How Chronic Depression Affects Families

Woman Sitting At Desk Lonely

How Chronic Depression Affects Families

When most people talk about depression, they’re often referring to feelings of numbness, loss of interest, and mental impairment to one’s quality of life. Depression is one of the most commonly occuring illnesses worldwide, affecting approximately 280 million people worldwide. It’s also one of the most hidden illnesses due to how difficult it is to spot on the surface. When it comes to family members, it can be even harder to spot and handle. Caring for loved ones with depression can be a highly emotional experience. Still, it’s essential to be aware of how depression can affect everyone involved to be able to recognize it and seek out help. 

Depression within the Family Dynamic 

While most depictions of depression present clear-cut signs, such as isolation, expressionless facial features, and lack of energy, most people who have depression often don’t exhibit those behaviors all the time. For some, depression is a real, present, everyday part of their lives, even when they’re seen laughing and enjoying life. It’s considered a hidden illness because it can be felt during all hours of the day, and for family members looking for signs, it can be hard to spot unless explicitly told. That’s because depression still has some stigmas surrounding it, and because of the extent of this illness, it can also be hard to talk about if you don’t understand it. 

Many therapists understand the results of depression and how it can cause long-term harm to families. In the British Journal of General Practice, studies have shown that family members with depression had a higher illness severity score than families who don’t, implying that families with depression are at more risk of developing chronic illnesses. But even then, handling depression in one’s personal life can present huge struggles if you don’t know what to look for. 

While the obvious signs such as helplessness, skipping meals, loss of interest and heavy signs of fatigue can easily occur, many of the symptoms associated with depression can often occur in degrees. Depression symptoms can appear like a scale, where somedays a person with depression can be able to enjoy activities but still experience the side effects of numbness and emptiness within those moments. Those sensations can lead to canceled activities, poor communication, and overall disinterest in one’s personal environment on worse days. 

How Family Therapy Can Help Your Depression

One important thing to be aware of is that depression still contains many stigmas, where people with depression are seen as lazy, dramatic, or overtly-sensitive. These stigmas can still exist in family dynamics. Still, it’s only with direct conversations about these stigmas that families can provide an accepting environment for their loved ones and help their loved ones receive the help they need. That’s where family therapy can come in to help. 

Family therapy can work to help find stressors, environmental factors, and personal points in one’s life to address common mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. These family sessions can help your loved ones better understand depression and how it affects everyone involved and can be used to teach people how to respond to its symptoms for overall better life.

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April is the founder of Prestige Mental Health and is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) who is qualified to practice primary care and psychiatry. She is passionate about providing quality, compassionate, and comprehensive mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults. April specializes in psychiatric illnesses including but not limited to depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD/trauma, bipolar, and schizophrenia.