Dealing with chronic severe depression: a family's perspective
Depression is a very common disorder in our society today. It affects roughly 5% of the population and is more prevalent in those who have already experienced a bout with it than those who never have. Some of the common signs of depression are depressed moods, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, withdrawal from social activities, feeling of being useless or helpless, self criticism, insomnia and weight loss. If someone in your family is showing signs, it is very important to talk to a Doctor or counselor about getting help. Ignoring it will not make it go away and it will not solve anything. Depression can adversely affect everything from work to friendships.
There are different kinds of depression, the most common being manic which means the person affected swings from a peak so high where they feel invincible to one so low they wish they were dead. The next is chronic depression where the person never hits a high like that, they stay so low predominantly that when they think they are high, they have usually only hit the mood most people would consider normal.
When a family member is suffering from depression in any form, it is important to realize that this does affect the whole family. Everyone in the household feels the repercussions of it. Children are affected because they sense the moods of those they are close to. They don't understand when someone is depressed and doesn't want to play with them or act the way they usually do. Young children will often blame themselves for the "bad mood" they think someone is in, thinking they did something wrong to cause it. When they get snapped at for no reason, or are ignored they begin to feel upset themselve,s thinking they can never do anything right. And this will happen with children of all ages, not just teenagers.
The spouse or significant other will spend most of their time feeling guitly, thinking they should be able to fix it or provide all the support that person needs to recover. Often they feel responsible, like they didn't love enough or do enough to prevent the person from feeling down. Frequently they will go out of their way to try anything to support this person. A great attitude to have, since support it very important, however, we all need to understand that depression is an ILLNESS and just like Diabetes or Hemophilia it needs medical treatment.
Help the person you care about get the help they need. Make sure they know that you won't think any less of them for needing to see a doctor or go into a hospital for awhile.
Make sure they take any prescribed medications on time everyday even if you have to act as the "at home" pharmacy and dispense them yourself at the proper times so they don't forget. Encourage them to continue with any recommended therapies or doctor's appointments from home, make it as important to your whole family as it is to the person afflicted with depression.
The hardest part about dealing with depression and getting help is usually admitting there is a problem. That goes for anyone in the family and not just the predominant sufferer. Explain to your children that they may not always understand the mood swings or frequent doctor visits, but it is normal for them to get upset about it and it is ok for them to talk about it. Make sure they know that feeling depressed because someone else is suffering from depression is perfectly normal. Hiding their feelings because they are afraid of upsetting the patient will only make things worse for both parties.
As the spouse or significant other admit your feelings of rejection, responsibilty, guilt, resentment or anything else that is piling on your chest. Building them all up won't help you deal with anything and you certainly can't help and support them when you are harboring these emotions. Most importantly, know that it is normal to feel this way. Don't feel guilty for these emotions. It does happen to everyone who goes through this. Remember it is okay for you as well as any children involved to see a counselor or therapist too, so you can work through your emotions and learn to deal with them. They can also teach you how best to be supportive of the depressed person and how to recognize the early signs of another serious bout.
From my personal experiences with it, I have coined a saying I am sure you will find useful. The whole family has to deal and heal together!
Written by Verleen Wonderly
Title: Dealing with chronic severe depression: a family's perspective
Description: Families are effected by members who suffer from chronic severe depression. Sometimes the family supporting a depressed person needs support and counseling to deal with their worries and emotions.
added October 19th, 2001.