A Personal Account of How to Help Someone with Anxiety and Depression*
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*We asked a young woman in a relationship with someone with depression and severe social anxiety about her specific experience, and how she would advise others in similar situations. Her advice and recommendations may not apply to everyone.
Many people know someone with anxiety and/or depression, whether it be a partner, friend, or relative. Their mental health can impact your relationship and their ability to enjoy certain experiences with you.
The most important thing to remember in these situations is that their mental health is not about you. However, their needs and ability to engage in social activities are things you must keep in mind.
For instance, just because you might show up for your friend and try to encourage them to get out of the house does not mean that they will or should. Your presence, though appreciated, does not change the fact that they suffer from depression or anxiety.
Those without mental health issues may get frustrated when they cannot understand the reasoning behind their friend’s
feelings or behavior, but mental health disorders can defy logic. Mental health conditions can make somebody feel hopeless, sad, lethargic, scared and/or any number of emotions.
While this can be hard to accept or understand, loved ones need to understand that they cannot fix mental illness. However, depression and anxiety are treatable conditions, so it is up to the person suffering to seek help. A loved one needs to be there and support them as best as they can.
Here are some ways to help and support a loved one battling anxiety and depression.
How Do I Help a Partner with Anxiety?
For example, a hug might make you feel better when you are down. However, if your partner doesn’t want physical affection, you have to respect that wish without taking it personally. It may help your relationship to ask your partner what kind of attention (if any) they need from you. They may want to be alone, and though you are concerned and want to help, you have to let them have their space (within reason, of course: you should make sure they eat and stay hydrated).
If they choose to open up to you, listen intently. You should make sure their feelings are heard and validated. It is not beneficial to try to convince them that there is no rational basis for their feelings or behaviors.
Offering Support When Loved Ones Struggle with Anxiety and Depression
If your partner is experiencing anxiety or depression and tells you that they don’t want to go to a social event, you shouldn’t try to convince them to go. This really involves recognizing and acknowledging their limits. You can offer support by staying home with them. Or, if they decide to go to the social event, you can tell them that you will take them home at any point.
Anxiety feelings may intensify about the fear of the situation and its potential outcomes. Sometimes, when the person suffering from anxiety gets into the social situation, their fears may be quelled. If they are not, however, recognize the effort that they put in by simply showing up.
Although this is just a specific example, it can be applied to a variety of situations. Meeting your partner or loved one where they are mentally and being accommodating (without sacrificing your own needs) is part of maintaining a healthy relationship.
Encourage Them to Get Help for the Depression or Anxiety
When someone in your life is struggling with their mental health, getting medical treatment is often the first step to feeling better. While mental illnesses are often less visible than physical ailments, this does not mean they should not be dealt with medically.
Some ways to support loved ones who are undergoing treatment for their mental health could include reminding them to take their medication as prescribed or encouraging them to go to talk therapy – either individual or group therapy.
If they are taking medication and still seem to be suffering immensely, they may benefit from the GeneSight test. GeneSight analyzes a patient’s DNA, which can inform doctor’s treatment decisions and may help avoid months (or years) of trial and error. For example, if your genetics cause your body to break down an antidepressant at a faster than normal rate, you may not have enough medication in your body, which may be ineffective for treatment. However, if your genetics cause your body to break down an antidepressant at a slower than normal rate, you may have too much medication in your body, which may lead to side effects.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
In your attempts to support someone with anxiety or depression, you have to take care of yourself. You cannot provide them with the help they need if you are not paying attention to your own health, which can easily happen if you are giving too much of yourself.
Although it is important to avoid being selfish or making their issues about you, it is similarly important to make sure you do things for your own benefit instead of just for theirs. You cannot anticipate someone’s needs or shield them from potential stressors. They need to be able to rely on you and be comfortable opening up to you, which they cannot do if you are mentally or physically exhausted.
The best way you can help somebody in this situation is simply by being there when they need you, as a strong and consistent friend, partner, or relative.
For more information about this topic, please visit:
- Mental Health America offers resources for family and friends of someone with a mental illness: https://www.mhanational.org/family-friends
- The GeneSight.com blog aims to educate and inform about issues relating to depression and anxiety: https://genesight.com/blog/
Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.
The GeneSight test must be ordered by and used only in consultation with a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications. As with all genetic tests, the GeneSight test results have limitations and do not constitute medical advice. The test results are designed to be just one part of a larger, complete patient assessment, which would include proper diagnosis and consideration of your medical history, other medications you may be taking, your family history, and other factors.
If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning more about the GeneSight test, please call us at 855.891.9415. If you are a patient, please talk with your doctor to see if the GeneSight test may be helpful.