worry. Depression causes severe mood swings. A person may be happy just five minutes back might start crying instantly.
A person dealing with depression might oversleep, sleepless, feel restless after a full night's sleep, or may just lay asleep. Depression causes severe disturbances in sleep and changes the entire sleep and wake cycle.
“I am a big failure and an embarrassment to others.” – Did you just hear someone repeating this often? Depression causes guilt, feeling of worthlessness, and the feeling of being unimportant.
One of the core symptoms of depression includes poor concentration and difficulty in making decisions. A person suffering from depression may not be able to sit for long hours at one place, fail to complete a task on time, and study properly.
Depression and body connection
Do you still feel you or your loved one may not need the treatment for depression and will get okay with time? Think again. Depression is a mental disorder but affects your entire body. It will eventually make you physically weak.
Here are some of the top symptoms that will occur in your entire body when depression is left untreated:
Poor digestive health
Your gut health is directly related to your brain health. Numerous studies have pointed out the connection. According to Dr. Emeran Mayer, M.D.:
Over time, if left untreated, depression may severely affect your gut health. Poor eating habit may lead to:
- Irritable Bowel Symptom
- Stomach Ache
Bad cardiovascular health
Not only the gut but also depression has the power to affect your heart health. Stress is closely related to depression. Stress hormones may lead to several heart diseases.
According to cardiologist Milena A. Gebska, M.D. Ph.D.:
Poor heart and emotional health may lead to:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart attack
But how would you actually help them? Read on.back to menu ↑
13 Ways to Help Someone with Depression
You may feel helpless seeing your loved one going through all this pain. It's true that you only cannot treat them but you can always lend them a helping hand. Some of the best ways to help someone with depression are:
Learn about depression
If you want to support your loved one, the first and foremost thing you should do is learn and educate yourself. Understand what depression is, what all are the symptoms and its various treatments. Although you may read a plethora of information on the internet and through books, remember you can still not understand what the person is actually experiencing.
Whenever you see your friend suffering from an illness, one of the best ways to help them is by listening to what they are going through. Just be a good listener– don't advice, don't judge. Listening to them patiently will help your loved ones share more information than they would. It will also help you understand the intensity of their illness.
Try small gestures
Imagine you are ill and your friend shows up at your home unannounced with a cup of coffee? How would you feel?
Small gestures like meeting your friend unannounced, sending a card, leaving a text or making a meal for them will go in a long way making them feel special. These gestures will ensure that your friend receives the warmth they need in rough times.
It's tempting to offer advises when your near and dear ones are in trouble. It's really easy to say that go out for a walk, go to the gym, etc. But you don't completely understand the intensity of someone's illness especially when it's depression. Hence, it is best that you stop yourself from giving unsolicited advice.
Ask about suicidal thoughts
This is going to be the toughest part but you have to do it. Ask your loved one patiently and clearly if they have any thoughts about suicide. According to Mayo Clinic, If they answer yes, calmly ask them how and where will they do it, and report to concerned authorities.
Stay in touch
It's imperative that you stay in touch with your friends. We do not mean that you stay wide open for contact 24/7 but every day just gives them a call, send a good morning message, ask them how their day was and meet weekly. These small gestures to remain in touch will make them understand that they do have your unconditional support.
Never shame your friend
Depression itself brings the feeling of shame. The patient always feels ashamed about his or her condition. They already encourage negative thinking. Do not further this by shaming then anyway. Saying things like you're just being lazy or how you were before is just part of shaming them about their illness and encouraging depressed thoughts.
Do not compare them
You might feel that comparing them to others or just to their past self will help them move out from depression. But this will only worsen the condition. Try to understand the person is already suffering from a severe illness and at this time needs kind words of encouragement and not any judgment or comparison.
Encourage them to take professional help
You are doing whatever you could in your limited capacity. But you should know that this is not enough to completely treat their illness. Your friend needs to take professional help in the form of meeting a psychiatrist and a therapist. Mental health and going to doctors who treat mental health conditions is still a taboo. Encourage your loved one to see out of the box and seek help for their own betterment.
Getting involved with someone who is suffering from depression is a huge deal in itself. Try to just remain positive, cheerful about the present, and future. Yes, time's are difficult and your friend has a long journey towards healing. Try not to become bitter by the negativity and out-of-your-hold conditions.
Help with daily chores
One of the biggest and core symptoms of depression is the inability to take care of oneself and have an interest in day-to-day activities. How about you offer some help and uplift your friend to complete their daily chores? Small steps like cooking dinner, setting their room, or cleaning the house can get them moving.
Help With Caffeine Consumption
Besides a jolt of energy, did you know that caffeine can also help your loved ones fight against the effects of depression?
According to the result from observational studies by Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, it was found that caffeine consumption was found to decrease the risk of depression.
And Medical News Today suggests taking three cups of coffee (spread out over the day) may temporarily help some people with depression improve their mood. If you want, you can shop for the best coffee makers on Brew Smartly for your loved ones.
Take care of yourself
Finally, yes you're taking care of someone who is dealing with a whole lot of issues. It does not mean that you will ignore self-care. Just as much as you want to do something for your friend, ignoring your own needs is not a worthy option. It's completely O.K. to not stay available 24/7 for a call or chat. It is likely that depressed person overtime becomes mean and self-centered.
If they unwantedly pick a nasty fight with you or say something they should not, explicitly mention it that they are going out of their room and being disrespectful. Maintaining a healthy balance between your availability and setting straight boundaries will help you both to remain there for each other.back to menu ↑
Depression is cold. It lacks warmth and colors. One time you're okay and other times you have this intense sadness. Depression is awful. If you have decided to help someone with depression, pat on your back pal, you're a shining armor! Track your friend's improvements and help keep them stay updated with their treatment.
Remember that your support alone cannot treat them completely. Continuous professional care is what your loved one needs. Talk. Call. Cook. Do everything in your capacity to uplift them from this disastrous illness. Nevertheless, remember to indulge in self-care and keeping a positive outlook.
Mike is our editor and the main contributor to the website’s content. He’s a licensed nutritionist with an earnest interest in mental health. He has been studying nootropics for the last 7 years.