Living with a Depressed Family Member

The Misery of Depression extends beyond those suffering it to their family and friends.

Depressed people often frustrate and alienate those around them. “Try not to take it personally,” advises San Francisco psychiatrist Michael Freeman,MD. “They have an illness. They can’t help it.” Of course that’s easier said than done. It’s very difficult to control your temper when a close relative or friend never returns your calls, hardly gets out of bed, answers you in single syllables, acts completely self-absorbed, shows no interest in you or doing things with you, and doesn’t follow through on promises. Get mad if you must, but then, get over it. Keep reminding yourself that the person is ill, and not responsible for his/her many failings.

Depressed people often engender tremendous guilt in those around them. It is easy to think, “Nothing I do seems to help. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, or maybe I’m not trying hard enough.” Dr.Freeman points out that there’s nothing wrong with you and nothing to feel guilty about. “You can’t relieve clinical depression with love alone any more than you can cure heart disease or cancer with just love. People who are depressed need professional help, and many require medication.”

It’s important to reassure the children of depressed parents that the illness is not their fault because children will naturally blame themselves for their parent’s condition. Parents of depressed children need to be reassured in the same way.

Social support improves treatment results in many serious medical conditions, and is especially important and helpful in the treatment of depression. Keep reaching out to your depressed loved one just to reinforce the fact that you care about them. Invite them to go with you even though they are likely to say no. Keep your expectations low – very low. Chances are that the depressed person won’t respond to your offer, but depressed people notice these offers and do appreciate them, even though the illness renders them incapable of acknowledging your love and efforts.

Don’t fall victim to depression. Don’t get dragged into the emotional whirlpool that has sucked your loved one into an emotional abyss. One of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself is to maintain a network of caring friends that you can interact with. Pursue your own hobbies, sports, and recreational interests. HAVE FUN!

source: National Institute of Mental Health

The entire staff of Associated Counselors & Therapists has extensive experience working with depressed clients and their family members.

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Dr. Gnap

Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago.  Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance.  He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”

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