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Understanding Depression and Supporting Loved Ones Struggling With It

Depression is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. A recent study found that number to be as high as 10% in the United States, with it increasing more rapidly in teens and young adults (Reinburg, 2022).

There are various expressions of “depression,” but in general it is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of depressed mood, hopelessness, diminished interest in activities that were once enjoyed, fatigue, insomnia or hypersomnia, and recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicidal ideation. While these are not all the specific criteria for diagnosis, they in general point to the symptoms exhibited by those struggling from the mood disorder.

If you know someone struggling with depression or are struggling with it yourself please never ignore comments or thoughts about suicide. Talking about suicide will not make your loved one want to act on it, so please do not avoid it, yet use gentleness and care. You or your loved one can reach out 24 hours a day to get free, private support (on the phone or a live online chat) from a suicide crisis helpline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or simply dialing or texting 988.

The Effects of Depression

One of the most challenging aspects of depression is the way it can affect your mood and emotions. When you have depression, it can feel like a heavy weight on your shoulders, making it difficult to find joy in everyday life. You may feel constantly sad, tearful, or emotionally numb, and even activities that used to bring you pleasure may no longer hold the same appeal.

Depression affects your physical health. It's not uncommon for people with depression to experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, or changes in appetite. These symptoms can further perpetuate feelings of sadness and hopelessness and make it difficult to function in daily life. This is so critical to understand because the effects of depression can really turn in on themselves and in this way become a recurring cycle. Without the proper help, it can be difficult to break free, but it is possible.

One of the most frustrating things about depression is that it can be difficult to pinpoint a specific cause. While some people may develop depression in response to a specific event or series of events, such as a major life change or trauma, others may experience depression for no apparent reason. This can make it difficult to understand why you feel the way you do, and can further lead to feelings of confusion or self-blame. Not having an explanation can add to the difficulty of the experience. The good news is that someone does not need to identify the specific cause in order to experience improvement in their symptoms.

Another aspect of depression is the way it can affect your relationships with others. When you have depression, it can be difficult to connect with others and form meaningful relationships. You may feel socially isolated or withdrawn, and may struggle to communicate effectively with others. This can lead to feelings of loneliness or worthlessness, which again can further exacerbate depressive symptoms.

It's important to note that depression is a highly individualized experience, and everyone's experience with depression is unique. Some people may experience depression only in certain situations, while others may have a more generalized form of depression that affects them constantly. Additionally, the severity of depression can vary widely, from mild to severe.

While depression can be a difficult and challenging experience, it's important to remember that it is a treatable condition. There are many effective treatments for depression, including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes such as exercise and healthy eating. If you are experiencing depression symptoms, it's important to seek professional help and support from loved ones.

How to Support Someone Experiencing Depression

If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with depression, it's essential to know how to support them effectively. Here are some tips on how to support someone with depression:

Educate yourself about depression: Before you can provide effective support, it's crucial to understand what depression is and how it affects people. Educate yourself about the symptoms and causes of depression, as well as the available treatments. This knowledge can help you better understand what your loved one is going through and how to support them.

Listen to them: One of the most important things you can do to support someone facing depression is to listen to them without judgment. Let them know that you're there for them and that you care about how they're feeling. For people struggling with depression, their brain is going through some things! They are not experiencing life the same way you are and they need the support of the people they love.

Ask them how you can help: People with depression may struggle to complete everyday tasks, such as cooking or cleaning. Offering practical support, such as cooking a meal or helping with household chores, can be incredibly helpful. It's essential to ask what kind of help they need and respect their boundaries.

Encourage them to seek professional help: Depression is a treatable condition, and professional help can be incredibly beneficial. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help, such as therapy or medication. You can offer to help them find a therapist or accompany them to appointments if they need it.

Stay connected: Depression can be a very isolating experience, and it's essential to stay connected with your loved one. Reach out to them regularly and let them know that you're thinking of them. Even if they don't feel like talking, it's important to let them know that you're there for them. Depression often has an effect on people that makes them want to remain alone, but continued isolation can only make their symptoms worse. Of course, don’t be pushy, but be consistent in checking up on them, and try your best to make yourself available when they are ready.

Avoid platitudes: It's easy to fall into the trap of offering platitudes, such as "just cheer up" or "things will get better." Please, please, please do not do this. While well-intentioned, these statements are just not helpful, and can continue to push people into feeling more isolated.

Take care of yourself: Supporting someone with depression can be difficult, and it's important to take care of yourself as well. Make sure to take time for self-care and seek support from your own friends and family if you need it.

Be patient: Living through depression is a journey. It's important to be patient and understanding with your loved one because their symptoms probably won't improve immediately. It can often look like two steps forward and three steps back. Don't pressure them to "get over it" or minimize their feelings. Depression is a real and serious condition that requires time and patience to manage effectively, but there is hope!

If you need help beyond the scope of this article, caring professionals are one click or call away. Know there is a way forward and you don’t have to travel it alone.


O'Horo, J. C. (2018). Supporting Someone With Depression. Elsevier.

Reinberg, S. (2022). Depression Affects Almost 1 in 10 Americans. U.S News and World Report.

"Johnny is the owner of Bridge Behavioral Health and a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in the state of Oregon. Johnny is built to be a counselor and counts it as a privilege to sit with each client he meets. He works with his clients to experience healing, wholeness, and hope."

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