How to Help a Loved One With Major Depression

Does your partner seem to be facing hidden mental struggles? Have you noticed your better half seems sad or moody? Maybe those emotions have been present for quite some time now. They might not want to join in on fun activities. Additionally, they would rather sleep than engage with others. These behaviors can make you concerned for your loved one’s well-being. If you look into this collection of symptoms, you’ll find that major depression is a common explanation. 

As a loved one who’s worried, you might want to speak up. Many people don’t recognize the signs of a mental illness in themselves. It is important to show support and help your loved one find the proper care. However, you need to understand more about the condition before you can convey information to your loved one. In this blog, we’ll discuss major depression in further detail.

What Is Major Depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), major depression — also called major depressive disorder (MDD)— is one of the most common mental conditions in the United States. The condition can cause severe impairments that may interfere with a person’s daily life. A person facing challenges with MDD may have difficulties with functioning at school, work, or performing daily tasks around the house. 

The onset of MDD can happen in young teens and early adulthood but can affect anyone at any age. This health condition is slightly more common in women. The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 14.8 million United States adults had one major depressive episode with severe impairment in 2020. A total of 66% of adults who experienced a received treatment for depression. 

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression is more than just feeling sad or low for a couple of days. These feelings do not subside. The symptoms can continue to affect an individual for weeks to months if treatment is not feasible. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), to be diagnosed with depression, five or more of these symptoms must be present for two weeks or longer: 

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of enjoyment in most activities, also called anhedonia
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain caused by a change in appetite
  • Sleep changes
  • Slowed or speeded-up movement noticeable by others
  • Increased fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Suicidal ideation or attempts

One of the first two symptoms must be present for an MDD diagnosis. The diagnostic criteria aren’t the only symptoms a person could experience. In addition to the previously discussed symptoms, a person might experience the following: 

  • Physical aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Anger, irritability, and agitation
  • Indigestion, nausea, or vomiting
  • Anxious feelings

Helpful Strategies for Support

For certain individuals, talking about depression can be difficult due to fear of judgment. ​Showing you care deeply about your loved one and offering empathy can help your partner feel safe in expressing their feelings. As they open up, you can help brainstorm treatment options that could help them. This can improve relationships impacted by MDD. 

On top of this, you can change your behaviors to be more supportive of their mental health. A few ways to stay a passionate advocate include:

  • Encourage your loved one to seek treatment
  • Drive them to and from their treatment program and/or therapy appointments
  • Remind them to take any medications they may be prescribed
  • Engage in activities they enjoy
  • Participate in family therapy sessions or family support groups
  • Do holistic therapy activities, like yoga and art, together
  • Join your loved one at doctor’s appointments, if they request this
  • Come up with activities where you can both stay active

In addition to these activities, you can ensure you’re also going to therapy, eating well, and getting enough sleep. Caring for someone with a mental illness can take a toll on your mind and body. It’s okay to make your mental health a priority as well. Plus, modeling this behavior might offer your loved one an example. They could see it as something you are doing together, rather than healing alone.

Reframing Major Depression

According to SAMHSA, life living with major depression can feel isolating and lonely. An individual may feel worried about being labeled with a mental illness if diagnosed by a health care professional. However, diagnosis doesn’t need to be framed as a negative thing. Rather than a label that reflects poorly on them, you can encourage your loved one to see MDD as a description of what they’re experiencing. A label tells people who you are; a description tells them what you’re going through.

Help Is Available

Many people have this mental health condition, and your partner is not alone. Major depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders out there today. If detected early, you can help your loved one gain control over their illness. Help a loved one by reaching out to healthcare facilities and discussing treatment options together. 

Living with major depression can feel lonely. If you’re loved one is struggling, you can offer them support and love as they pursue treatment. 12 South Recovery’s mental health program offers step-down levels of care beginning with a partial hospitalization program (PHP), followed by an intensive outpatient program (IOP), and then outpatient programming (OP). Each phase is structured according to the needs of the client, with a gradual acclimation back to life and society. Our therapists will help your loved one work through the complex feelings and symptoms caused by major depression. We’ll empower them to make necessary changes for their health. If you feel that your loved one needs professional help, call us at 866-839-6876 today.

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