Define Depression: What Does Having Depression Mean for Friends and Family?

Depression is a complex mental illness that falls into the category of mood disorders and is characterized by a decreased levels of serotonin, a feel-­good chemical produced in the brain which affects our mood and happiness. Depression is complex because each person’s symptoms can look different, can vary in intensity and can last for different lengths of time.

One of the significant effects that can sometimes go unnoticed when someone is diagnosed with depression is how it affects friends and family around them. Here are some of the ways that depression can have ripple effects.

It Affects Relationships

Depression and relationships

Image Credit: Pavel Badrtdinov

When someone is living with depression, it can affect how they interact with those around them. Some examples include becoming extremely irritable and easily angered, increasing criticism of self and others, doubting those around them, cutting off close ties and friendships or becoming more isolated.

This can be difficult for friends and family members—especially when these feelings are unpredictable or when the individual living with depression has caretaker roles that they unintentionally neglect, as might be the case with a parent or guardian.

At the other end of the relationship, the person who isn’t living with depression might experience feelings of frustration or disappointment when their loved one falls short on their responsibilities.

Ultimately, depression can put a lot of strain on any type of relationship, so it’s important to have open and honest discussions about self care for everyone involved.

It Affects Finances

How depression affects finances

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If a parent is living with depression and their symptoms interfere with their work, then this can cause financial strain for the family. Furthermore, treatment and recovery programs can sometimes be expensive and difficult to fit into a budget.

As a result, rather than ignoring these struggles, it can be helpful to formulate a contingency plan or make additional sacrifices in the family budget. Furthermore, there are many options for recovery or treatment that are less expensive that can be helpful to explore.

It Affects Others’ Mental Health

Depression and your mental health

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When someone you know is living with depression, it’s easy to forget to look after yourself. Their symptoms and struggles can affect your mental health too. Particularly when responsibilities are neglected or there’s nothing you can do to “cure” your loved one’s depression, this can lead to an increase in guilt, stress, anxiety and fear.

These feelings are significant and it’s important to address them, even if they may seem trivial compared to another’s depression diagnosis. If they aren’t, they could trigger mental health difficulties of their own.

The effects of depression aren’t limited to the person directly suffering from the mental illness. Its influence spreads to friends, family members, and other people who are involved in their lives. That doesn’t mean that the person with depression is at fault, and their effects on the people around them can increase their suffering.

If you’re caring for someone living with depression, it’s important to recognize when you need help, too. If you know someone living with depression and it’s a struggle for you, remember that mental health professionals are available to provide you with support, too.

Feature Image: Muhammed Fayiz