Everyone gets depressed now and again. It could be the death of someone you love. Maybe you’ve lost your job, or home. The list of reasons may be as long as one’s imagination can create. It’ s a natural reaction to life’s problems. But for some, that depression never abates and they stay locked in that sadness indefinitely. When does one know it’s time for a depression intervention?
First, it’s important to understand the difference between reactive (situational) depression and endogenous (chemically imbalanced) depression. Reactive depression happens in response to some sort of loss or other negative situation. It will usually pass in time and the sufferer transitions back into normalcy. Endogenous depression is a different beast altogether. The sadness and feelings of hopelessness color the sufferer’s life. Motivation to do the simplest of tasks doesn’t exist. Interactions with others suffers as does the depressed one’s quality of living. It may even be dangerous if suicidal idealizations become part of the picture.
So how does one respond? If the depressed person is a loved one, do you stand by and watch the suffering? Do you intervene with a depression intervention? It can be so hard to watch someone’s life wither away…
Chemically Speaking – What Happens
In the context of other addictions, depression can be commonplace during the first year of recovery, due to the chemical instability of neurotransmitters such as nor-epinephrine. Normalizing brain chemicals create mood swings which are usually temporary. Unless severe, nothing needs to be done. If the situation becomes problematic, threatening one’s job or relationship, or becomes serious – as in the threat of suicide – that’s a different situation. Sometimes the normal recovery depression never lifts. But it can happen that the one who needs help can dig their heels in and refuse to do anything – another frustrating manifestation of depression for some! That’s when it may be time for some sort of depression intervention.
It also happens that one may be depressed without substance abuse issues. If the symptoms of depression (listed below) don’t dissipate after a certain amount of time, there may be a need to seek help, potentially from a depression intervention. In the context of addiction, the two often go together since some take to using a controlled substance to relieve their symptoms. Unfortunately, in the end, self-medicating can lead to addiction after a certain amount of time – another reason to treat the depression as soon as it becomes evident.
What kind of Depression Intervention is Needed?
As is the case with any depression intervention, the initial approach may be a confrontation by the family on their own. This may prove unsuccessful if the family is unable to form a bottom line. Without consequences, almost no one is willing to change. Depression, like addiction, effects the whole family. Consulting a professional is usually the best course, since it is only a medical professional that can truly diagnose depression. There are cases when it’s some type of physical condition, such as a thyroid disorder, for example, causing his symptoms. He may have a different, undiagnosed, mental health issue like bipolarism or post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of endogenous depression may vary from person to person, but may include:
- Sad or empty feelings
- Agitation, restlessness, irritability
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling tired or low on energy
- Problems concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling worthless or inappropriately guilty
- Becomes isolated or withdrawn
- Loses interest in activities once enjoyed
- Thoughts of, or attempts at suicide
- Chronic aches or pains that won’t resolve
- Changes in appetite (gain or loss in weight)
Depression Intervention – Taking Action
If you decide to try a depression intervention, there are some simple guidelines to make the process most effective. Start by telling your family member that you love them and want to help. Try to avoid blaming and criticizing, but instead use a gentle approach. Choose a physician or treatment center beforehand, so if your loved one agrees to get help, you can act at once. A delay gives him the opportunity to talk himself out of it. Plan the intervention for a time when you can get as many loved ones together as possible – there’s strength in numbers. Listen to what your loved one has to say, but try and direct him to a professional for the answers. Expect resistance, but set your resolve.
Call in the Pros
One of the heartbreaking aspects of depression is that it inhibits the sufferer from doing much of anything, including taking steps to get help. If you are fairly certain medical intervention is needed, and family attempts to approach the problem have failed, it may be time to consider a professional depression intervention.
A trained interventionist is certified to know how to respond to the likely denial and resistance encountered by the depressed one. An interventionist will work with family members to explore enabling behavior and unite in a loving, but firm, stand. Family will be educated about the condition. Defensiveness and the loved one’s questions and misgivings will also be addressed. Many times people resist the idea of taking medication to treat depression, either because they are afraid of taking anything – through fear of being labeled with a mental health condition, and sometimes through fear of engaging an addiction again if he or she is in recovery. Often these fears can be assuaged by educating the sufferer about how antidepressants work, which is quite different from how the old standby ‘nerve’ pills like Xanax or Valium work.
Once assessed to be sure what the depressed one is actually suffering from, the recovery begins. Support your loved one in taking medications as prescribed and don’t buy into reasons he may find for not doing so. Remind him some medications take weeks to work correctly, so don’t let him give up before they have time to work. Sometimes it may take a while to find the correct medication, so everyone needs to be patient. If therapy is to be part of the process, encourage participation. Even if he feels better, he needs to continue his course of treatment. It doesn’t happen overnight, but depression is treatable. With a bit of time, patience and help, your loved one can find the respite needed to live a happier, productive life.
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