Depression can cause both physical and behavioral symptoms.
If you think you or someone you know is showing symptoms of depression, what is the next step? Learn how to seek help for yourself if you are experiencing depression or how to help a friend or family member in need.
I think I am experiencing depression symptoms -- what do I do next?
If your depression symptoms are keeping you from living a normal life, it is time to seek help. A good place to start is with your regular doctor. There is no “pass or fail” test to determine if you have depression, so your doctor will likely begin with a series of questions. According to WebMD, here are some questions you can expect to be asked from your doctor:
- When did your symptoms start?
- How long have they lasted?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Have you had similar symptoms of depression before? If so, how were they treated previously?
- Do you have a family history of depression or other mental illnesses?
- Do you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse?
WebMD explains that, if your doctor believes you are experiencing depression, they may either begin you on a course of treatment or refer you to a behavioral health professional. Courses of treatment can vary from medications, such as antidepressants, to evidenced-based behavioral therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy or Problem Solving Therapy.
Someone I care about is showing signs of depression -- how can I help them?
It can be difficult to know how to approach your loved one if you feel they may be experiencing symptoms of depression. HelpGuide.org suggests asking questions such as:
- When did you start feeling like this? Did something happen?
- What can I do to best support you?
- Have you considered getting help?
Being a good listener can often be the best way to support a loved one suffering from depression. You do not have to offer advice on how they can “fix” their situation and instead just allow them to talk to you about their feelings and listen with compassion.
Encourage your loved one to seek help
HelpGuide.org further explains it can be difficult to get a depressed person to agree to seek professional help. They may believe their situation is hopeless and may be skeptical of treatment.
Banner Medical Group's Director of Psychology, Rena Szabo, Psy.D., weighed in with some good insight. Dr. Szabo explains:
“Time is of the essence when someone is showing depression symptoms. It is crucial your loved one receives a psychological evaluation and physical exam as soon as possible. Health includes the body and the mind; neither should be neglected. So, when a person has a physical illness, it is common practice that they see their general practitioner. Similarly, if a person is struggling with depression they should be encouraged to see a behavioral health professional.”
A great first step can be to encourage a check-up with their family doctor. This can be a less daunting first step than going straight to a behavioral health professional. You can also volunteer to accompany them to their appointment.
Once your loved one has agreed to seek treatment, you are able to continue your supportive role. You can assist with making appointments, keeping up with treatments, or even helping with small household responsibilities or chores.
What to do if you think a loved one is suicidal
Depression can drastically cloud a person’s judgment, which is why it is important to understand that suicide is a real danger.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, provides five action steps to communicate with someone who may be suicidal:
- Ask – Although it might seem difficult, ask the question: “Are you thinking about suicide?” This direct question allows your friend to know you are open to talking about suicide in a supportive way and can help start a beneficial conversation. Be sure you are ready to listen and try to identify reasons your loved one would want to stay alive and help them refocus their attention on those reasons.
- Keep Them Safe – Make sure to establish immediate safety. You will likely want to find out if they have a specific plan in mind including time and planned method. This will help you determine if they are in current danger. Typically, more steps of the plan being in place indicates higher risk.
- Be There – Show support for your loved one whether that means being there for them in person, over the phone or any other way that shows you care.
- Help Them Connect – Help them connect with other resources such as a mental health professional or the Lifeline (800-273-8255). Also, help them develop a plan, if possible, for what to do in crisis moments.
- Follow Up – Be sure to follow-up with them on how they are doing. This check-in could be in-person or even through a quick text or call.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Supporting someone struggling with depression can be difficult. It is important to take care of yourself first and foremost and make sure you do not allow your own health or happiness to suffer. This may involve setting boundaries and being clear with what you are willing and able to do. Try to keep your own appointments and plans in the effort to maintain your daily routine as much as possible.
You should also not be afraid to ask for help yourself. This could be joining a support group or simply talking to a trusted friend about what you are going through. You do not need to go into detail about what your loved one is going through and can instead keep conversations about you and your own feelings.
You are not alone
Know that, whether you yourself are experiencing depression or you know someone who is, you are never alone. There is no time like the present to take the first step in getting the support you or your loved one needs.Find mental health services near you →