Dealing with Anxiety and Depression
Updated: Jul 27, 2021
How do we recognize the signs that a friend is dealing with anxiety and depression issues, and then how we can help.
We all worry and all feel anxious at some point. Sometimes it is about the little things like being late to a meeting or forgetting something. Sometimes it can be more personal, like what others think about you or how you will get everything done by a deadline. Sometimes it’s much bigger like a relationship ending or the possibility of losing your job or how you will pay all the bills. The unknown and fear of not being in control can cause sleepless nights. And what about sadness and disappointment? As much as we try and push these feelings away, they overwhelm us. This may happen when we fight with a friend or spouse, when we lose someone we love or when we feel alone. But how do we know if our anxiousness and sadness is beyond what is normal?
Anxiety Disorder affects 9 million people and depression affects over 18 million adults in the US. Anxiety disorders involve excessive fear or anxiety and can cause reactions out of proportion to the circumstances. It is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It can interfere with job performance and relationships. It can cause both physical and emotional symptoms. Depression can cause persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how we feel, think and behave and can lead to physical problems. Normal day-to-day activities are difficult and you may feel like life isn’t worth living.
So how do you know if a friend or family member is dealing with anxiety and depression beyond what is “normal”? Here are a few signs to look for:
Has your friend stopped engaging with you?
Has your friend lost interest in things that bring joy? If they love to run are they still running? If they love to hang out with friends are they still engaged in social activities?
Are there any signs of substance abuse? Have they told a story of drinking too much or experimenting with drugs or porn?
Have you noticed an inability to concentrate, irritability, mood swings, lack of energy. Do they seem fixated on what is wrong with the past?
Do they talk about how they aren’t sleeping or sleeping too much? Eating too much or too little?
How do you help?
3 steps to take:
1. Ask how you can help. Seems obvious right? But most of us feel uncomfortable asking. By just asking, you are communicating you are not alone and you care. They may not have an answer, but that’s ok.
2. Serve/Help in tangible ways: Provide meals, help with the kids, clean up the yard etc. Serve in ways you can. It is important for your friend to know they are not alone. Send a thoughtful or encouraging text. Don’t try and fix it. Listen and empathize with feelings. Say things like “That must be hard” - Don’t tell them “it could be worse” or “if you just pray harder” this is NOT helpful and could be damaging. Be real, everyone has stuff, so don’t pretend to have it all together or know all the answers.
3. Consult with a 3rd party you trust. Get an extra set of eyes on what you are seeing. But remember to do this in confidence.
So you now know what to look for, but how do you know if this is more than what you can handle? If your friend talks about hurting themselves, wanting to hurt others or wishing to die or expressing hopelessness it’s time to get a professional involved.
While we all wrestle with anxiety and depression, there are steps we can take to help others including consideration of involving a professional.
What are some things that cause you anxiety?
Which of the 3 steps is easiest for you? Which one is hardest?
Do you have a tendency to jump in and help or step back when you see signs of anxiety or depression?
Have you ever been in this spot? What was most helpful for you?
Want to learn more? Check out this conversation with my friends Clay and Debbie. She gives so many great tips on anxiety.