Depression is a prevalent mood disorder that is characterized by symptoms of persistent sadness and loss of interest. Depression can affect the way you view the world around you, how you interact with others, and may take a toll on your overall physical and mental health. Depression is more than simply feeling sad and it often requires long-term treatment to manage. It can be a crippling mental health disorder, interfering with a person’s ability to manage everyday tasks, but the consequences go beyond just affecting the person with it. Depression can cause anguish for family members and friends as well.
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of depression may occur multiple times throughout life with episodes lasting days or weeks on end. During an episode, symptoms are persistent, occurring almost every day and impacting a person’s ability to manage everyday tasks related to multiple aspects of life including work, school, and relationships. Symptoms can range in severity, affecting both physical and mental health. Some of these include:
- Irritability and frustration, even over small events
- Loss of interests in activities including hobbies, sex, or sports
- Changes in sleep patterns (insomnia or sleeping too much)
- Increased agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Unexplained physical problems such as back pain and headaches
- Feeling sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Slowed thinking or body movements
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
How Depression Affects Relationships
While a person is struggling with these symptoms on their own, depression also takes a toll on those around them. The symptoms of depression can often be catalysts for conflicts in families and in relationships with friends. Unfortunately, the strain depression causes on relationships can worsen symptoms of depression as it often increases feelings of isolation, loneliness, and sadness. Depression, in a way, can be a self-fulfilling condition as negative emotions can push others away, leaving many people feeling more isolated and withdrawn than ever.
In order to prevent this, both the person with depression and those around them must come to a place of understanding. For a person with depression, coming to terms with the fact that depression will have an impact on those around them is critical. This means that their relationships may change for some time as a result. At the same time, friends and family must all understand that depression, not the person, is what fuels these changes and it is not an active choice. Depression and the symptoms that manifest are not typically within a person’s control and require professional help to manage.
For some, the natural response to symptoms of depression is to create space from the person, but this often worsens their state of being. Instead of taking symptoms personally, it is important for friends and family to be persistent in their support and care. Helping to guide someone towards treatment is critical and remaining supportive of someone with depression is vital, even when their symptoms have them attempting to push others away.
Treatment for Depression
Treatment for depression often involves looking at both physical and mental health. Symptoms of depression can manifest as physical conditions as well, making it important to determine what ailments are related to depression, and what symptoms are an indicator of another illness. An assessment with a medical professional can help you determine what the best course of action is. In most cases, treating depression improves physical symptoms as well, resulting in an improved overall sense of wellbeing.
While depression cannot be completely cured, many find that they are able to manage their symptoms well with the help of medications and therapy. Entering treatment for depression not only helps the person with the condition, but can also improve relationships that have been strained by it. Engaging in therapies like group therapy and family counseling can help loved ones express their emotions in a safe place and work towards improving their relationships. With a better understanding of how both sides view the situation, progress can be made and equip everyone with the tools needs to cope with any future episodes of depression, should they arise.
For loved ones, it can be helpful to connect with a therapist or support group as well. This can help them better understand the nature of depression and their role in the life of the person with depression. Education about how the disorder works and its impact on others can help them better understand the situation they are in and learn to not take things personally if depression is creating a rift. At the same time, a person with depression is able to learn better coping mechanisms, methods of communication, and other skills that allow them to repair relationships damaged by depression. This can heal past pain and also create a better path for understanding in the future.
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