What is depression?
There are various psychological and physical symptoms that are associated with depression. These symptoms can influence the thoughts and behaviour of someone suffering from depression. Not everyone who suffers from depression experiences the same symptoms or experiences them to the same intensity. In most cases, you can refer to depression if a low mood lasts for a long period of time. Depression is almost always associated with low mood and a reduced pleasure/interest in activities that someone would normally enjoy. In addition, they often experience changes in appetite, sleeping pattern, concentration and self-confidence. A less common form of depression is bipolar depression. A person suffering from bipolar disorder alternates between periods of depression and very eccentric periods during which they feel good, but behave abnormally. This can manifest itself in, for example, substance abuse or rash expenditure of money. Such an abnormal period is also referred to as a manic episode.
What does someone with depression experience?
Psychological complaints can include feelings of guilt, worthlessness or powerlessness, anxiety and crying. Physical complaints can include fatigue, little to no appetite, poor sleep, dry mouth, pain, tightness of the chest, dizziness, heart palpitations. Thoughts and behaviour can include irritability, suicidal thoughts, excessive worrying, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, thinking or reacting slowly and restlessness. As you can imagine, a combination of the complaints listed above can be a heavy burden. Someone suffering from depression often has difficulty performing daily tasks, such as housekeeping, shopping and/or administrative tasks. Furthermore, someone suffering from depression often struggles with passivity and, therefore, rarely initiates or takes action. Guilt can also play a big role in depression. For example, someone can feel like a burden to their social circle.
What does someone with depression need?
As a partner, family member or friend, you can support someone with depression. By listening and empathizing with the other, you can show support. Offering help in the areas that someone is struggling with can be valuable. You can also provide support by, for example, attending a meeting between them and their doctor or therapist. Talk to the other person about how you can best offer them support. For example, ask whether he/she has drawn up a relapse prevention plan during his/her treatment and whether you can have a look at it. By doing this, you can discuss which signals to look out for and point out whenever things seem like they are not going well with the other person.
What can you do?
- Keep in contact with each other regularly. This is one of the most important things. It shows that you are involved and that they can contact you.
- A conversation with a doctor or therapist can be difficult. You can support someone by coming along if they would appreciate the support.
- Support them without judgment or disapproval. Try to do so with patience and warmth. Encourage and motivate the other in an understanding way.
- Realize that the other has and must keep control. Do not exert too much pressure and do not (try to) take over control, that is counterproductive. Avoid being too accommodating, either. Be a good example to the other, this can inspire them to act in the same way.
- Learn about depression so you can understand what someone is going through in a better way. Further information can be found in the NiceDay Mood complaints library or on the MIND and Thuisarts
- Having a structured day is very important for people with depression. For example, you can help them to create a daily schedule with certain activities so that it is easier for them to stay active.
- Provide them with help with daily tasks if possible and if they would like that. Daily tasks, such as grocery shopping and housekeeping, can sometimes be daunting for them.
- Someone suffering from depression may also have thoughts surrounding death or suicidality. Do you notice your friend or partner experiencing these thoughts? Talk to them about it and together contact their practitioner, the General Practice Center (ask for the crisis service) or 113, the suicide prevention line.
What not to do:
- Criticize them. That can make someone feel insecure.
- Pressure them to do something when they are not ready for it.
- Tell the other person what is wrong with them or what they are doing wrong. Therefore, do not lecture or advise them on what they should or should not do.
- Try to solve their problems for them. Avoid minimising or downplaying their problems. Take them seriously and pay attention to the problems.
- Take on the role of therapist.
Take care of yourself
As a partner, family member or friend, you can end up going through a difficult time yourself. That’s why it’s important to take good care of yourself. Make sure that you do not become overburdened in caring for your partner/friend/family member that is suffering from depression. It is understandable if you find it difficult to deal with their symptoms/complaints. You can prevent yourself from becoming too stressed out by continuing to do enough enjoyable and relaxing things yourself. Keep in touch with a good friend, someone to whom you can vent and talk about your problems. Is it all getting a bit too much? The Depression Line (088 – 505 43 34) or the Depression Association can also provide you with support and someone to talk to. It can also help to come up with practical tools that can help you or your partner/friend/family member in certain situations, so that you know what you can (and cannot) do for the other person.
Manja de Neef, Negatief Zelfbeeld, BOOM