I’m fine, how are you?”
This reflexive response to the routine “How are you” question is many times a bold-faced lie. How much easier it seems in the moment to just lie about how we really are rather than deal with our own personal reality. We want to appear normal and happy as we walk through our days, hoping to just blend in and get our obligations checked off the list. Parenting…check. Work…check. Lunch with friend…check. Dinner with family…check. Day in and day out we resolutely put on a false front to detract from the bleak, gray mood that sits right beneath the surface.
Living with depression is incredibly exhausting, and trying to fake our way through the days only adds to the exhaustion. Ignoring the huge elephant in the room eventually takes its toll, however. No one can continuously suppress feelings of hopelessness and despair forever. Eventually, the piper must be paid.
Suicide rates are steadily rising across age groups and demographics. How many of those lives might have been saved had they been more open about their suffering? How many would have gotten help in their darkest hour? Sometimes just asking for someone to sit with you is all the help you might need in the moment, but too often loved ones are unaware of how dire the situation is because the person hesitated to reach out.
Knowing how to ask for help with depression is a learned skill. It requires a leap of faith, as the risk of appearing weak or damaged or crazy is very real. But taking that leap is necessary if we are to ever reclaim our quality of life and our ability to function at an optimal level. Learning how to ask for help with depression is, therefore, absolutely necessary to achieve a restoration of mental wellness and to once again experience joy.
10 Tips How to Ask for Help With Depression
The stigma surrounding mental health issues is one of the most difficult barriers to overcome when in need of help. To remove that barrier takes guts. Here are some helpful tips to help do exactly that, although they usually require vulnerability. Many will learn that exercising these suggestions can open doors and open hearts.
- Practice saying the words aloud in front of your mirror, while on a walk, or while driving: I don’t feel well. I am scared. I need to talk to someone. Just uttering these short phrases out loud can prepare you for actually communicating them with a friend or loved one. Practice them until they roll off the tongue.
- Don’t buy into the stigma. Resist believing that you are somehow flawed because you are experiencing depression. Understand that mental health is just one aspect of the human system, and is at least as important as our physical health. Acquire a new attitude about the importance of paying attention to mental wellness.
- Acknowledge when you are not coping well. The signs may be popping up at work where your productivity has been impacted or your low mood has coworkers worried about you. It could be showing up at home, where your ability to care for the kids or even make a meal is hindered by the depression.
- Ask someone for a referral. The idea of scouring pages and pages of mental health providers in your network may be simply overwhelming. Ask a trusted friend for the name of a therapist that they liked, or ask your primary care physician to recommend you to a psychiatrist that they refer their patients to.
- Once you find a mental health provider you may be afraid to take that first step. If you resist making the phone call and setting up a consultation, ask a spouse, family member, or trusted friend to sit with you while you make the call. Sometimes you just need some physical support to follow through.
- Ask a friend to come over. Even if you are not yet ready to take the next step and get help, having someone in your court is essential. A trusted friend who you feel comfortable sharing with can provide the opening to revealing what is really going on with you. Just invite the friend for a visit and be willing to be real with them.
- Get informed. If you suspect you are suffering from clinical depression it can be very helpful to get educated about the diagnostic criteria for this mental health challenge. Go online and read up on the signs of depression and the treatment options. Knowledge is power. Once you recognize yourself in the description of depressive disorder it may be easier to reach out to a doctor.
- Know your own limits. We may try to tough out the difficult chapters in life on our own. Many are resistant to asking for help, thinking it is a sign of weakness. But acknowledging the signs of distress—impairment in daily functioning, ignoring hygiene, excessive absences from work, and sleep disturbance—is a call to action. Be aware of your inability to cope and get help.
- Join a support group. Maybe you are already being treated for depression and it appears to be escalating. Your mental health provider can refer you to a support group where individuals come together to discuss their challenges with depression and offer mutual support. These participants will recognize your need for a more intensive treatment protocol or even hospitalization if you are suicidal.
- Write a letter. Sometimes verbally describing the illness is too daunting. The thought of sitting in front of someone and sharing about the dark aspects of depression can be simply impossible. Try expressing your pain in a letter or email to a trusted friend or family member. Writing can allow for more openness than face-to-face conversation, especially regarding something so sensitive and personal.
The DSM-5 has listed specific symptoms related to depressive disorder, and stipulates that a cluster of 5 or more symptoms persist most of the time for more than two weeks to receive the diagnosis. These include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair
- Loss of interest in pleasure or activities once enjoyed
- Mood swings
- Irrational feelings of guilt or shame
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Slowed cognitive and motor functions
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Sleep disturbances, insomnia or hypersomnia
- Unable to concentrate or make decisions
- Suicidal ideation
The psychiatrist may use screening tools to help in diagnosing the depression, such as the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) or the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). A physical exam can help rule out a medical condition or medications as the cause of the depression symptoms. Such health conditions might include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, lupus, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Different Types of Depression
There are different forms of depression within the depression spectrum, each with unique features, including:
- Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) (see above symptoms)
- Dysthymia (Persistent Depression Disorder). This is a type of MDD that persists for more than two years. Someone with dysthymia may experience periods of severe depression alternating with periods of milder depression, but no relief of the depressive symptoms for two years or more.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. A severe form of PMS that features extreme mood swings, sadness, irritability, and anger.
- Psychotic Depression. This involves MDD with psychotic features. The individual may experience delusional thoughts or hallucinations in addition to the symptoms of depression. There may be a theme for the illness, such as revolving around a serious illness or poverty, for example.
- Postpartum Depression. Some women experience serious symptoms of MDD during and/or after giving birth. The symptoms may be so severe that the mother is unable to care for her child, or themselves, and often experience severe fatigue, exhaustion, and anxiety in addition to the profound sadness.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In certain climates individuals may experience symptoms of MDD that are caused by a lack of sun exposure during the winter months, which can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. The individual may experience weight gain, hypersomnia, and isolation behaviors in addition to the symptoms of depression.
- Bipolar Disorder. This disorder features alternating dramatic and unpredictable shifts between depressive and manic moods. The low mood episodes can last days or weeks.
Comprehensive Depression Treatment
When someone experiences feeling lost and depressed to the point that his or her daily functioning is impaired, it is essential that they learn how to ask for help with depression. Depression is highly treatable and should never be ignored. Attempting to ride out the depression may lead to their symptoms worsening, reducing their quality of life, and even risking suicide.
Depression treatment focuses on modulating brain chemistry through the use of antidepressants, and learning new thought/behavior patterns through the interventions of a psychotherapist. Complementary activities round out the treatment protocol:
- Medication. There are about 30 antidepressants on the market for treating depression, each varying slightly in how they function in the brain. Often, there is a need to trial a few different drugs before the best fit is determined.
- Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy modalities are selected based on the specific issues underlying the depression. Psychodynamic therapy is a longer-term approach that delves into childhood issues that might be factors in the depression, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help the patient identify irrational thinking that leads to depressive symptoms. There are also exposure therapies for helping those with depression is related to a trauma.
- Holistic. Incorporating regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress reduction activities, such as yoga and mindfulness meditation, can enhance the clinical results.
Elevation Behavioral Health Leading Residential Mental Health Center in Los Angeles
Elevation Behavioral Health is a luxury residential mental health program featuring an intimate, home-like environment. Elevation Behavioral treats all forms of mental health disorders, including all types of depression, using a proven integrated approach. If you are struggling with depression, contact our compassionate team at Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.