- Helping Someone with Depression
- Your support and encouragement can play an important role in your loved one’s recovery. Here’s how to make a difference.
- Recognizing depression symptoms in a loved one
- How to talk to someone about depression
- The risk of suicide is real
- Encouraging the person to get help
- Supporting your loved one’s treatment
- Taking care of yourself
- Need support? Contact the Samaritans
- The Fix
- 7 Strategies for Dealing with a Depressive Episode
- 1. Don’t panic
- 2. Know your red flags
- 3. Remember that depression is an illness
- 4. Realize that these feelings won’t last
- 5. Practice self-care
- 6. Know when to ask for help
- 7. You are not your depression
- 7 things your depressed wife desperately needs you to know
- Explaining depression to those who matter most
- How to Explain Depression to a Loved One Who Doesn’t Understand
- Depression (The Truth about Depression that No One Sees or Understands)
Helping Someone with Depression
Your support and encouragement can play an important role in your loved one’s recovery. Here’s how to make a difference.
Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it but also impacting everyone around them.
If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you neglect your own health, it can become overwhelming.
That said, your companionship and support can be crucial to your loved one’s recovery. You can help them to cope with depressions symptoms, overcome negative thoughts, and regain their energy, optimism, and enjoyment of life. Start by learning all you can about depression and how to best talk about it with your friend or family member. But as you reach out, don’t forget to look after your own emotional health—you’ll need it to provide the full support your loved one needs.
Understanding depression in a friend or family member
Depression is a serious condition. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will.
The symptoms of depression aren’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people they love the most. It’s also common for depressed people to say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally.
Hiding the problem won’t make it go away. It doesn’t help anyone involved if you try making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment.
Your loved one isn’t lazy or unmotivated. When you’re suffering from depression, just thinking about doing the things that may help you to feel better can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action. Have patience as you encourage your loved one to take the first small steps to recovery.
You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. As much as you may want to, you can’t rescue someone from depression nor fix the problem for them. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s depression or responsible for their happiness (or lack thereof). While you can offer love and support, ultimately recovery is in the hands of the depressed person.
Recognizing depression symptoms in a loved one
Family and friends are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. That’s why it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice the problem in a depressed loved one before they do, and your influence and concern can motivate them to seek help.
Be concerned if your loved one…
Doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore. Has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities. Has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
Expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life. Is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody; talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.”
Frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain. Or complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
Sleeps less than usual or oversleeps. Has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and “out of it.”
Eats more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
Drinks more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers.
How to talk to someone about depression
Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to someone about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries the person will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.
If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” your friend or family member; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about their feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment.
Don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
Ways to start the conversation:
“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
“I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.”
Questions you can ask:
“When did you begin feeling like this?”
“Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
“How can I best support you right now?”
“Have you thought about getting help?”
Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that they will understand and can respond to while in a depressed state of mind.
Tips for Talking about Depression
What you CAN say that helps:
- “You’re not alone. I’m here for you during this tough time.”
- “It may be hard to believe right now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”
- “Please tell me what I can do now to help you.”
- “Even if I’m not able to understand exactly how you feel, I care about you and want to help.”
- “You’re important to me. Your life is important to me.”
- “When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, or minute—whatever you can manage.”
What you should AVOID saying:
- “This is all in your head”
- “Everyone goes through tough times.”
- “Try to look on the bright side.”
- “Why do you want to die when you have so much to live for?”
- “I can’t do anything about your situation.”
- “Just snap out of it.”
- “You should be feeling better by now.”
The risk of suicide is real
What to do in a crisis situation
If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave them alone.
In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
In other countries, call your country’s emergency services number or visit IASP to find a suicide prevention helpline.
It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain they’re feeling.
Since suicide is a very real danger when someone is depressed, it’s important to know the warning signs:
- Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself; a preoccupation with death
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
- Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways
- Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye
- Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects
- A sudden sense of calm after depression
If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, don’t wait, talk to them about your concerns. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a person’s life, so speak up if you’re concerned and seek professional help immediately!
Encouraging the person to get help
While you can’t control someone else’s recovery from depression, you can start by encouraging the depressed person to seek help. Getting a depressed person into treatment can be difficult. Depression saps energy and motivation, so even the act of making an appointment or finding a doctor can seem daunting to your loved one. Depression also involves negative ways of thinking. The depressed person may believe that the situation is hopeless and treatment pointless.
Because of these obstacles, getting your loved one to admit to the problem—and helping them see that it can be solved—is an essential step in depression recovery.
If your friend or family member resists getting help:
Suggest a general check-up with a physician. Your loved one may be less anxious about seeing a family doctor than a mental health professional. A regular doctor’s visit is actually a great option, since the doctor can rule out medical causes of depression. If the doctor diagnoses depression, they can refer your loved one to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, this “professional” opinion makes all the difference.
Offer to help the depressed person find a doctor or therapist and go with them on the first visit. Finding the right treatment provider can be difficult, and is often a trial-and-error process. For a depressed person already low on energy, it is a huge help to have assistance making calls and looking into the options.
Encourage your loved one to make a thorough list of symptoms and ailments to discuss with the doctor. You can even bring up things that you have noticed as an outside observer, such as, “You seem to feel much worse in the mornings,” or “You always get stomach pains before work.”
Supporting your loved one’s treatment
One of the most important things you can do to help a friend or relative with depression is to give your unconditional love and support throughout the treatment process. This involves being compassionate and patient, which is not always easy when dealing with the negativity, hostility, and moodiness that go hand in hand with depression.
Provide whatever assistance the person needs (and is willing to accept). Help your loved one make and keep appointments, research treatment options, and stay on schedule with any treatment prescribed.
Have realistic expectations. It can be frustrating to watch a depressed friend or family member struggle, especially if progress is slow or stalled. Having patience is important. Even with optimal treatment, recovery from depression doesn’t happen overnight.
Lead by example. Encourage the person to lead a healthier, mood-boosting lifestyle by doing it yourself: maintain a positive outlook, eat better, avoid alcohol and drugs, exercise, and lean on others for support.
Encourage activity. Invite your loved one to join you in uplifting activities, like going to a funny movie or having dinner at a favorite restaurant. Exercise is especially helpful, so try to get your depressed loved one moving. Going on walks together is one of the easiest options. Be gently and lovingly persistent—don’t get discouraged or stop asking.
Pitch in when possible. Seemingly small tasks can be very hard for someone with depression to manage. Offer to help out with household responsibilities or chores, but only do what you can without getting burned out yourself!
Taking care of yourself
There’s a natural impulse to want to fix the problems of people we care about, but you can’t control someone else’s depression. You can, however, control how well you take care of yourself. It’s just as important for you to stay healthy as it is for the depressed person to get treatment, so make your own well-being a priority.
Remember the advice of airline flight attendants: put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. In other words, make sure your own health and happiness are solid before you try to help someone who is depressed. You won’t do your friend or family member any good if you collapse under the pressure of trying to help. When your own needs are taken care of, you’ll have the energy you need to lend a helping hand.
Speak up for yourself. You may be hesitant to speak out when the depressed person in your life upsets you or lets you down. However, honest communication will actually help the relationship in the long run. If you’re suffering in silence and letting resentment build, your loved one will pick up on these negative emotions and feel even worse. Gently talk about how you’re feeling before pent-up emotions make it too hard to communicate with sensitivity.
Set boundaries. Of course you want to help, but you can only do so much. Your own health will suffer if you let your life be controlled by your loved one’s depression. You can’t be a caretaker round the clock without paying a psychological price. To avoid burnout and resentment, set clear limits on what you are willing and able to do. You are not your loved one’s therapist, so don’t take on that responsibility.
Stay on track with your own life. While some changes in your daily routine may be unavoidable while caring for your friend or relative, do your best to keep appointments and plans with friends. If your depressed loved one is unable to go on an outing or trip you had planned, ask a friend to join you instead.
Seek support. You are NOT betraying your depressed relative or friend by turning to others for support. Joining a support group, talking to a counselor or clergyman, or confiding in a trusted friend will help you get through this tough time. You don’t need to go into detail about your loved one’s depression or betray confidences; instead focus on your emotions and what you are feeling. Make sure you can be totally honest with the person you turn to—choose someone who will listen without interruption and without judging you.
For a person who does not have depression, understanding it will be a challenge – but thankfully, not impossible. When people opens up their heart and mind to educating themselves about depression, it is a positive step forward into developing an acceptance of it in society. What’s more, their powerful action can encourage generations in the future to advocate for its importance.
This is how to explain depression to someone who doesn’t understand:
It’s a mental illness, not a mindset or choice
One common assumption associated with depression is the fact that it is a mindset that can be overcome with positive thoughts – but that couldn’t be any farther away from the truth; people cannot just “get over” their depression by changing their attitude. Depression is a legitimate mental illness that is caused by environmental factors, personal circumstances, or genetic and biological elements. For example, sometimes people will have depression because they had a traumatic experience in life, arecurrently in a situation that continually puts them in a lousy headspace, or their brain chemistry is off-balance. In a nutshell, no one chooses to have depression.
Disassociating from reality is a common occurrence
Depression tends to make a person produce irrational thoughts about themselves, that consequently, causes disassociation from reality and the truth. For example, depression provokes feelings of worthlessness which can trigger suicidal idealization or even propel someone to attempt suicide. Additionally, individuals with depression naturally isolate themselves from relationships and interactions with other people because they may believe they are a burden due to their depression. In reality, they are worthy and are not a burden to the people they love. Their minds just make them believe otherwise.
“I am more aware of my feelings than you think”
Individuals with depression know that they need to be positive to have a good day, but deciding to maintain a positive attitude is much more complicated and difficult for them. It’s a thousand times harder since depression depletes motivation. The most heartbreaking thing for someone is being well-aware of depression, but not feeling any desire to participate in the activities that once made him/her happy or the fact that sometimes, he/she suddenly experiences depressive symptoms without an apparent reason.
Seeking help is not easy
Because mental illness has a prominent and negative stigma in society, it discourages individuals from seeking help. Admitting you have depression is one of the most frightening and intimidating things to do; and since this is the case for the majority of people with depression, many of them do not seek help in the first place. Furthermore, anybody would initially feel uncomfortable at the idea of talking to a therapist or taking medication since doing so might express they have “given up” or they need pills to upkeep their mood. Nothing is wrong with admitting you need help or have depression, and it certainly should not be looked down upon to take medication. But to this day, people are still afraid to associate themselves with any sort of mental illness because they do not want others to think poorly of them or be outcasted.
The most common actions feel like the most incredible achievements
Getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating a meal, and even brushing one’s teeth are milestones for individuals with depression. What is easy and routine to another is the most challenging act of the day for some. Depression always drains a person’s emotional and mental energy, which can make any simple act feel like the tallest mountain to climb.
Depression is difficult to explain to a person who has not experienced it. However, what matters most is that there are conversations about depression in the first place. Hopefully, one day, sadness and depression and other mental illnesses, for that matter, won’t feel like taboo topics. Instead, they will be crucial subjects to approach, and taking care of one’s mental health will always be just as important as maintaining physical well-being.
You can find Trevor on LinkedIn or his website.
How do you explain depression to someone who hasn’t experienced it? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
Anyone who has depression will be the first to tell you it’s an absolute hoot. A LOL-riot. A gala of pleasure. A carnival of tomfoolery. A fun jamboree!
Realistically… not so much. If you’re friends with someone who’s suffering then they probably find it pretty difficult to talk about it at all, let alone explain what it’s actually like to live with.
Even more confusingly for anyone who’s never experienced it themselves, it affects every sufferer completely differently and at different levels of intensity.
As someone who has suffered pretty badly in the past, I’d describe it the same as any other illness you can think of, in regards to it sometimes being very bad, and sometimes it eases off a bit if it’s treated properly.
Unfortunately, sometimes it also never goes away and can end in fatality, just like other illnesses that can often be terminal.
As it’s an illness with such differing symptoms in everyone who goes through it, it can be frustratingly difficult to try to empathise with what a loved one is experiencing. Here are a few accounts from those who have suffered or who are suffering – if you’re trying to understand it, hopefully these will help. If you’re trying to explain it, then likewise.
My experience of depression right now, as it’s more manageable, is one of just not feeling… anything.
Having no real emotional change in any major way about anything that happens to or around you, and constantly feeling like nothing is worth any effort and wondering why you continue to exist.
When it was really horrific it was more like being stabbed in the chest with a giant fountain pen of pain and misery (dramatic, yeah, I know) and feeling the white hot pain coarse through every vein. I manage it now with medication, exercise and therapy, so the pen’s gone.
I’d describe depression as a thick mental fog you have to wade through to get even the simplest of tasks done. Sometimes small jobs like going to the supermarket or making a phone call feel enormous because you’re so exhausted from your internal battle.
You have to go easy on yourself on the hard days and know that they will eventually pass.
When depression is combined with anxiety (as it is for many people) it’s like spending every minute of the day with someone by your side who constantly puts you down and tells you the worst case scenario will definitely happen.
Telling someone how you’re feeling is the first step (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
Depression is something that can creep up on you. You could be having a great day, and then out of nowhere, you feel like shit. When I went through a bout of depression, how I’d feel in the morning was basically a lottery.
I always kept questioning why I was feeling so rubbish. Just like with a physical injury, like a bruise, you always try and figure where it came from. But depression is much harder to figure out.
When you’re in that ‘hole’ – your negative emotions affect everything you’re doing. Whatever you’re working on seems hopeless, all motivation goes and it’s pretty hard to get out of bed.
It’s not your job to fix your friend, but you can still be there for them. Don’t start any sentence with, ‘Have you tried…’ It’s enough to say, ‘This is a turd of a situation for you. I love you and I’m here for you.’
It’s not having a bad day, feeling a bit down or feeling sad about something. It’s a pervasive feeling of utter worthlessness and inability to feel joy in anything.
I could go through the motions – smiling, laughing, cracking jokes, doting on my newborn – and would recognise joyful situations and know that I should feel joy, but I wouldn’t actually feel it.
I was an expert at concealing it and close friends and colleagues were shocked when I finally told them I had felt suicidal for months.
Depression for me is like trying to exist in the same room as a Dementor, credit: J.K.Rowling for creating a creature that portrays this so terrifyingly well. It sucks all of the joy and worth out of life, until all I can see is the negative.
It’s not that I don’t believe all of the good things about my life, I just lose sight of them completely.
It’s like swimming in a lake and getting stuck under such a thick amount of pond weed that you don’t actually know which way is up anymore, and you can’t breathe or think or work out which way to swim.
I get so that I can’t care about anything, because it makes me too sad. That all I feel I can do is cry. My brain is trying to work out why I don’t need to be around anymore, how I can destroy any shreds of joy that I might be aware of, just so I can check out.
Logically I know that I have lots of reasons to be happy, and to be around, but it’s so hard to fight the creeping blackness because it offers peace and calm.
A good friend won’t judge (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
It’s like trying to describe the colour blue without saying ‘blue’ or pointing to anything blue!
I have compared it to feeling paralysed or trying to move through mud. Making decisions is extremely difficult and not just big life decisions – I mean deciding to stand up from sitting down, deciding to make a cup of tea, deciding to brush your teeth – the decision switch is always somewhere in the middle.
In a sentence, on my worst days I feel nothing about everything. I feel nothing about everything, and if I feel no predictable positive consequence of an action or decision then… why bother?
I didn’t understand depression initially. I thought it was just like being in a bad mood all the time but it’s drastically different.
The way of thinking about it that made most sense to me is breaking it down to a chemical imbalance, whereby there are a large number of factors all changing constantly that have to be managed and will ultimately dictate your headspace.
By factors, I mean things like friendships, career/school, relationships, home life, financial situation, exercise/diet, body image, etc.
Sometimes a large change to one of these factors can trigger depression and other times, the chemicals simply become imbalanced because they just do.
Just like how a pancreas can inexplicably cease the production of insulin leading to diabetes, neurotransmitters can stop being produced leading to depression.
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, you can find a qualified local counsellor in your area with Counselling Directory. Mental health charity Mind also offer counselling services, and you can call The Samaritans on 116 123 (UK and ROI). The NHS even have a little quiz you can take. If you can, visit your GP for further advice.
To talk about mental health in a private, judgement-free zone, join our Mentally Yours Facebook group.
Need support? Contact the Samaritans
For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
MORE: How to start exercising to help with your mental health
MORE: Yes, your hilarious friend can still be depressed
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7 Strategies for Dealing with a Depressive Episode
I live with depression. Sometimes it’s major, sometimes it’s minor, and sometimes I can’t tell if I have it at all. But I’ve been clinically diagnosed for over 13 years, so I have gotten to know it pretty well.
Depression presents itself differently in each person. For me, depression feels like a deep, heavy sadness. Like a thick fog that slowly rolls in and envelops every part of me. It’s so hard to see my way out, and it blocks my vision of a positive future or even a tolerable present.
Through many years of treatment, I have worked hard to understand how I feel when depression comes back, and I’ve learned how to take the best care of myself when I feel sick.
1. Don’t panic
“For me, depression has been nothing short of devastating. It’s hard not to freak out when I feel it coming on.”
When I feel that first tinge of sadness, or when I feel more tired than usual, alarm bells start to go off in my head: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, NOT DEPRESSIONNNNNN!!!!!!”
For me, depression has been nothing short of devastating. It’s hard not to freak out when I feel it coming on. When I remember how sick I was, the thought of a relapse is absolutely terrifying —especially if I have been having a really good, upbeat streak. I feel my thoughts start to race ahead to the worst-case scenario, and a panicked feeling grows in my chest.
This is a critical moment for me. This is a moment when I do have a choice. I have to stop and take a very deep breath. And then 10 more. I talk to myself, sometimes out loud, and tap into my own strength and past experience. The conversation goes something like this: It’s OK to be scared of getting depressed again. It’s natural to feel anxious. You are a survivor. Remember how much you have learned. Whatever happens next, know that you can handle it.
2. Know your red flags
“When I notice these warning signs, I try to pause and reflect on what might be triggering the thoughts or behaviors.”
I have found it necessary to understand what my thoughts and behaviors are like when I start to spiral downward. This helps me catch myself before I hit the bottom. My first red flag is catastrophic thinking: Nobody understands me. Everyone else has it easier than me. I will never get over this. Who cares? It doesn’t matter how hard I try. I’ll never be good enough.
Once I start thinking or saying things like this, I know that my depression is flaring up. Another clue is if my energy is low for several days and I find it hard to complete daily tasks, like cleaning, showering, or cooking dinner.
When I notice these warning signs, I try to pause and reflect on what might be triggering the thoughts or behaviors. I talk to someone, like my family or my therapist.
While it’s tempting to ignore red flags, I have found that it’s super important to acknowledge and explore them. For me, avoiding or denying them only makes depression worse further on down the line.
3. Remember that depression is an illness
“Shifting my perspective has helped me to react with less fear when my symptoms present themselves. They make more sense within the context of depression as a legitimate medical condition.”
For a long time, I didn’t think of depression as an illness. It felt more like a personal defect that I needed to try to get over. Looking back, I can see that this perspective made the symptoms of my depression feel even more overwhelming. I didn’t view my feelings or experiences as symptoms of an illness. Sadness, guilt, and isolation loomed large, and my panicked reaction magnified their effects.
Through a lot of reading and conversation, I have come to accept that depression is, in fact, an illness. And for me, one that needs to be treated with both medication and therapy. Shifting my perspective has helped me to react with less fear when my symptoms present themselves. They make more sense within the context of depression as a legitimate medical condition.
I still feel sad, afraid, and lonely, but I am able to recognize those feelings as connected to my illness and as symptoms that I can respond to with self-care.
4. Realize that these feelings won’t last
“Allowing myself to feel the depression and accept its presence alleviates some of my suffering.”
One of the hardest features of depression is that it makes you think it will never end. Which is what makes the onset so scary. A difficult piece of my work in therapy has been accepting that I have a mental illness and building my ability to tolerate it when it flares up.
As much as I wish it would, depression won’t just disappear. And somehow, as counterintuitive as it seems, allowing myself to feel the depression and accept its presence alleviates some of my suffering.
For me, the symptoms don’t last forever. I have made it through depression before and, as gut-wrenching as it was, I can do it again. I tell myself that it is OK to feel sad, angry, or frustrated.
5. Practice self-care
“I practice coping skills every day, not just when I am at my worst. This is what makes them more effective when I do have an episode of depression.”
For a long time, I ignored and denied my symptoms. If I felt exhausted, I pushed myself harder, and if I felt inadequate, I took on even more responsibility. I had a lot of negative coping skills, like drinking, smoking, shopping, and overworking. And then one day I crashed. And burned.
It took me two years to recover. Which is why, today, nothing is more important to me than self-care. I had to start from the bottom and rebuild my life in a healthier, more authentic way.
For me, self-care means being honest about my diagnosis. I don’t lie anymore about having depression. I honor who I am and what I live with.
Self-care means saying no to others when I am feeling overloaded. It means making time to relax, to exercise, to create, and to connect with others. Self-care is using all my senses to soothe and recharge myself, body, mind, and spirit.
And I practice coping skills every day, not just when I am at my worst. This is what makes them more effective when I do have an episode of depression; they work because I’ve been practicing.
6. Know when to ask for help
“I believe that I deserve help in treating my depression, and I recognize that I can’t do it on my own.”
Depression is serious. And for some people, like my dad, depression is fatal. Suicidal thoughts are a common symptom of depression. And I know that if and when I have them, they are not to be ignored. If I ever have the thought that I would be better off dead, I know that this is the most serious of red flags. I tell someone I trust immediately and I reach out for more professional support.
I believe that I deserve help in treating my depression, and I recognize that I can’t do it on my own. In the past, I’ve used a personal safety plan that outlined specific steps I would take in the event of suicidal thoughts. This was a very helpful tool. Other red flags that indicate I need to step up my professional help are:
- frequent crying
- prolonged withdrawal from family or friends
- no desire to go to work
I always keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (800-273-8255) programmed into my cellphone, so that I have someone to call at any minute of the day or night.
While suicidal thoughts don’t mean that suicide is inevitable, it’s so very important to act immediately when they come up.
- If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- • Stay with the person until help arrives.
- • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
- If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
7. You are not your depression
“It’s critical for me to remember that I deserve to, and will, feel better.”
I am not my diagnosis or my mental illness. I am not depression, I just have depression. When I am feeling especially blue, this is something I say to myself every day.
Depression impacts our thinking and makes it difficult to appreciate the whole picture of who we are. Remembering that I am not depression puts some of the power back into my hands. I am reminded that I have so much strength, ability, and compassion to use in support of myself when depression strikes.
While I can’t control my symptoms and while nothing is more difficult for me than experiencing depression, it’s critical for me to remember that I deserve to, and will, feel better. I have become an expert in my own experience. Developing awareness, acceptance, self-care, and support have shifted the way that I cope with depression.
To paraphrase one of my favorite internet memes: “I have survived 100 percent of my worst days. So far I’m doing great.”
Amy Marlow lives with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. A version of this article first appeared on her blog, Blue Light Blue, which was named one of Healthline’s best depression blogs.
7 things your depressed wife desperately needs you to know
“Don’t give up on me.” That’s what Becci Nicholls begged her husband not to do in a letter she wrote on her blog, titled “To The Husband With A Depressed Wife”. In the letter Becci asked her husband to not give up on her, to keep telling her that she is a wonderful person.
“I know you prefer the good days when I am happy and not anxious or snappy, and I wish I could have these days everyday, but I can’t. I feel the cloud approaching, and it petrifies me. Sometimes I tell you, and sometimes I don’t. Please if you notice the cloud before I tell you just hug me tight and tell me we will fight the cloud together. Please don’t ask me if I am OK, my automatic answer will be yes when in reality it is a big NO. Depression makes you feel ashamed you see.”
If your wife has depression, there will be times where she will feel like Becci. There will be times where she just can’t explain why she is sad or angry. There are things she wants to tell you, but can’t. Here are seven things your wife needs you to understand:
1. She’s not OK
Watch your wife to know how she is feeling. Know when she is falling into depression, when she is coming out of a bout of depression or when she is having a good day. If she is falling into a bout of depression, start paying attention more. She is more likely to get angry and emotional. She is clearly not OK during this time.
Instead of asking how she is doing, find out how you can help her. This will show that you care without making her feel like she needs to hide her depression.
2. She needs to talk about it
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having depression, but someone struggling will often feel like a failure, so they won’t talk about it.
Depression also affects people differently for varying amounts of times. Try to understand how your wife feels and thinks while she is depressed. This will therapeutic for her, but will also help you understand how to help her in the future.
3. She can’t fake it till she makes it
Faking happiness usually helps someone feel happy, but it often doesn’t work for people with depression. Your wife may be faking it to try to be a better mother, wife or friend, but in the end she will completely fall apart.
The stress of the world’s judgement can be lifted when you allow her to be genuine with you. Use these moments of honesty and openness to hold her close and remind her that you love her.
4. She isn’t thinking clearly
Depression affects how a person processes the world around them. It’s often referred to as a black cloud that consumes a person’s brain. Everything good vanishes and everything negative overwhelms you.
In Becci’s letter she talks about an old urge she will have to self harm. She says, “I know it’s hard to understand why I crave it, I can’t explain it myself if I am totally honest. It’s like an old addiction that comes to hurt me when it smells the dark cloud. One day I hope it won’t ever cross my mind again.”
If your wife is struggling and saying things that aren’t logical, don’t make light of her struggles. Help her see how wonderful she is. She needs that support from you to get through her day.
5. She needs you on her team
Your wife is fighting depression, and she needs you to fight her depression too. So talk to her, help her get out of bed in the morning and send her texts to tell her how amazing she is. Let her know you are grateful for her.
This doesn’t mean that you avoid hard conversations about things you need her to do. No, this just means you need to give her a little extra support. Encourage her to go to a therapist, and join her when she asks. She needs you on the front lines to help her battle the overwhelming creature called depression.
6. She needs a break
There will be times your wife just needs to get away and relax. She will need a break from all the stress in the world. This will help her put things into perspective.
7. She needs you to love her
The most important thing you can do for your wife is to love her. Love her with everything you have. This love will be her greatest support during the hard times.
Having a wife with depression is far from easy, but if she loves you and you love her then it’s worth it. Remember, you can make things better.
Becci’s letter summed up the role of a husband by saying:
“Sometimes it takes every bit of motivation to even get up in the morning, but I never let you in on this. A new day often scares me. I wonder will I cope? Will the sky be blue or black? Is the weather nice? The weather really affects my feelings and I do not know why! Every single morning is hard, but seeing you makes it easier.”
Your wife loves you and she needs to know you love her too. So, tell her and say it often.
Read Becci’s full letter here.
Stacie Simpson is a journalism student. She loves listening to, gathering and sharing stories and advice to help others improve their quality of life. She spends most of her free time with her husband, ballroom dancing, reading and writing.
Explaining depression to those who matter most
Recently I was trying to explain to my partner what it was like to struggle with depression. He was finding it hard to understand. ‘But you look normal,’ he said. It’s true. I haven’t got a plaster cast on my leg, or a sling on my arm, or a bandage on my head. But I’m hurting all the same. Being physically ill or injured is acceptable in society yet being mentally ill is a silent hidden illness. It is seen as a sign of weakness by many and often still a taboo subject.
I have always been open and honest about my experiences, but I know plenty of people who have hidden their problems for months or years for fear of being judged. ‘But people think I’ve got it all,’ a friend confided in me recently, ‘I’ve got no reason to be depressed.’ But it’s not about how much you’ve got. It’s an illness and it doesn’t care who it gets. Granted some people can find there are moments which triggered their depression – a difficult family history, early experiences and loss. But there’s no set ‘type’. In fact it’s often the strongest ones who keep on going and care for others who ‘get bit’ the most.
For me, my first proper episode of depression struck after the birth of my second child. I was struggling with a toddler and a colicky baby. It was hard and I felt broken, I went sobbing to the doctors when he was four months old. His colic was better, but I was not. I felt like a rubbish mother, a failure and that life would never get better. I got prescribed three months’ supply of Prozac and that was all that I was offered at the time. Things gradually got better but it came back each winter. The feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, wanting to hibernate, feeling like a failure and the snappiness and tearfulness that went with it.
My worst depression came during the breakup of my marriage three years ago. I hadn’t seen it coming and I was already depressed. This episode knocked me off my feet completely. I remember dark times of feeling completely alone, like a person on a cliff edge with the rocks crumbling around me into a stormy sea. I was drowning in despair and saw no light at the end of the tunnel for those darkest of weeks. My doctor helped me through the worst days saying that the medication was like ‘a life jacket keeping you afloat until the sea grew calmer.’ ‘You will get better,’ she said. I wanted to believe her but didn’t at the time. My world as I knew it was crumbling around me and I couldn’t even play with my children. I shut myself in my room, I didn’t want to see anyone.
Outside was noisy and scary and my appetite had vanished too. I lost half a stone in weight and thoughts of wanting to die went round and round my head. I told people this, but I don’t think anyone believed me. I eventually left one day, not knowing where I was going, I just drove. Then I got scared in my floods of tears, remembered my children at home with their Dad but without a Mum, and although I didn’t want to feel like this anymore, I didn’t want to die either, so I called the crisis team and an ambulance arrived.
It took some months to recover and move on, but I did. It takes time to rebuild your confidence and strength after such a bad experience. I was hoping I had seen the end of my depression, but I hadn’t, and it returned again this winter. Mildly at first but then in January I got bit badly, and I wasn’t prepared for it. I haven’t got time to be ill. I’m too busy. There are too many deadlines and too many people depend on me. I let things slip. I forgot I need to do regular exercise (I haven’t got time I told myself). I didn’t make time for friends (I’ve got to do this essay). I didn’t make time for relaxation (relaxation, what’s that?!)
I had started feeling anxious and tearful but ignored it. I took a herbal remedy and used a light box. I even had some counselling. ‘Relentless self-care’ was the message I ignored. It obviously wasn’t enough. Last week I broke down crying in work, over nothing really, an email. I locked myself in the toilet and shook. I couldn’t stop crying. I went home and felt exhausted and faint. And cried some more. I had blood tests as I was convinced I had anaemia. The results came back normal. I should have been happy but I was disappointed. I had pinned my hopes on it being a physical illness, one that could be remedied by taking iron or vitamin supplements. Instead I am stuck with the knowledge that it’s because of my mental health and I know I’ve got a lot of work to do to get better.
I have started on a different antidepressant. I’m gradually increasing the dosage to reduce the side effects but it won’t start to work for a few weeks. My friends are being supportive and when I’m with them, or my children, I don’t feel too bad, almost normal. But when I’m on my own the dark thoughts come back again and the fog of sadness and despair that saps me of energy and motivation.
It’s glorious sunshine outside but I’m sat inside my dark house trying to have a battle in my head about going out for a walk because it’s good for me. I’ve eaten a walnut whip for my lunch but can’t be bothered to make anything proper, even though I know it would be good for me. When I was well, and busy, I’d give anything for whole days to fill with fun things. Now I’m signed off work as I can’t concentrate and I find it hard to do the everyday tasks like keeping the house tidy and cooking proper meals. I keep a brave face most of the time for my children, trying hard not to scar them with my illness, already convinced I have damaged them with my depression in their infancy.
I think I have started to accept this as a disability that will bite me at times in my life if I do not take really good care of myself. And that I will need help at times to get through it. But I hope I don’t lose more people I love because of it, and that it doesn’t take away my dreams for the future or job aspirations. Ironically (or perhaps not) I am training to be a CBT therapist. I am hoping that my personal experience will help others gain control of their depression. That their black dogs can be trained so that they can still have fulfilling lives. So that they can be happy… As that’s what we all want really, isn’t it?
Standing on the sidelines when a partner battles depression can feel like a helpless experience. You might feel confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. You might feel like every attempt you make to “help” your partner is either rejected or, worse, ignored. You might even begin to feel responsible for your partner’s depression in some way. You are not alone.
Depression is an isolating illness that can negatively impact relationships and leave loved ones feeling helpless and afraid.
The mood in major depression is often described as sad, hopeless, discouraged, or feeling down, but it can also include persistent anger. Angry outbursts and blaming others is common. Social withdrawal and lack of interest or pleasure are common among depressed people. Family members notice that depressed people seem not to care about finding joy anymore.
All of these factors can make it difficult to know how to help a depressed partner. But your support is important. You can’t cure your partner’s depression, but you can help you partner along the road to recovery.
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Learn about depression
While the essential feature of major depressive disorder is a period of at least two weeks during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, depression is not a static illness. People with depression can have very good days, even a few good days in a row, only to experience significantly depressed mood once again. There is an ebb and flow to depression that isn’t always understood by loved ones.
Depression can include the following symptoms:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, or hopelessness
- Changes in appetite (including weight gain or loss)
- Sleep disturbance (sleeping too much or too little)
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Fatigue (even small tasks can require extra time)
- Anxiety or agitation
- Anger outbursts
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt (including ruminating on past events)
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Frequent thoughts of death, including suicidal thoughts
- Unexplained physical symptoms
An important first step in helping your partner is to understand the disease. Symptoms of depression can vary, and can change over time. You can certainly read about depression and consult a professional for more information, but the best way to understand how your partner experiences depression is to ask open-ended questions and use empathic listening.
You might feel like the best way to be helpful is to find the best available treatment in your area, find support groups, or talk to other people battling depression to find out what “works,” but often the best thing you can do for your partner is simply show up.
You don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay, but what you can do is sit and listen. You can hold your partner’s hand, offer hugs, and be present. You can respond with encouraging statements:
- “Tell me what I can do to help.”
- “You are important to me.”
- “I am here for you.”
- “We will get through this together.”
For many people with depression, symptoms are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in daily activities, such as work, school, social activities, or relationships. Other people, however, might not recognize that they’re depressed. They might not understand the symptoms of depression and think that their feelings are just something they have to endure.
All too often, people feel that they just have to will themselves better, but depression seldom improves without treatment. You can help your partner by encouraging treatment and being there during appointments.
Help your partner consider getting treatment by doing the following:
- Share the symptoms you’ve noticed.
- Express your concern.
- Express your willingness to help, including making and preparing for appointments.
- Discuss what you’ve learned about depression.
- Talk about treatment options, including psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Create a supportive home environment
It’s important to remember that your partner’s depression isn’t anyone’s fault. While you can’t fix it, your support will help your partner work through this difficult time.
Changes in lifestyle can make a big difference during the treatment process. Because depression can zap a person’s energy and affect both sleep and appetite, it can be difficult for depressed people to make healthy choices. You can help:
- Focus on healthy eating. Get your partner involved in planning and cooking healthy meals together to encourage better food choices.
- Exercise together. Daily exercise can boost your mood. Plan a daily walk or bike ride to inspire getting back to exercise.
- Help your partner stick with treatment. Whenever possible, drive to appointments together and sit in the waiting room. Psychotherapy can be emotionally exhausting in the early stages. Having support helps.
- Create a low stress environment. Routines can help depressed people feel more in control of their day-to-day lives. Consider creating a daily schedule to handle meals, medications, and chores.
- Make plans together. Depression can cause a loss of interest in pleasurable activities. To that end, depressed people sometimes avoid social interactions. Make a weekly date to rent a movie, go for a hike, or even play board games. Start small to help your loved one begin socializing again.
- Give positive reinforcement. When people feel hopeless, they tend to judge themselves harshly. Be sure to point out strengths and areas of improvement to help your partner see progress.
Focus on small goals
Depression feels overwhelming. When someone is severely depressed, even the act of getting out of bed can feel like a monumental task.
You can help your partner by setting and acknowledging small goals and daily achievements. Breaking down larger tasks (i.e. applying to new jobs) into smaller tasks (i.e. update resume, write cover letter, research available openings) can help your partner take small steps toward returning to normal daily activities. For people who struggle to get out of bed each day, focus on getting up, taking a shower, and eating a healthy meal. Your partner is likely to improve with treatment, but you will need to practice patience and understanding when working through a depressive episode.
Know the warning signs of suicide
The risk of suicide is always elevated during major depressive disorder. It’s important to know the red flags and get immediate medical assistance:
- Talking about suicide
- Getting a means to attempt suicide, such as purchasing a gun or stockpiling pills
- Extreme mood swings – very high one day and deeply discouraged the next
- Social withdrawal
- Preoccupied with thoughts of death
- Noticeable changes in normal daily routines
- Feeling overwhelmed with hopelessness
- Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior, including drug or alcohol abuse or reckless driving
- Giving away belongings
- Saying goodbye
- Getting affairs in order
- Developing personality changes
Caring for a partner with depression is emotionally taxing for the caregiver. It’s important to practice self-care and increase your own support network during this time.
Article Sources Last Updated: Feb 13, 2018
How to Explain Depression to a Loved One Who Doesn’t Understand
“Why are you acting like this?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“What happened to the person I married?”
None of those questions are comfortable to hear from your spouse or another loved one, but they can be particularly hard to bear if you are suffering from depression.
Depression affects many individuals and families in debilitating and sometimes even devastating ways, but one of the most difficult things about it is that it is so highly personal to each person who suffers from it — and such a mystery to many of the people who do not.
Explaining depression to a spouse can be hard. It can be frustrating. It can be embarrassing. And it can dredge up feelings of shame or failure, especially when you are trying to explain why you feel the way you feel — which you may not even know — or if you have contemplated suicide.
Just as there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for how people experience depression, there is no one single perfect method for how to explain depression to someone. Some people prefer to have a face-to-face conversation, and others are more comfortable writing a letter or email. But the important thing to remember is that making an effort at explaining depression to others can help them understand the way you feel, and it can help them know how to best give you love and support as you work through your mental illness and seek help for it.
Like other forms of mental illness, depression is difficult for people to understand because many of the symptoms are behavioral rather than physical. But remember that the way you feel and the things going on in your mind are no less real. Having depression is not a weakness or a failure; mental illness is just as real as physical illness, and it should be taken just as seriously by those who love you.
We at The Phoenix Recovery and Counseling Centers hope the following information will be helpful to everyone looking for ideas for explaining depression to a spouse or other loved ones.
Explaining depression in broad terms
To start off explaining depression to someone who doesn’t understand it, it can help if you can define what it is and how it can affect people in general.
Depression is not the same as sadness
Everyone has a bad day now and again or may feel extreme sadness from time to time. But sadness and other unpleasant emotions usually pass through the mind and disappear, while depression lingers for weeks or more. And beyond just impacting the way you feel, depression also carries a wide variety of symptoms that can affect day-to-day life at home, work or school.
Symptoms of depression
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following as symptoms of depression:
- Feeling sad or anxious often or all the time
- Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun
- Feeling irritable‚ easily frustrated‚ or restless
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Waking up too early or sleeping too much
- Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite
- Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Feeling tired‚ even after sleeping well
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself
Anyone can experience depression
Depression can affect any person at any age. Some factors are genetic, biological or environmental, but that’s not always the case. Major life changes can also trigger depression, even if they weren’t unexpected. According to the CDC, these are a few possible triggers for depression:
- Having a baby
- Death of a loved one
- Financial problems
- Health challenges
- Drug or alcohol use
Depression is widespread
According to the CDC, approximately 16 million adult Americans are affected by depression each year, and approximately 1 in 6 people will have depression at some point during their life.
Explaining depression in personal terms
How to describe depression on a personal level can be much more difficult than explaining depression broadly, because it involves trying to tell the person you love exactly what is going on in your mind, or explaining how tired you feel, or how you can’t find motivation to do things you used to love, or whatever you are experiencing. It’s also hard because thoughts that accompany depression are often irrational and can tap into your insecurities and fears, which can make you feel vulnerable in sharing them.
Describing your depression to someone who doesn’t have experience with mental illness is further complicated because on some level they may never understand what you’re going through. This can lead people to offer advice that, while well meant, isn’t helpful or even applicable to combating depression, such as to “Just be positive” or “Push through it.” Remember, depression isn’t just a state of mind; it’s a mental illness that needs care and treatment such as therapy or medication, or both, to bring about recovery.
Be patient as you explain your experience with depression to other people. It can be a good idea to set up a time to talk about your mental health when you and your loved one can devote your full attention to it, and when you have your thoughts organized so you can communicate clearly. Writing down your feelings at a time when you’re in the midst of feeling depressed can give you something concrete to draw on later in your discussion.
Empower your loved one to help you
When you’re thinking about how to explain depression and anxiety to your husband, wife or other loved one, make sure you consider ways the ones you love can help you to care for yourself and your mental health.
First, note that people try to help those they love in whatever way they think best, but with depression it can be difficult to know what to do. Here are a few ideas for ways a loved one may be able to help you:
- Reaffirm their love for you and your importance to them and others who love you
- Challenge your negative thought patterns
- Encourage you to re-engage with hobbies and friends you used to enjoy
- Remind you to be kind to yourself
- Celebrate the small victories, even if it’s just getting out of bed
- Ask you how you’re feeling and check in regularly
- Be an advocate for you, helping with explaining depression to others
- Help your fulfill your responsibilities around the home and to your family and loved ones
- Be your cheerleader as you seek professional help
On that last point, another thing about struggling with your mental health is that you may know how you would like to be treated but not what will help you toward finding peace and recovery. That’s why, as with any other health challenge, it’s important to seek out a medical professional to help you get treatment. If that’s the case, consider these points in your discussion with a loved one:
- Do you need help finding a doctor and setting an appointment?
- Would you like someone to go with you to your appointment?
- Do you need someone to watch your kids or home so you can go?
- Do you need someone to encourage you to go and help you to get there?
- What other hurdles do you need help overcoming on your way to getting help?
Explaining depression to a spouse, family member or other loved one is difficult, but their understanding and support can have an incredible impact toward helping you on your journey toward healing. We at The Phoenix Recovery and Counseling Centers wish you all the best with this important conversation and everything that follows.
By: Harris Walker
One of the main causes of depression is the feeling of being misunderstood. It leads to a terrible ongoing loneliness that doesn’t fade when you are surrounded by other people. You can be left feeling vulnerable and like you need to hide away from others, which just creates more of a feeling of not belonging or being liked.
How do you stop this vicious cycle of always thinking ‘nobody understands me’? First, you’ll need to be honest with yourself about why you are creating the cycle. Look at the 5 reasons below and see if they resonate. Then use the list of 10 ways to feel understood to start connecting with others sooner rather than later.
5 Reasons Why You Feel So Misunderstood
1. You are afraid of intimacy.
Do you find it hard to trust others, or worry that if you let someone close they will inevitably abandon you? It could be you are afraid of intimacy. And yes, even if you are friendly and outgoing, this could still be your root issue. Many socially adept people are intimacy phobic. Not letting people close to you then expecting them to understand you doesn’t work. It’s like expecting someone to cook you a meal but not letting them within ten feet of the stove. Read our guide to surprising signs that you might suffer from fear of intimacy here.
2. You are afraid of being judged.
If you had critical parents or teachers when growing up you might have been made to feel that you weren’t good enough no matter how hard you tried. Or perhaps you have a childhood you feel ashamed of because it was troubled. This can all lead to you being an adult who hides certain things about yourself in order to not be judged. We do need to use our judgement about who we open up around. But if you are cherry picking what bits of you to reveal to others for fear of being judged, you are not showing them a full picture they can understand.
3. You don’t trust others.
This is a by-product of both fear of intimacy and fear of being judged. It can also come from a childhood where you couldn’t trust the adults who were supposed to take care of you, or suffered either physical or emotional abuse. If you are projecting an energy of wariness, and people sense you won’t trust them, they might not feel puting in the effort to understand you is something you even want. It’s like you are wearing a sign declaring “I won’t let you close” , but still expecting them to try.
4. You are codependent.
Are you hoping that if someone else totally understands you, you will then feel better about yourself? Or find that in relationships and friendships you change your personality and hobbies to match the other person? Codependency is an addiction to seeking approval and validation from others to the point you can lose sight of who you are. And if you don’t know who you are, it’s hard for anyone else to know and understand you. Read our guide to codependency here.
5. You simply need to learn how to communicate.
Do you speak in a convoluted way where you constantly contradict yourself? Or always say the opposite of what you actually mean to say? Perhaps you are agreeing to things that actually you don’t really believe, out an urge to be polite and accepted (again, a codependent habit). This all results in people having the entirely wrong idea about who you really are. No wonder you feel misunderstood!
Okay, But How Can I make People Understand Me if These Things Are True?
Fear of intimacy and judgement, lack of trust, and codependency are things that we develop from patterns learned from childhood. So they are obviously not something we can just snap our fingers and change overnight. They are rather best dealt with using the help of a coach, support group, or counsellor. A counsellor can assist you in understanding why you act the way you do, and help you find new ways to relate and connect with others.
But while seeking help is highly recommended, not least as it gives you the chance to experience what it is like to be understood by another, you don’t have to totally know yourself before you begin to feel more connected to others. You can use the below tactics to start feeling more understood as soon as today.
10 Techniques to Quickly Help You Feel Understood By Others
1. Learn to communicate more clearly.
By: John Hain
Start to really notice the way that you talk. Do you speak really fast? Constantly throw questions at others so they barely have time to even ask you about yourself? Are you agreeing with things you don’t like, and giving the wrong impression? It can even help to record yourself having a conversation and listen to it later.
Also notice if you are starting your sentences with “I think/feel”, or “You did/said” and “You made me feel”. Using sentences that being with ‘I’ invites other people to communicate with us, but sentences that begin with ‘You’ tend to make the other person feel blamed and back off from connecting. And if you aren’t sure you are being understood – ask!
2. Change your body language.
Your body language communicates almost as much as your words. Uncross your arms when you talk to others, it shows them you want to be open. Try to relax your shoulders and smile softly.
3. Slow down and switch perspective.
When we are worked up we tend to revert to habits, including the habit of assuming you are misunderstood. If you feel the thought rising that “nobody understands me”, extricate yourself from the situation and take a moment to slow down. Take a few deep breaths, perhaps even try a 2-minute mindfulness break.
From your new, calm perspective, ask yourself, was I really being misunderstood? Or am I upset about something else entirely, like that they don’t agree with me, or that I’ve had a stressful day? In what ways did they show they were trying to understand me that maybe I overlooked?
4. Become a “me detective”.
By: Casey Fleser
The more you understand yourself, the more clearly you present yourself to others, the more they can understand you. So spend time learning about yourself. Make lists of what you like and what you don’t like. Notice what things actually make you happy during a normal day versus what things you assume should make you happy. Start paying attention to how you really feel about things. Perhaps engage with the power of self-help books, or join a self development course where you can learn new techniques to getting to know yourself.
5. Trade in your victim mentality.
There can be something altogether addictive about feeling misunderstood. It can become your identity, something that can make you feel special and give you the chance to feel sorry for yourself non stop. In other words, it gives you an excuse to always be a victim.
What would happen if you decided that you are responsible for your own life and could choose to find people who want to understand you? And wouldn’t it be worth trading in the benefits of victimhood (self-pity, others’ attention) for the benefits of being understood?
6. Learn to see what people do give you.
Being misunderstood can also be a habit to the point you don’t even notice if people are trying their best to understand you. Or perhaps they are giving you other, equally important things, even if they are not easily able to ‘get’ you. Change your focus to what they are giving you. Are they a good listener? Did they donate their time to help you out? Do they always answer your calls, give you attention?
7. Embrace the power of acting ‘as if’.
If you are feeling misunderstood by someone, try asking yourself, how would I treat them if I DID feel understood? And go ahead and try to change the way you are acting, maybe being less aloof, or simply staying put instead of having a tantrum and walking away. Their behaviour might change with yours.
8. Give others understanding first.
At the end of the day, if you aren’t offering others understanding, why would they then offer it to you? Take a good look at your listening skills. Are you taking in what others say without interrupting? Do you accept their opinions, or are you constantly offering them unasked for advice? Do you ask them thoughtful questions about what they said, or just jump in with a story all about you that relates to what they said?
9. Recognise everyone is unique.
The truth is that we all are unique, with our own way of seeing the world. It’s simply not possibly for someone to understand you entirely, or for you to understand someone else entirely. The only person who can understand you entirely is you.
10. Work on your self-esteem.
If we want to be understood by others we need to believe that we deserve to be understood. And for that we need a sense of self-esteem. Make a commitment to notice and challenge the inner critic in your head. Start noticing the good things about yourself. And when someone offers you a compliment, don’t brush it off, accept it. There are many great books on self-esteem as well, so some research can help, as can a therapist.
So Are You Saying a Therapist Can Help Me Feel Understood?
Definitely. Therapy is all about forming a strong relationship with your therapist in a trusting environment. Sometimes all we need is the experience of what a trusting relationship is to then be brave enough to create more of that understanding for ourselves outside the therapy room. And a psychotherapist or counsellor can also really help you sort out what is true, and what is just your inner critic stopping you from being your best self. Best of all, therapy can help you change that mental soundtrack of ‘nobody understands me’ to ‘someone wonderful understands me – I do!’
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Depression (The Truth about Depression that No One Sees or Understands)
Depression is one of the most poorly understood conditions on the planet. All the ‘experts’ weigh in on what causes it and what solves it. But these causes and solutions are all over the map and often contradictory. And this can in turn add to the depression that people suffering from depression feel. Before I get into this episode, I need to say that depression is not a weakness and it is not something that you should be ashamed of. It is not a character flaw.
You can in fact understand depression as well as how to solve it by understanding the nuance in one single sentence. I’m going to give you this sentence and then use the rest of the episode to explain it in complete detail. Here it is: There is a big difference between resisting futility and accepting futility.
Everything you feel has a cause, dysfunctional brain chemicals are not the cause; they are the symptom. We are creators at our core. For us to feel good, we have to be able to perceive ourselves to be empowered so as to be able to alter our life so that our needs and desires are met. When we cannot do this, we feel powerless. Depression is caused by a situation in our life or many being something where no matter how many times we try and try and try, we cannot cause it to turn into what we want and what would meet our needs. Therefore, we feel it is futile. Futility and depression are synonymous.
What you will find is that life is relationships. If we talk about our home life, what we are talking about is our relationship to our partner, mother, father, siblings, children etc. If we talk about our career life that is still about relationships, but this time to customers, bosses, colleagues etc. So what this futility is really about is that you perceive that in order for something to become what you want and need it to become, you need cooperation from other people involved in the situation because you can’t create it or change it by yourself. But they will not collaborate and cooperate. Therefore, this incapacity to change the situation because you “can’t do anything about it” makes your self esteem go out the window and you perceive yourself to be forced to surrender to the tortured ended-ness of the fact that your life is suffering. This is pure futility. It is terrifying to learn that you cannot make someone take your best interests as a part of their own, and collaborate towards you feeling good in a situation. This causes anxiety. But anxiety in this scenario is simply like the phase before someone hits a sense of futility.
However, instead of accepting that futility, you resist that futility. Part of you does not give up which means you’re still in resistance to it. This creates a sensation that a person is not lost in a kind of darkness, but instead that they are becoming the darkness. To comprehend the way this works, imagine a person who wants to be let inside a gate to a village so badly that for years, they try every way to get it open and eventually slip into futility. At this point, they sit down motionless for years, still emotionally resisting that the gate is closed, hanging on to the strange possibility that one day, it might, so it’s just something you have to hang on through. All of this is done instead of getting up and walking to a different village.
Part of you has not given up. Part of you is not willing to let go completely. You refuse to cut your losses. You are so tied to the image of how you need something to be that you wont give up on it. This resistance to the futility is what makes you so exhausted all the time and keeps you stuck in endless futility. And people who suffer from depression tell themselves they “can’t” cut their losses, when this is really about choosing not to. And you have very valid reasons for not being willing to cut your losses. But no matter how good your reasons are, you stay powerless in this way. It is critical to become aware of just what you are so attached to that you can’t let go of by accepting that it will never come to be. What are you afraid will happen if you accept it is and always will be futile?
It is worth mentioning that some people use depression as a way to avoid committing suicide. This is because some people feel if they accepted the futility of a certain situation, they wouldn’t have any will to live anymore and would instead want to die. They would see no future. This often happens in situations where someone cannot conceive of wanting something else other that the specific thing they want and in the way they want it. For example, if they can’t get someone to love them back, they refuse to be loved by someone else. It is only ok if that single person loves them. People who suffer from depression also tell themselves that their needs are NOT going to be met anywhere other than in the situation that is futile. This is also more resistance to cutting their losses. They have to see that they subconsciously choose to commit to a dead end by doing this.
It is a common assumption that depression is about suppression. This is both true and not true, which means there is a subtle nuance here to understand. A person with depression isn’t actively suppressing. After years of trying (through not suppressing) to create the thing they wanted to create and get people to change in the way that would get their needs and desires met, nothing worked. So expressing their truth also feels futile. Communication does absolutely nothing, so there is “no point” in expressing. While this means that a person has to suppress their truth, it is a different flavor of suppression. It is not active suppression so that a situation can be what the person wants it to be. It is suppression because there is no point screaming for help if no one is around to hear it. Again, back to the futility. If you have depression, you are not authentic, because you think being authentic is futile.
So many children are stuck in this respect because the situation they often have to change (but that is futile) is the dynamics and arrangements of their family relationships, something that they are totally out of control of. If they try to express this, it only infuriates their parents and caregivers and thus makes matters worse for them. Childhood is prison where one’s happiness depends on the benevolence of the wardens. With a parent who is unwilling to help a child shift their life so they can feel good, a child is in hell and captive, powerless to change the circumstances of their life.
Here is where the spiral gets worse. Because of the unwillingness to actually accept the futility and focus on any other way of creating your desires and needs, you stay in the situation that is futile. To do this, you have to betray one part of yourself. And this part of you gets VERY mad at the other part. So it feels like part of you is destroying another part of you. It emotionally feels like self-digestion.
People who struggle with depression are both totally unaware of free will because they feel it is their responsibility to control the uncontrollable and get people to be how they want them to be (something they hate themselves for failing at). At the same time, they are all too damaged by free will. The grief they feel is that no one will participate in creating their version of a feel good life. They feel other people are all taking action, intentionally or unintentionally (and often idiotically as if oblivious) against it. You hate them for it because you feel so hurt by it. You can’t accept that other people have free will and with that free will, will not choose what is best for you. You also can’t accept that it is possible for you to do what isn’t best for yourself. You don’t understand this because it is an unhealthy relationship between two of your internal fragments. But because of this refusal to understand and accept that this is the case, you are just waiting for this to stop one day. As you wait, you feel more and more futility and more and more resistance to that futility the more people disappoint you by proving it is a futile situation over and over again.
And then the third aspect of this spiral of depression sets in. You look around and notice that no one feels this same futility that you feel. So you make it mean something about yourself. “Something is wrong with me because I can’t feel good”. But because of the magnitude of the amount you care about this situation and the magnitude of the futility in the situation, doing little things to try to feel better (things that seem to work for other people) does not work. It feels like throwing a tic tac at a charging rhino or trying to feel amazing about an ice cream cone, when an asteroid is headed for earth. Or watching a comedy show to laugh when someone you love and need is dying in a hospital bed. They are acutely aware that these little things will not make the overall issue any better.
What I am about to say is going to make some people very angry, but I have to say it. Depression is the byproduct of relationship dysfunction. Most people don’t want to see that depression is not chemically caused mental illness (remember the imbalance of chemicals is the symptom), but is the result of relationship dysfunction because most people don’t want to admit to the futility itself in the relationships they have. They would rather make it about how they feel. It is a coping mechanism for them to focus on brain chemical issues because this feels more empowering and promising than focusing on the real situation in their life that causes futility. It also offers hope that if someone sees they don’t feel good and are in fact ill, people might just feel enough pity to participate in creating their feel good situation instead of resisting it. For this reason, anti-depression medication is like shutting up the very voice telling you that an aspect of your life has to be changed, instead of actually changing it.
So what should you do if you struggle with depression?
- Face your futility. Overcoming depression is all about becoming consciously aware of and facing and resolving the futility that is occurring in your life. Yet again, this could be a specific situation or multiple situations. Now that I have made you aware that depression is about futility and resisting instead of accepting that futility, look at your own life and recognize how this is playing out in your own life now. People often never get out of their depression because they keep trying new ways to make a futile situation not futile and therefore try to solve things in all the futility resistant ways they can think of, instead of facing the fact that futility in and of itself is the issue and especially, the resistance to that futility. This is why you should never approach healing from depression by “fighting depression”.
- Do The Completion Process with the feeling of futility specifically. If you are depressed, the futility is about a situation you are currently in. But this pattern of futility is a pattern that began in childhood and this current situation, is a repeat/reflection of a situation in your past of this same kind of futility. To learn how to do this process, you can get a copy of my book that is quite literally titled The Completion Process. And if you want to be helped through the process instead of doing it on your own, you can find a practitioner who is trained to lead you through it at www.thecompletion process.com.
- Work directly with the part of you that refuses to accept the futility and refuses to cut your losses. This is the part that continues to keep you adapting to the futile situation in ways that are detrimental to you. And this sets up a pattern of self-hate and internal anger. Also, work with the part of you that is opposite of that one. You don’t need to know what that part is specifically. You can simply say, “I choose with my free will to become the opposite part to the one that refuses to accept the futility and cut my losses” and allow yourself to really be overtaken by the energy of that part of yourself. To understand how to work with a fragment of your own consciousness like this, watch my video titled: Fragmentation, The Worldwide Disease. Also, to increase your understanding about the internally focused anger that is created by this part of you, watch my video titled: Bulldozing (The Way To Ruin Your Relationship With Yourself)
- Having accepted the futility, look for the ways you can move forward and the options you do have. You have to do something new. Resisting a futile situation puts you in a rut in life. Depression is all about focusing on what you can’t change and refusing to accept you can’t change it so as to focus on something else or do something else. Ask yourself, “If I accepted that what I want is never (and I mean never) going to happen, what would I do then or instead? It’s the thing where if you stop focusing on the door that is closed, you might see a window that is open. It may be hard to believe that your needs or desires can be fulfilled in any other scenario or even that any other option exists. For this reason, you might benefit by watching my videos titled: The Zebra and the Watering Hole and How To Meet Your Unmet Needs. Do something new even if you are simply doing it just to get out of your rut. The more drastically new, the better. The darkness you feel is the symptom of being disconnected from parts of yourself, and from what you really want in life.
- You must develop safe relationships. Depression is about relationship dysfunction that makes you powerless to create the life you want. Most specifically powerlessness and un-safety when no one will be an ally to the creating of the life you desire and need. This means, you need to go to places where people see, hear, feel and understand you. You need to heal the trauma of no one choosing to align with you so as to participate in what you want to create with them. But to do this, you can’t keep trying to get people who have no interest in doing this, to do this. For this reason, one of the most important videos you will ever watch is my video titled: How To Create A Safe Relationship. Also, depression is an intensely isolating and lonely experience. Being a situation that is in fact set up by the relationships in your life and one that is resolved by creating safe relationships, I encourage you to read my book titled: The Anatomy of Loneliness, which clearly outlines what causes this sense of loneliness as well as how to go from loneliness to a sense of connection.
- The more little things you do to make yourself feel like you have more power and control over creating the life you want, the better. If you are suffering from depression, understandably, you are super disempowered. On top of creating safe relationships, where people do cooperate in creating a life that feels good to you, you need to do lots of things in life, which don’t depend on other people to make you feel more empowered. Most of the suggestions people make about solutions to depression fit well into this category. Some examples might be deliberately eating foods that make you specifically feel good (especially mood boosting foods), spending time with animals, getting a massage or other form of touch, exercising, getting enough sleep, setting attainable and achievable goals and scratching them off the list when they are accomplished, taking on responsibilities which enable you to see your positive contribution, visiting and making new friends (this prevents you from isolating), taking control of your focus through positive focus or gratitude exercises or working with your core beliefs, sitting out in the sun, meditation, creating a routine, setting things in your schedule each day that you can look forward to even if it is as simple as watching a comedy show, picking up a new hobby, changing up things such as home décor or what room you sleep in or where you habitually go to eat etc.
If someone in your life is struggling with depression, do not treat them like you are afraid of them. There is nothing to be afraid of. Depression is not contagious and people need your presence, not for you to solve a problem you don’t know how to solve. Also, there is nothing shameful about depression and this includes resisting futility. You know how desperate it feels to not be able to create something you want to create. It feels like accepting that the person you love more than anything else has died and never knowing if you will ever get love again. So it is a great deal more complicated than simply deciding with your free will to stop resisting and accept that futility and do different things that are empowering instead. It is a great deal more complicated than just deciding to jump out of a hole or be more positive.
No one chooses to feel depressed any more than they consciously choose to resist something that is futile. This is a person that feels despair and desperation about a situation that is futile. And in their situation, anyone would feel that way. Lovingly help them to really focus on and face the pain they feel, don’t try to get them out of that darkness. Its better to hold their hand and dive consciously into it. My personal request to you is to become less afraid of other people’s suffering. Become less afraid of the way that watching other people suffer, makes you feel. All too often people abandon other people because of running away from feeling the feelings that seeing other people suffer, stirs in themselves.
If you are struggling with depression, it is my promise to you that the feeling of wanting to be alive and feeling inspired and energized is on the other side of realizing that you do have the power to create what you want in life. You can create your desires and fulfill your needs. And there are people in the world that want to participate in that process as an ally instead of an antagonist. But all of that is on the other side of no longer focusing on the absence of what you want. It is on the other side of accepting and facing and resolving your futility, instead of being unconscious of it and therefore subconsciously resisting it.