Depression

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Understanding Depression Slideshow

Quick GuideDepression Overview Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Types, Tests & Treatment

Depression Overview Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Types, Tests & Treatment

How can someone help a person who is depressed?

Family and friends can help! Since depression can make the affected person feel exhausted and helpless, he or she will want and probably need help from others. However, people who have never had a depressive disorder may not fully understand its effects. Although unintentional, friends and loved ones may unknowingly say and do things that may be hurtful to the depressed person. It may help to share the information in this article with those you most care about so they can better understand and help you.

The most important thing anyone can do for the depressed person is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. This help may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to go away (usually several weeks) or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. On occasion, it may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to the doctor. It may also mean monitoring whether the depressed person is taking medication for several months after symptoms have improved. Always report a worsening depression to the patient's physician or therapist.

The second most important way to help someone with depression is to offer emotional support. This support involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation and listen carefully. Do not disparage feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope. Do not ignore remarks about suicide. Always report them to the depressed person's therapist.

Invite the depressed person for walks, outings, and to the movies and other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused. Encourage participation in activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, or religious or cultural activities. However, do not push the depressed person to undertake too much too soon. The depressed person needs company and diversion, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure.

Do not accuse the depressed person of faking illness or of laziness. Do not expect him or her "to snap out of it." Eventually, with treatment, most depressed people do get better. Keep that in mind. Moreover, keep reassuring the depressed person that, with time and help, he or she will feel better.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2016
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