How You Can Help Someone Battling Anxiety or Depression
Seeing someone you care for deeply struggle with anxiety or depression can be extremely difficult. It is hard to know the exact right thing to do, for fear of pushing them further into their mental health struggles. With the stakes so high, it is important to know the do’s and don’ts when trying to figure out how you can help someone battling anxiety or depression. Below we will discuss a few of the successful methods of help, beginning with researching and understanding how depression and anxiety present themselves.
Understanding the Symptoms
Again, the first crucial step in helping a loved one struggling with anxiety and depression is to do your own thorough research. Family and friends are often the first-line of defense in the fight against mental illness. It is not uncommon for family and friends to notice a difference in a loved one’s behavior before they do. In researching and knowing the specific symptoms of anxiety or depression, you will be better able to pinpoint when you should be concerned and start motivating your loved one to seek additional help.
Also, in doing your own research, you will not have to ask the person struggling to teach you about their condition while they are experiencing it. Expecting the person struggling with a mental health issue to explain the basics of their condition to every person in their life is simply too much to ask of them. While doing this research, and throughout the journey of helping your affected loved one, it is extremely important to remember to take care of your own well-being and set boundaries for your ability to support. In order to be in the best position to help, you must be healthy and taken care of yourself.
A Few Methods for Helping Someone With Depression
Talk to Them
It can be scary to begin the conversation about someone else’s depression. The most important thing is to assure your loved one that you are there for them. You cannot fix their depression for them, rather you can support and provide understanding. So, voice your concern and then listen to what they wish to tell you. They may not want to talk about their feelings the first time you ask, and that is okay. Keep trying to ask questions, without being pushy, and continue to voice your concern for them to show you truly care about them.
Moreover, it is important to validate their feelings and show empathy and interest through your body language. It can be helpful to have these conversations in person or through video chatting so you can both read each other’s body language. Lastly, avoid trying to give them advice. Instead, ask them questions about what they are thinking and experiencing and then provide your utmost support without judgement.
If your depressed loved one refuses therapy, it can be difficult to convince them otherwise. However, it is important to keep encouraging them to seek treatment. People struggling with depression often have a hard time seeing their own self-worth. Thus, it may be helpful to use someone important in their life as leverage for attending therapy. For example, explain how seeking treatment could ultimately benefit their child by allowing them to fully experience and enjoy their time together. In emphasizing the value of someone else’s worth, they may become more willing to seek treatment to help that person than they ever would to help themselves.
Furthermore, you could suggest a general check-up with a physician. Your loved one may feel better about seeing a family doctor than a mental health professional. If the doctor diagnoses depression, they will refer the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, just having this professional opinion makes all the difference. Once in therapy, support them in continuing therapy.
A Few Methods for Helping Someone With Anxiety
Don’t Enable Avoidance Behavior
People with anxiety often try to avoid the situations that make them anxious. As a good friend, you may feel that going out of your way to help your loved one avoid painful situations is the best thing you can do. While this seems to make sense, it is actually the opposite of helpful. If anxious people continually avoid situations that make them uncomfortable, their anxiety will grow even more. Avoiding difficult situations doesn’t allow your loved one to overcome fears or learn how to deal with their anxiety. Instead, it makes their world smaller and more limited by their growing anxiety. On the other hand, do not force your loved one into confrontation. Rather, try to talk to them about the steps they could take to break free of their avoidance.
Forcing your loved one to confront their fears too soon could ultimately damage your relationship, making it harder for you to help them in the long run. Working through deep apprehensions is a job best done in partnership with a therapist. This takes the burden off of you and allows your loved one to face their fears with guidance from a licensed professional. You can help your loved one feel less anxious about seeking treatment by offering to attend their first session with them, or by offering to take care of their other duties while they attend therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the type of therapy most supported by evidence for treating anxiety and is the best place to start for anxiety help.
Finding a Therapist
A successful patient, therapist relationship can take awhile to find. Do not feel discouraged if your loved one does not find their first therapy experience helpful. Therapy is a personal journey and may take some time to find the right fit. Chriselda Santos, a licensed psychotherapist with a certification in life coaching, is dedicated to working with each individual to tailor a therapy experience just right for them. For more information, or to book an appointment, visit her website.