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Dealing with depression: tips for relatives/friends

For people suffering from depression, the social environment plays an important role. Be they family, friends or colleagues at work, social contacts are immensely important. Always. But above all if someone is caught in depression.

Get out of your shell if depressed

Even though people suffering from depression know that an active social life will have a positive effect on them and their illness, they tend to withdraw, particularly during any depressive phase.

The desire for peace and solitude is a symptom characteristic of the illness. Even though they know it’s a mistake to yield to this desire, those affected often curl up and hide.

For such a situation, the advice is for people who are close to react in an observant and sensitive manner. Through lots of understanding and patience, close contacts can counter this tendency to withdraw.

Relatives/friends are not psychotherapists

A great deal of empathy and high degree of sensitivity are required in order to be able to deal correctly with people with depression. In this context, family members, partners and friends should always understand that they are not to fulfil the role or tasks of a psychotherapist. Purely therapeutic help should be handled exclusively by professionals. Of course it is a balancing act, looking after someone who is ill whilst simultaneously maintaining so much distance that the condition of the person you love doesn’t get too close to you. But, for the environment of a person with depression, it is important that you don’t feel responsible for the illness.

Create closeness

During a phase of depression, the affected person’s self-esteem is scarcely or not at all present.

As a result of the person’s own withdrawal, the feeling of loneliness is amplified further and depressives then often feel cut off from the world.

Additionally, they often want to avoid becoming a burden on those around them through their negative mood, lack of drive or pessimism. Those around them can counter this in a very positive manner: achieve closeness, show understanding and listen.

Understanding and patience are key to dealing with people with depression

It’s often sufficient to ask how they are and make it clear to the affected person that you’re thinking of them. An invitation to a trip, a walk or a meal often work real wonders.

As soon as people with depression feel understood and accepted, as indeed they are, as someone close to them you have already achieved a lot. It’s not about fighting against symptoms in the first instance. That isn’t the task of those who are close. It’s about giving a feeling of security, conveying understanding, being attentive and not losing patience.

Because it’s always possible that proposals will be declined and the ill person continues to shut themselves off. But with patience and through striving to empathise with the person with depression, family and friends can give valuable support in cases of depression.

Photo credits: (c) iStock.com/jacoblund

Updated on: 17. July 2019
Depression - Sandra Linde