With all the difficulties in today’s society, more people are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Finding support for depression or anxiety is essential. If you have a loved one who may be suffering from anxiety or depression, it helps to know the signs and how to provide support.
Anxiety encompasses generalized anxiety, phobias, and other disorders. It is normal for people to temporarily feel anxious in stressful situations. For example, feeling anxious about a test is normal. The feeling is usually replaced with relief when the test is over. However, an anxiety disorder creates an intense, persistent fear or worry about everyday situations. Anxiety is significant enough to interfere with daily life and may reduce a person’s quality of life. Genetics, extreme stress, substance use, and traumatic experiences during childhood or adulthood may contribute to an anxiety disorder.
Depression may involve a lowered or elevated mood. There are several types of depression. For example, bipolar disorder comes with periods of extreme highs and extreme lows. Persistent depressive disorder is a long-term type of depression with a dark or lowered mood. There can be several causes of depression. Substance use, hormonal imbalances, genetics, negative life experiences and past trauma are some common causes. Some women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
Anxious or depressed people may not recognize that there is a problem. To understand how to support a loved one with depression or anxiety, it is essential to first know the signs.
These are some common signs of anxiety:
During panic attacks, people with a panic disorder may experience shaking, increased heart rate, sweating, and chest pains. Those with a phobia may take extreme steps to avoid the source of the phobia. Similarly, people with social anxiety disorder may show signs of distress in social situations and may try to avoid gatherings.
These are some common signs of depression:
Although the previous list includes common signs, there may be others. The signs a depressed family member shows may depend on the type of disorder.
It can seem hard to know how to interact with an anxious or depressed family member. There are some important things to remember when helping a loved one with depression or anxiety. These are critical elements of providing valuable support:
Although people may make poor decisions because of the effects of depression or anxiety, judging their words or choices can discourage them from communicating. Listening and just being there are both critical. For example, hug the person. Let the person talk, and try to understand where the individual is coming from emotionally. Although it can be challenging to deal with ongoing trials, be patient with a struggling loved one. Offer to spend time with the person. Go out for coffee, invite the individual, or call to check-in. Make sure that the places you choose for talking are places where your loved one feels safe. Doing all these things can create a supportive environment, which is essential for ultimately encouraging a loved one to seek professional help.
Unless your loved one brings them up, avoid triggering or sensitive topics. Be sure to express a willingness to help. As you do that, offer actionable help. For example, offer to help your loved one prepare questions to ask a therapist. Offer to help your loved one find mental health help or to go along and wait during an appointment.