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Battling the symptoms of depression can be hard enough without having to worry about how to talk to family about your depression. Nevertheless, it is important to include your family as you overcome depression, if for no better reason than it can improve your own chances at success. Knowing your family members understand and support you can give you both strength and motivation.
Additionally, it's important to understand that while you are the one who has to do most of the hard work of recovery, your disease does affect your loved ones. It's only fair that they be told and included in the recovery process.
The following steps should be taken to talk to family about your depression in a healthy, respectful way:
It's important to start very generally, by explaining how the symptoms of depression typically present themselves. Tell your family that depressed persons may sleep more or less, or gain or lose weight. Explain that depression can cause a person to avoid or decline activities that he once might have enjoyed.
Address issues of fluctuating or decreased energy levels. Fatigue is a major symptom of depression, and your family needs to realize that it can cause you to avoid physical activities. Ask them to be on the lookout for suicidal behaviors. This can be very hard to do, but explain that a depressed person is not able to protect themselves against depressed urges, and that you will need them to help you.
Be prepared for and encourage questions. Depression, like many mental illnesses, can be hard for a person to relate to. Your family members may be unable to understand the depth of sadness that depression can cause, but explain that you genuinely want them to understand the world as you see it.
Try to remain non-judgmental about the questions that are asked. Because they are probably not as well-educated about depression as you are, your family members may ask questions that seem flippant or inconsiderate. Keep an open mind and try to give your family the benefit of the doubt.
Finally, be prepared to prompt your family for questions. Know what questions other families commonly ask, and be ready to address those concerns, even if no one has voiced them.
Know the different kinds of therapy and how they may involve family members. If you have already decided on or begun a particular therapy, explain that to them in detail. Explain that therapy typically involves helping the depressed person to better understand his or her own negative feelings and how they impact his or her life.
Tell them to keep realistic expectations. No therapy begins working overnight, and some people respond more quickly than others. Prepare them for the possibility that treatment may last more than a year in some cases.
Depression can cause a person to become irritated, angry, or withdrawn. Explain that this is not a rational response to any family member, but just a part of the disease. They should know they are not to blame for your behavior, but also that you are not fully in control of it, either. Tell them that almost five percent of the American population suffer from depression. Ask for their patience in dealing with you during a depressed episode.
Speaking with loved ones about a medical condition is never easy, and mental illnesses in particular can be hard to talk about, but by understanding how to talk to family about your depression successfully, you'll go into the experience more confident and self-assured, and will come out of it stronger, knowing your family cares for and supports you.
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