Twelve things to do if your loved one has depression,
manic-depression, or some other mood disorder:
- Don't regard this as a family disgrace or a subject of shame. Mood
disorders are biochemical in nature, just like diabetes, and are just as
- Don't nag, preach or lecture to the person. Chances are he/she has
already told him or herself everything you can tell them. He/she will
take just so much and shut out the rest. You may only increase their
feeling of isolation or force one to make promises that cannot possibly
be kept. (I promise I'll feel better tomorrow honey; I'll do it
- Guard against the holier-than-thou or martyr-like attitude.
It is possible to create this impression without saying a word. A person
suffering from a mood disorder has an emotional sensitivity such that
he/she judges other people's attitudes toward him/her more by actions,
even small ones, than by spoken words.
- Don't use the if you loved me appeal. Since persons with mood
disorders are not in control of their affliction, this approach only
increases guilt. It is like saying, "If you loved me, you would not
- Avoid any threats unless you think it through carefully and
definitely intend to carry them out. There may be times, of course, when
a specific action is necessary to protect children. Idle threats only
make the person feel you don't mean what you say.
- If the person uses drug and/or alcohol, don't take it away from them
or try to hide it. Usually this only pushes the person into a state of
desperation and/or depression. In the end he/she will simply find news
ways of getting more drugs or alcohol if he/she wants them badly enough.
This is not the time or place for a power struggle.
- On the other hand, if excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol is really
a problem, don't let the person persuade you to use drugs or drink with
him/her on the grounds that it will make him/her use less. It rarely
does. Besides, when you condone the use of drugs or alcohol, it ls
likely to cause the person to put off seeking necessary help.
- Don't be jealous of the method of recovery the person chooses. The
tendency is to think that love of home and family is enough incentive to
get well, and that outside therapy should not be needed.
Frequently the motivation of regaining self respect is more
compelling for the person than resumption of family responsibilities.
You may feel left out when the person turns to other people for mutual
support. You wouldn't be jealous of their doctor of for treating them,
- Don't expect an immediate 100 percent recovery. In any illness,
there is a period of convalescence. There may be relapses and times of
tension and resentment.
- Don't try to protect the person from situations which you believe
they might find stressful or depressing. One of the quickest ways to
push someone with a mood disorder away from you is to make them feel
like you want them to be dependent on you. Each person must learn for
themselves what works best for them, especially in social situations.
If, for example, you try to shush people who ask questions about
the disorder, treatment, medications, etc., you will most likely stir up
old feelings of resentment and inadequacy. Let the person decide for
THEMSELVES whether to answer questions, or to gracefully say "I'd
prefer to discuss something else, and I really hope that doesn't offend
- Don't do for the person that which he/she can do for him/herself.
You cannot take the medicine for him/her; you cannot feel his/her
feelings for him/her, and you can't solve his/her problems for him/her;
so don't try. Don't remove problems before the person can face them,
solve them or suffer the consequences.
- Do offer love, support, and understanding in the recovery, regardless
of the method chosen. For example, some people choose to take meds; some
choose not to. Each has advantages and disadvantages (more side-effect
versus higher instances of relapse, for example). Expressing disapproval
of the method chosen will only deepen the person's feeling that anything
they do will be wrong.
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