If you are a parent with depression you might notice that it is affecting the relationships in your family. You might begin to see that it’s affecting your desire to do things, stay involved in your teen’s life, or stay active in your own life. You might even be concerned about your depression contributing to depressive feelings and thoughts in your teen. In order to prevent depression from affecting your life and your family’s life, there are a few important points to keep in mind.
First, Get Assessed
If you don’t already have professional help, that is a first step to keeping your depression under control. Treatment for depression is just as effective for adults (and older adults) as it is for teens and those in their 20’s and 30’s. Being assessed for depression will give you with some tools. These include:
- a proper diagnosis
- a treatment plan that addresses your needs
- lifestyle tips on how to manage your depression
- suggestions for medications that might help to alleviate symptoms
- the opportunity to work with a psychotherapist
The last item is important because there are some causes of depression that medication alone won’t be able to address. For instance, if loneliness is at the root of your depression, psychotherapy will be most effective, not medication. In other cases, a medical issue may be causing depression. In that case, the treatment plan should involve your primary care physician. A mental health professional can work closely with your doctor in order to create a comprehensive treatment plan.
The point is that by getting assessed you can garner the support you need in order to manage the depression appropriately while addressing your unique needs. Also, keep in mind that the most effective treatment for depression is a combination of both medication and psychotherapy. But a treatment plan can be adjusted to meet your needs and preferences.
Make Some Lifestyle Changes
As mentioned above, once you’re assessed you might begin working with a mental health professional on a regular basis in therapy. Likely, they will give you tips on how to stay healthy and avoid relapse. Some of those tips might be:
Exercise: Research suggests that moving your body on a regular basis can be, in some cases, just as effective as taking an antidepressant. If you can stay active with a regular exercise program, you might begin to see a change in your symptoms of depression.
Eat Right: The foods you put into your body can have a great impact on your mood. For instance, you can eat foods that enhance serotonin (such as coconut oil, avocados, and fish) which help boost positive feelings. Also, eating three meals a day regularly can help balance blood sugar and prevents mood swings.
Sleep Right: Just like eating healthy and on a regular basis, stay healthy with your sleep. Make sure you’re getting the amount you need . For most adults, this is 7-8 hours. Sleeping too much can add to your symptoms of depression. Sleeping too little can exacerbate tension and anxiety.
Use Supplements: There are some use herbs and supplements that can help boost mood. For instance, St John’s Wort can help with mild or moderate symptoms of depression but should not be taken with antidepressants. Omega-3 fatty acids can boost the effectiveness of antidepressants or work as a standalone treatment for depression. Talk to your doctor before taking these supplements, especially if you are also taking anti-depressants.
Other lifestyle tips to help alleviate depression:
- increase exposure to sunlight to increase Vitamin D and mood
- avoid caffeine which reduces serotonin levels
- meditate or practice yoga
Talk to Your Teen about Your Depression
As your depression becomes more and more manageable, you may want to talk to your teen and other family members about what you’re experiencing. It can help strengthen your relationship, especially if your teen has been wondering about you.
Depression can often cause isolation, lack of energy, and a lack of desire for life. You might have pulled away from your teen’s life too. Likely your teen has in some way pulled away from the family because it is typical for teens to find value in their social relationships over their family relationships during this stage of life. However, teens also continue to seek approval, acceptance, and love from their parents, and they will likely notice your absence.
Here are some important points to include in your discussion with your teen:
- Talk about the illness of depression. For instance, you might let your teen know that depression is one of the most common disabilities in the United States. And that depression affects approximately 15 million American adults, which is equivalent to about 6.7% of the US population age 18 and older.
- Let your teen know that they are not responsible. It might sound obvious that your teen is not responsible. But children (and teens are still children in many ways) can so often take the blame for major events in their family’s life, even if they had nothing to do with it. Be sure to communicate that depression is an illness that can affect anyone at any time.
- Take responsibility for managing your illness. Another important point to communicate is to let your teen know what you’re doing to manage your depression. Some teens may want to begin caretaking you and that is not their responsibility. Let your teen know about your treatment, to the degree you feel comfortable.
- Let your teen know how much you care about them. Another perhaps obvious point but always worth communicating is how much you love your teen. In some way, let your adolescent know that your depression isn’t going to affect how much you love them, regardless of the mood you’re in.
Because isolation is a common symptom of depression, staying engaged in life can help keep you healthy. However, depression will present obstacles to staying engaged. So, here are a few tips to help with that:
Get support. Getting support can help you with doing things that you might not do on your own. If you’ve talked with your spouse and perhaps older children about your illness, you might ask for their support. They might be able to provide you with encouragement to get out for the day, go for a walk with you, and give you reminders about taking your medication. There are many ways the adults in your life can be helpful. Keep in mind that expecting your teen to help is not a good idea. As mentioned above, they are still in many ways a child and shouldn’t be expected to take care of their parent.
Do one thing that you enjoy. It’s important not to stay in bed all day or sit in front of the television. Instead, find one thing that puts a smile on your face. Perhaps its meeting with friends or going shopping or taking a nature walk. Try to do one activity that feels satisfying to your physical and emotional being.
Follow your treatment plan. Another important part to staying engaged is to stick to your treatment plan. As mentioned above, treatment is effective with most people. When you stick to the plan you and your doctor created, you’re likely to see the results you’re looking for.
Take medication as prescribed. One of the biggest challenges to taking any sort of medication for psychological illness is that it often comes with side effects. Bearing with those side effects can sometimes lead to deciding to end the medication altogether. Keep in mind that medication is often quite effective. In fact, researchers Geddes and colleagues worked with over 4,000 patients and explored the results of switching depression patients blindly to a placebo. Across 31 studies, these researchers found that 41% of patients who were switched to the placebo relapsed. This is compared to 18% of patients who relapsed while remaining on the antidepressant. This study provided significant evidence that antidepressants are effective medication for depression. If you don’t want to take medication, talk to your doctor and try the herbal supplements mentioned above.
Resources for Depression
In addition to the above suggestions, you might want to do some of your own research. Here are a few national sources on the illness of depression:
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Mental Health America
- National Network of Depression Centers
- National Institute on Mental Health