How Depression Affects The Entire Family

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Depression rarely affects only one individual. When someone lives with this condition, their relationships and family are seldom unaffected. Therefore, it’s hard to keep your family happy if even just one member struggles with depression.

If you believe that someone in your family is living with depression, don’t sweep the issue under the rug. The person is in incredible pain, whether they show it or not. Ignoring the issue will only create further problems for the affected person and the rest of the family. Read on to learn more about depression and how it may be affecting your entire family.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a common mood disorder exhibited by persistent feelings of sadness or despair. It can affect anyone of any age and can last weeks, months, or even years. Depression creates difficulties in thinking, eating, sleeping, or doing anything else. It makes life less joyful and may prevent an affected person from engaging in life or performing their responsibilities.

Depression can also cause physical symptoms, such as changes in appetite or sleep patterns, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. It is a complex condition with a range of causes, including genetics, life events, and brain chemistry imbalances. 

Depression is not simply a passing feeling of sadness, and individuals who are experiencing symptoms should seek professional help. Treatment for depression may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

There are many symptoms of depression, including some that may not be so obvious. Even if it is not apparent that your family member is experiencing depression, there are many behavioral changes that may indicate something is wrong. If you believe your family member is experiencing depression, look out for some of these signs.

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness
  • Increased anger, irritability, or frustration
  • Apathy and loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Difficulty completing tasks and responsibilities
  • Fatigue and consistent tiredness
  • Sleeping issues and disorders, such as insomnia
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Slowed thoughts, speaking, or movements
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Minor memory problems
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm**

**If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.**

Common Forms Of Depression

Despite common belief, depression comes in many forms. It is important to know this fact because each family member may encounter a unique form of depression at some point in their lives.

For example, parents may experience postpartum depression after the arrival of a baby. However, the other children in the home may not understand this type of depression but may encounter different forms of depression in adolescence or young adulthood.

Some common forms of depression that your family may encounter include:

  • Postpartum depression
  • Bipolar depression
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder is perhaps the most common form and is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Persistent depressive disorder, on the other hand, involves a longer period of low mood, lasting two years or more. Seasonal affective disorder is a specific form of depression that typically occurs during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight. Finally, bipolar disorder involves extreme mood swings between periods of depression and manic episodes.

How Depression Affects The Family

Depression is rarely an isolated issue. Someone experiencing this condition will inevitably affect the ones they love. This is not due to any malice but only occurs because their loved ones deeply care about them and wish to interact with them often.

Because families interact with each other every day, they will inevitably pick up on any emotional or mental health concerns that other family members are experiencing. Therefore, family units often experience increased anxiety or stress if another member is living with a mental health condition. It is very difficult to pretend everything is continuing as normal if one person is struggling with their mental health.

Furthermore, depression is an isolating mental health condition. A person with this condition often experiences low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. As a result, they may isolate from the family and not engage in group activities or their responsibilities. Furthermore, if they perceive that their condition hurts the family, they may further isolate themselves to protect everyone else.

Living with someone who is depressed can significantly alter the family dynamic. Family members may also struggle with feelings of helplessness and frustration as they watch their loved one struggle. 

Depression can also manifest in changes to sleeping and eating habits or a lack of energy, which can further disrupt family routines. It is important for families to recognize the signs of depression and seek professional help to learn how to support their loved one’s mental health in a healthy and effective way.

Family members may feel helpless, confused, or overwhelmed by the situation. In some cases, family members may even blame themselves for the loved one’s condition, which can further exacerbate the situation.

It is not uncommon for family members to take on additional roles and responsibilities, such as caring for the depressed individual or taking over household duties. It is crucial for families to share their emotions and work together towards healing and recovery.

Finally, someone with depression may act differently than usual. They will probably be more negative, lethargic, or even irritable. There may be increased conflicts or tension between family members, especially if the family is unaware of the condition. Family dynamics may be hindered or wholly altered if depression goes on untreated.

How To Treat Depression

Luckily, depression is something that can be treated and healed. Many families successfully help their members work through depression and come out stronger and happier than ever. Though most of the treatments will solely affect the person with depression, it is vital that everyone else in the family is included or at least knows what is going on.

The best option for treating depression is counseling. A therapist can help someone process their thoughts and change them to think more positively. They can also help the person discuss any situations or problems that may be causing the depression and give them better coping strategies.

If depression seriously affects the family unit, you may want to consider family counseling, which will keep everyone involved. This can also be a great way to show support and love to the family member living with this condition.

In some cases, antidepressants may be prescribed by a psychiatrist to treat symptoms of depression. And though medication can be quite helpful, it is crucial to understand the potential side effects. Depending on what those side effects are, they may impact other family members.

Incorporating a mindfulness practice can also ease thoughts and other symptoms of depression. Like counseling, it can help someone with depression analyze and process their thoughts as well as choose more positive ones that will be more empowering and helpful.

Finally, showing your family member love and support is absolutely critical for healing. Depression can feel overwhelming and isolating and may cause the family member to withdraw or feel unworthy of love. Therefore, reaffirming your love for the person will help them feel less alone and empower them to continue their treatment.

Final Thoughts

Depression is not an individual struggle. It can affect the entire family. It can change the dynamics of the family and cause emotional turmoil for everyone involved. Family members may start to feel helpless, frustrated or angry when they don’t understand what’s happening to their loved one. 

However, there is hope. Treatment is available for depression and it can have a positive impact on not only the individual, but the whole family. Therapy, medication and lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of depression and improve relationships within the family. 

Seeking professional help can be the first step towards healing for everyone. It’s important to remember that depression is not a personal failure and with support, it can be overcome.

Keeping up with your family’s routine and interactions can be challenging when one member is experiencing depression. When one family member lives with a mental health condition, it is felt by every other member of the family. However, there are many coping and treatment strategies to utilize that will help the person with depression and bring your family back into harmony.

If you are interested in learning more about depression, you can find more help and resources at the link below: