How to explain depression
Explaining depression is not easy. The condition can rob you of the desire to connect with others and leave you searching for words to describe the emptiness within.
This article offers some simple strategies that can help you explain what you’re going through to people who may not have been there themselves. It also offers ideas for getting support in the midst of depression.
David Rosmarin, PhD, ABPP, founder of the Anxiety Center and associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, has worked with individuals and families affected by depression and other mental health issues. Her advice is that you don’t have to be the one to explain your depression to others after all.
You are the expert on your own feelings. No one, not even your therapist, knows more about your experience with depression than you do. But if the job of explaining your symptoms and answering questions seems like a burden, you can seek help. Health professionals are trained and experienced in educating family members.
“The person with depression is usually not the best person to explain it,” says Dr. Rosmarin. “It’s hard enough to explain depression when you’re shooting at full blast. If not, you may prefer to offer your loved ones the chance to speak to someone on your clinical team.
In fact, there is
The emotional depths of depression can be difficult to convey to people who haven’t experienced them. You can just observe your thoughts and feelings and describe them as best you can.
“Try to explain without getting angry, non-judgmental or aggressive,” Rosmarin advises. If your feelings are too overwhelming to share, use printed materials or online teaching tools from organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association or the American Association for Anxiety and Depression. Statistics and infographics can also be helpful.
You can also look to videos online in which people explain what it’s like to experience depression. If you find one that rings true for you, you can share it with those around you.
Some people find it helpful to practice difficult conversations before engaging with family members. If you think role-playing can help you clarify your feelings, prepare yourself, or boost your self-confidence, Rosmarin recommends practicing with a professional rather than a friend.
Before you strike up a conversation with someone about depression, think about what you want the conversation to accomplish. Is there something concrete that you want others to do or not do? Do you need special support? Identifying your goals in advance can help you create reasonable expectations.
Rosmarin suggests trying the “DEAR MAN»Strategies developed in dialectical behavior therapy. Each letter of the phrase “DEAR MAN” represents a communication technique:
- Describe. Describe the situation factually, without emotion or judgment.
- Express. Use self-centered “I feel” statements to express your feelings about the situation.
- To affirm. Ask for what you want or need in a simple and straightforward way.
- To reinforce. Reinforce the importance of the relationship by reminding the other person how precious they are to you.
- Be aware. Try to stay in the present moment, without bringing up the past or worrying about the future.
- Look confident. Use your posture, tone of voice, and facial expressions to communicate self-respect (even if you are feeling anxious).
- To negotiate. If what you need isn’t possible, work with the other person to find an alternative that might work.
It may not be necessary to explain depression to young children, Rosmarin says. They may not be aware of changes in your mood or behavior. Older children and teens, on the other hand, may have questions.
The appropriate level of explanation will likely depend on the maturity of your child. If you are co-parenting, your partner may be the best person to explain that you are having a hard time. If you are the only parent, you can say, “I want to be there for you more than I can right now. It’s not because of you.
The important message to convey is that your difficulties are not your child’s fault.
“It’s important to keep your expectations in check,” says Rosmarin. “Not everyone should understand depression. Think about what it’s going to be if they don’t.
He suggests these strategies for coping when mutual understanding doesn’t happen right away:
- Know who your allies are.
- Create new allies if you need more support.
- Contact someone who has experienced it before.
If understanding and support is lacking from those close to you, consider exploring resources in your faith community or in a support group.
“If it doesn’t go well at first, don’t give up trying to explain,” Rosmarin said. “When you talk about depression and it doesn’t go as well as you might expect, it can create some distance between you and the people you care about. When people feel misunderstood, it can exacerbate symptoms of depression. “
Discussions like these can take time, and awareness can develop gradually. If you can be patient with yourself and with others, your communication can be better in the long run.
As you think about how you feel about depression, ask yourself:
- How does depression affect my body and how do I feel physically?
- How Does Depression Affect My Thoughts?
- How does depression affect my ability to focus and remember?
- How Does Depression Affect My Relationships?
- How does depression affect my sense of spirituality and connectedness?
Depression affects people differently. Knowing your own symptoms can help you explain them to the people who care about you. it can also help you
You don’t necessarily need words to explain depression. People have used art, music, dance, photography, films, spoken poetry, and other means to capture the experience for centuries.
You might be a professional artist. Or maybe you are a newbie looking for a way to express your own feelings. Either way, explaining depression creatively isn’t just a communication strategy.
Stigma. In certain
Exhaustion. Feeling tired, exhausted, and wrung out are common symptoms of depression. If you are exhausted, you may not have the energy to explain to others how you are feeling.
Insulation. Depression often causes people to want to withdraw. If you have trouble connecting and confiding with other people, it can cause symptoms of depression.
Cognitive effects. Depression makes it harder to think clearly. In
Individual differences. If you are uncomfortable talking about your feelings, talking about depression may seem abnormal to you. Experts at National Institutes of Mental Health suggest that sex may also play a role in how comfortable you feel about talking about depression.
Explaining depression can be a challenge. Your symptoms may not be the same as everyone’s. And you may or may not feel comfortable sharing your feelings with people around you.
If you are working with a therapist or psychiatrist, you can seek help educating those around you. If you are co-parenting, it may be helpful for your partner to explain to your children. Or you can use educational material from reliable sources.
Before having a conversation about depression, think about your goals and expectations. You might also want to think about how you’ll take care of yourself if the conversation isn’t going as planned.
Your experience of depression is valid and unique. How you explain it – in words, art, or some other form of expression – is a matter of personal choice.