How to Help a Depressed Friend

Depression and anxiety are common. However, as common as they are, a majority of the people don’t know what to do when someone their care for is struggling through depression or anxiety.

Here are a few tips on how to help and support a depressed friend:

Educate Yourself

The first thing that you can do to support your friend going through depression is not disregard and dismiss what they’re feeling because you’re uninformed. Study, seek guidance and help, and educate yourself in order to distinguish between regular sadness and depression. You don’t have to become a psychotherapist and know everything – even the most basic knowledge about the condition might help you be more understanding and empathetic towards your friend.

Be Present

It’s easy to lose touch with a depressed friend because more often than not, they don’t have the strength to hang out and are unlikely to initiate contact. Be present for your friend so that they know you’re available, should they need help.

Be Mindful Of Conversations

People struggling with depression are rarely in the mood to talk and discuss their depression or difficult things. You don’t have to be pushy or continue talking just to keep a conversation going. If you do have to broach a potentially sensitive topic, try to do so at a time where they’re feeling relaxed and are receptive to your discussion.

Listen

If you’re friend is willing to talk, be patient and let them speak.  Encourage them to open up to you and discuss their feelings and thoughts. Acknowledge and validate them instead of dismissing them as inconsequential or talking over them.

Encourage Acceptance

Depression is not a condition that goes away on its own. It needs to be acknowledged and people need to actively seek professional help in order to get better. As a friend, to support your loved one going through depression, you need to encourage them to work with a therapist that can help them cope with depression. Encourage them to accept themselves and to reach out to an experienced professional. If they’re hesitant to do so on their own, offer to go with them to provide extra support.

Therapy in Burbank can be a step to help your loved one find new ways of coping with their depression.

How to Support a Depressed Partner

Mental disorders are as stressful on the families of the individual suffering from them – depression in particular. A highly complex condition in itself, dealing with depression can leave one completely drained, and the loved ones confused and unsure about how to support them. Here are a few ways to provide the very necessary support a depressed partner or spouse needs:

Patience

One of the best things that you can do to support your spouse when they are depressed is to have patience. Depression is by no means a pretty condition. As such, it is only a spouse’s patience and continued support that help a depressed patient push through even at their absolute worst. So when you feel that things couldn’t possibly deteriorate any further, they probably will, but just keep holding on.

Unconditional Love

All the living beings on the planet require love. And a depressed spouse requires the most of it. To support your partner you have to show them unconditional and unreserved love even when it’s difficult for you because they’re taking their anguish out on you. It’s important to remember that a person going through depression is struggling and fighting a battle within them and that they require all the support they can possibly get from the outside. Love you partner – while they might not be able to appreciate, or reciprocate it at the moment, they desperately need it and they definitely feel it.

True Understanding

A depressed spouse needs true understanding from their partner. You cannot be supportive when you’re having a good day and then be insensitive to their needs when you’re going through a difficult time yourself. Don’t nag, get annoyed, hover, or become upset with them because they aren’t cooperating with what you think they should be doing. Be communicative, ask them what they need and give them that – no conditions and no expectations.

Still struggling to know how to help your depressed partner/spouse? As a Burbank therapist we can help support you and teach you ways of helping your depressed spouse. Couples therapy can also be helpful. find new ways of coping with their depression.

Signs of Depression in Men and Women

What comes to mind when you think of depression, or someone who is depressed?

Sadness?

Despair?

Isolation?

While those symptoms are typical images of depression, there are many other symptoms to look for if you suspect a loved one is depressed.  It is important to know that no two people are alike, and that depression may manifest it self in many different ways.

Man with depression holds head in head.

Men and women especially may experience similar symptoms, but express them in different ways. It isn't clear why men and women may experience depression differently. It likely involves a number of factors, including brain chemistry, hormones and life experiences.

For women, depression may manifest as persistent sadness, anxiousness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, excessive crying, or feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, or pessimism.  Women tend to experience certain symptoms more often than men.

For example, seasonal affective disorder—depression in the winter months due to lower levels of sunlight—is more common in women. Women also have a higher incidence of thyroid problems. Since hypothyroidism can cause depression, this medical problem should always be ruled out by a physician in women who are depressed.

For men, depression may look different.  Depression in men may look like loss of appetite, sleeplessness, irritability, risky behavior (such as reckless driving), increase in alcohol consumption, increased hours at work, and fatigue.   There are several reasons why the symptoms of depression in men are not commonly recognized. Men tend to deny having problems because they are supposed to "be strong." As a result, men who are depressed are more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of their depression,such as feeling tired rather than symptoms related to emotions. Depression in men may cause them to keep their feelings hidden. Instead of expressing a depressed mood, they may seem more irritable and aggressive.

Asking for help can be hard. But without treatment, depression is unlikely to go away, and it may get worse. Untreated depression can make you and the people close to you miserable. It can cause problems in every aspect of your life, including your health, career, relationships and personal safety.

Depression, even if it's severe, usually improves with medications or psychological counseling (psychotherapy) or both.

If you or someone close to you thinks you may be depressed, talk to your doctor or a mental health provider. Have the courage to ask for advice or seek help when you need it.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is effective for helping reduce depression.  Our Burbank Therapy office provides a warm and supportive atmosphere to help you explore how depression is affecting you and your relationship. Learn effective tools to improve your relationships and decrease depression.

Photo by Ben White

3 Reasons Depression in Men is Under Diagnosed

Failure to recognize depression in men is often too common.  The reason is that feeling sad or emotional isn't always the main symptom in men.

Symptoms of depression in men might include: headaches, digestive problems, fatigue, irritability or chronic pain can sometimes indicate depression. So can feeling isolated and seeking distraction to avoid dealing with feelings or relationships.

Depressed man in dark room gazes out of window.

Here are the 3 Reasons why depression is often under diagnosed in men:

  1. Reluctance to discuss depression symptoms. As a man, you may not be open to talking about your feelings with family or friends, let alone with a health care professional. Like many men, you may have learned to emphasize self-control. You may think it's not

  2. Downplaying signs and symptoms. Men may not recognize how much their symptoms affect them, or they may not want to admit that they’re depressed. But ignoring, suppressing or masking depression with unhealthy behavior won't make it go away.manly to express feelings and emotions associated with depression, and instead you try to suppress them.

  3. Resisting mental health treatment. Even if you suspect you have depression, you may avoid diagnosis or refuse treatment. You may avoid getting help because you're worried that the stigma of depression could damage your career or cause family and friends to lose respect for you.

Asking for help for men can be hard. But without treatment, depression is unlikely to go away, and it may get worse.

Untreated depression can cause problems in multiple areas of life, including health, career, relationships and personal safety.

There is hope . . . Depression in men can be successfully reduce with the use of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and at times combined with medication.  A highly trained therapist in Burbank can assist you with referrals to appropriate doctors to help treat your depression and teach you skills that can help you cope with the symptoms of depression.  

Learn more about how therapy helps depression, contact Hope Therapy Center today.

Photo by Ethan Sykes

What is Grief?

By definition grief is “deep sorrow”.  Most commonly people associate grief with the death of a loved one.  However there are many other moments in life where you may find yourself grieving.  Grief can come after the end of a marriage/relationship, the loss of a pet, a debilitating injury, an early miscarried pregnancy, the inability to have children, the discovery a child has special needs, or sometimes people grieve for a parent who was never present in their life- maybe a parent they never met.  Grief can take on many forms and one type is not more difficult than another to experience.  All are tough.

As humans we like to make meaning of the world around us.  We like to intellectualize, and put the confusing world we live in into concrete terms.  After the death of a loved one you may hear people say, “He died so quickly, it is so much easier knowing he didn’t suffer”.  You may also hear, “He lived a long life, and it is so much easier knowing we all had enough time to say goodbye”.  Whether your loved one was taken unexpectedly or they had a terminal illness and you had time to prepare- the deep sorrow felt after the loss is no easier in either scenario.  As humans, we try to find a way to have grief make sense.  Maybe there is a lesson to be learned.  Maybe this happened for a reason.  Sometimes bad things just happen and we are left to pick up the pieces. 

Close up of woman crying in grief over the death of a loved one.

What are the stages of grief?

If you are experiencing grief you may recognize yourself in one of these stages. The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.

Denial - In this stage, the world becomes overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible.

Anger - Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. Underneath anger is pain.

Bargaining - Bargaining is wanting life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored, our marriage saved. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. The “if onlys” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss.

Depression - In this stage empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of.  Your deep sorrow may be a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response.

Acceptance - This stage is about accepting the reality that we have experienced deep sorrow and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it.  Acceptance does not mean you will never shed another tear, but it does mean that life begins to move again. 

Remember, how someone experiences grief is as unique as they are. Keep in mind, these stages are not linear.  There is not a defined order. You may experience them all, or only a few.  What you may consider deep sorrow may be different for you than it is for another.  It is important to know that all feelings are ok and need to be expressed.

How can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) help with grief?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to help you understand your thoughts and feelings experienced through the grieving process. This type of therapy is designed to encourage the exploration of feelings about the occurrence in order to deal with anger and anxiety resulting from the event.  Many times therapists provide clients techniques for relaxation and coping to help manage feelings of anxiety and depression. You may learn how to think about your loss in a new way and reach a point where you are able to accept it and move forward in your life.

Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? The ending of a marriage/relationship? Hope Therapy Center specializes in CBT and grief counseling.  Contact us today. 

Understanding Bipolar

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a psychological condition which affects your mood and creates two extremes. Your mood goes from a state of mania, where you are extremely impulsive, charged, and excitable; to a state of depression, where you feel low self-esteem, low self-worth, and are unable to get energized enough to do anything. This can be very harmful as it may interfere with a person’s daily life.

This is not to be confused with regular mood swings, as those are mild to moderate. Bipolar is extreme, and both states can be very harmful to the patient as their elevated or depressed mood can affect their perceptions, judgment, and actions, along with many other aspects of their lives.

Mania and depression may not occur evenly. Many people are more depressed and their manic periods are shorter, or may be so moderate that they are virtually indistinguishable from stabilized mood. Others may experience the opposite.

Sad woman sits alone outdoors.

Symptoms

Bipolar can affect one's quality of life when not treated properly, and if you begin to notice these symptoms in yourself, or in any of your loved ones, seek out a proper diagnosis as early detection can save them so much suffering. The symptoms are divided into those of mania (or hypomania) and those of bipolar depression.

Mania/Hypomain (symptoms lasting at least 4 days)

  •  Unusual optimism and happiness

  • Sleeping less but feeling energized

  • Talking excitedly and very fast

  • Jumping from one thought to another very quickly

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Acting impulsive and reckless

  • Grandiose and unrealistic ideas

  • Delusions and hallucinations

Depression

  • Feeling unusually irritable

  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

  • Fatigue and loss of energy

  • Changes in weight and appetite

  • Changes in sleep pattern

  • Low self-worth and esteem problems

  • Feeling hopeless, guilty, sad, and empty

  • Inability to remember things

  • Sluggishness of thoughts and actions

  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

If you are beginning to experience any of these symptoms, or have noticed them in someone close to you, it’s time to take action.

Causes of Bipolar

There is no one factor that can be singled out as the cause of bipolar disorder, and there are number of theories and studies that suggest multiple causes for the disorder. Some people are genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder, but this is not the only factor because studies with identical twins (who have the same genetic make-up) have proved that this is not always true.

Environmental and psychological occurrences, known as triggers, can cause bipolar as well. They include, but are not limited to, sleep deprivation, certain medicines, seasonal changes, trauma, stress, and substance abuse.

There are studies which document the chemical changes in the body of a diagnosed bipolar patient. Serotonin and dopamine levels, as well as other hormonal and neurotransmitter changes are sometimes thought to cause the disorder.

Living with Bipolar

People who say that bipolar disorder diminishes the quality of one’s life are wrong. Yes, having bipolar is challenging, and can lead one to do impulsive things like quit their job or take life-threatening risks; alongside suicidal thoughts and attempts. Therapy for bipolar disorder is helpful for learning to identify triggers and develop good coping skills to lessen the affects of Bipolar disorder. My clients find that when they learn to manage their symptoms properly, bipolar disorder does not prevent them from living a happy, successful, and fulfilling life.

Photo by Kyle Broad

Is Your Teen Struggling With Depression?

Teens are moody, they get sad, and they are reserved. But “depressed” is not a word to use lightly. Understand that Depression is a clinically diagnosed illness, and it may have nothing to do with outside circumstances. Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, wrote, “Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.” This means that the feeling of depression is so overpowering, it feels entirely out of context to what is happening around you, and you may feel as though you are grieving when there is nothing, externally, to grieve about. The brilliant poet and author, Sylvia Plath, was successful in her career, had a beautiful young daughter, and a husband she loved, but her suicide is well-documented: she stuck her head into an oven one day and gassed herself to death. One of her most famous quotes is "Is there no way out of the mind?"

If your teenager is depressed, this is serious and requires care the way a physical illness like cancer would. Do not take depression lightly and expect your child to “snap out of it”, because that doesn’t happen.

Here’s how you can tell if your teenager is struggling with depression:

Father talks with a depressed, moody teenager who is non-responsive.

Common Symptoms

If your teenager is exhibiting certain changes in sleeping and eating patterns, irritability, uncharacteristic quietness, frequent crying, lethargy, and a general air of sadness, it’s important to keep an eye on them and document their moods and actions. If these signs persist for more than two weeks, contact a specialist who has the qualifications to correctly diagnose your child, as well as a medical practitioner who can rule out other possibilities. They may require medication, or therapy, or even a combination of both. A therapist that specializes in teen therapy can help you understand your teen and their depression.  Understanding how depression is affecting your teen can help improve your relationship. Teen therapy can help with teaching your teen how to cope with depression.

Side-Effects

Due to depression, your teen’s grades may be falling; they may lose interest in their friends and other social activities, and may be spending more and more time in isolation. Finding a new peer group, or engaging in new and dangerous activities like sneaking out are probably not signs of depression, because a depressed person has no energy to even get out of bed and dress every day. Depression, however, can lead to drug abuse or alcohol consumption in order to numb the mental anguish, and left untreated could lead to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. People don’t die of suicide, they die of sadness; and depression is a sadness so great it takes over every aspect of your life and grows around you like a vine.

Parents can help the most by not shrugging off depression as moodiness, and not blame themselves or their children. If you see signs of depression, talk to your teen and try to understand what they say, and also what they aren’t saying. Seek help, and just be there for your child, even if you don’t know what to do.