Anxiety and depression are prevalent in today’s society. On a daily basis, I am asked how my clients can help their loved ones who are struggling with anxiety and depression, and if my clients are to blame for the struggles.

Woman helping a friend who is experiencing anxiety

Each person will experience emotions and any anxiety or depressions symptoms differently than the next, so if you are seriously worried about your loved one, the best thing to do is to talk to a professional. I offer free 30-minute consultations that can be offered over the phone or video call that you could use to discuss your unique situation. If you’re not ready to talk to someone about it, the first thing you’ll want to identify is if they are experiencing or showing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Then, the most important step is to identify if their life is potentially at risk. Then, you can move into the support phase. In this post i’ve outlined all the information you need to walk through those three steps and help support your loved ones.

How do you know if your loved one is experiencing anxiety and depression?

Although anxiety and depression can manifest in different ways, below are a list of some of the common symptoms that occur for both conditions.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Racing mind
  • Insomnia
  • Irrational Fears
  • Fixation on negative outcomes
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Worrying about worry
  • Withdrawal from society
  • Physical ailments related to mental distress (e.g. heart palpitations)
  • Difficulty staying focused on the present
  • Chronic indigestion

Symptoms of Depression

  • Loss of interest
  • Negative outlook on life
  • Short-tempered
  • Lack of motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Disrupted sleep pattern
  • Forgetful
  • Aches and pains
  • Change in appetite
  • Increase in alcohol or drug consumption

How to identify if someone’s life is at risk

If you notice any of the following occurring in yourself or your loved one please take immediate action to get professional help.

  1. Talking about suicide, dying, harming oneself, or having a preoccupation with death
  2. Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
  3. Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways such as seeking out lethal objects
  4. Getting their affairs in order and saying goodbye
  5. A sudden sense of calm after depression

How to provide support to someone with depression or anxiety

Providing support at home

As much as you can, provide the person with love, compassion, companionship, and support. For example, you can encourage the loved one to talk about their feelings while being a compassionate listener without judgment. You can be a role model for the person by living a healthy lifestyle and encouraging them to join you. Even something as simple as a daily walk, can be beneficial. Keep in mind that they may be struggling to do basic tasks that you take for granted like washing the dishes. Offer to help them with home responsibilities if you can.

Encouraging support from professionals

Encourage your loved one to first make an appointment with their primary care physician in order to rule out medical conditions that  might be causing the symptoms. Once medical conditions have been eliminated, the primary care provider can recommend a therapist for treatment.  As much as possible go with your loved one to their doctor appointments (at least for their initial visits). This enables you to make sure the doctor or therapist is getting the entire picture of what is going on as you may notice symptoms of your loved one’s depression or anxiety that they are unable to see. Regardless if you can go with them or not, do help them make a list of their symptoms to provide to the doctor and encourage them to make and keep their appointments. Consistency with appointments and following recommended treatments are key to recovery.

Women Consoling Eachother in Grief

What if your loved one doesn’t want to be helped?

This can be frustrating and challenging if you want to support them, but they keep telling you they don’t want any help. It’s really important to show respect and empathy in these situations so you don’t cause that person to withdraw entirely from you. Let them know that you’re concerned based on how they have been acting and ask them how they are doing. Check to see if something has happened that caused the change in behaviour. Ask them how you can best support them. And then ask them if they have thought about speaking to a professional and why that might be beneficial.

What NOT to do:

  • Tell them this is all in their head or that they are just going through a phase
  • Tell them to look on the bright side
  • Tell them this will pass or everyone experiences this
  • Tell them to get out there and find a distraction
  • Tell them this is just their way of seeking attention
  • Give them unhealthy ways of coping such as alcohol

What to do:

  • Learn about depression and anxiety
  • Look after your own emotional and physical health
  • Set clear limits and boundaries
  • Speak up respectfully
  • Remember you cannot fix or rescue someone from depression and anxiety
  • You are NOT to blame for their depression or anxiety
  • Recovery is in the hands of the loved one
  • Have realistic expectations that the person will not improve overnight
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