Clinical depression is a serious condition that affects both the mind and body. It alters the way people feel about themselves and the people in their lives, and this can subsequently ruin relationships. If you have been diagnosed with depression, the primary focus of treatment (e.g. deep TMS, medication, etc. ) is to improve your mental and physical health, but it is important to understand the painful effects your family and friends may experience as they try to provide you with emotional support. Here are some of the ways depression may affect the people you regularly interact with.
Depression can promote negativity in those around you
Research shows that people who are clinically depressed tend to show preference to sad facial expressions, emotion words, and adjectives. Individuals who are suffering from depression also typically view vague social interactions as negative and attribute social difficulties to their personalities. This leads to fewer close relationships, lower levels of empathy from others, and a higher incidence of unfavorable social interactions. People who are chronically depressed also have a tendency to induce negativity in others and this may cause social rejection as well as the loss of socially rewarding relationships.
More specifically, research has consistently demonstrated a link between being depressed and experiencing rejection from other people in social settings. Interacting with someone who is depressed may cause otherwise healthy individuals to feel more depressed, hostile, rejecting, and anxious. Negative feelings make it harder for the individual who is suffering from depression to display good-natured social behavior and this disrupts relationships.
A conflictual relationship may develop
Individuals who regularly interact with someone who is clinically depressed may become critical, emotionally over-involved, and hostile toward that person. This change in behavior is known as expressed emotion and it is especially common among caregivers (e.g. parents). Studies conducted in clinical settings have shown that this can cause a conflictual relationship to develop between the caregiver and the patient as well as the worsening of depressive symptoms and social functioning for the patient.
If a caregiver is unable to find ways to lower the level of expressed emotion, the risk of relapse for the depression sufferer increases and the cycle of negativity may continue. In such cases, psycho-education for family members or loved ones and family-focused therapy can help improve expressed emotion in personal relationships.
Depression can impact the physical health of loved ones
Family members or close acquaintances of people with depression may experience different types of health problems. Caregivers in particular, generally demonstrate a higher incidence of mental health problems and depressive symptoms, and a significant number of caregivers meet the criteria for clinical depression. They also report higher levels of frustration, stress, fatigue, anger, helplessness, or guilt. Those who experience chronic stress may even begin to suffer from decreased mental performance, including impaired memory function and a shortened attention span. Physical health problems that may be experienced by close acquaintances or loved ones include: headaches, acid reflux, body pain, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, a weakened immune system, and increased levels of stress hormones, among others.
Additional issues such as lowered self-esteem, feelings of uncertainty, constant worry, and the loss of self-identity have also been reported by individuals who care for someone suffering from mental health issues (e.g. depression). Furthermore, as a caregiver’s health status declines, the severity of depression and perceived burden gradually increases for the caregiver. Some individuals (e.g. spouse) may begin to take prescription medication in order to try to cope with taking care of a loved one who is struggling with depression. In general, a person who has a close relationship with someone who has depression may struggle with self-care and this can lead to a number of serious health issues if helpful coping strategies are not established. It is important to remember that individuals who are not caregivers but frequently interact the depressed person can also experience these types of health problems.
Keep in mind how your social behavior may affect those around you
If you frequently experience a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, insomnia, fatigue, decreased focus, social problems, or even thoughts of suicide, it is important to remember that that these symptoms may affect both your long-term health as well as those around you. This means that receiving individualized treatment such as deep TMS and pursuing therapy which is family/caregiver-focused is essential for you and your loved ones.
Having people in your life who are able to maintain emotional and physical health through good self-care are better able to support you when you need it most. This can help reduce conflicts and prevent the loss of close relationships..Depression can be treated and understanding how it can affect others may encourage you to seek out beneficial treatment options.