“Just relax.”

“Chill out.”

“Calm down.”

“You’re fine.”

“Cheer up.”

“Don’t worry.”

Really? Oh thank you!! I would have never thought of that on my own. I will now proceed to so easily take your advice and get my happy on. Seriously, brilliant idea.

Okay, let’s be fair. One cannot be expected to know exactly what to say, how to react, in what ways they can help. One cannot be expected to understand a thought process and physical symptoms they have never experienced. They are simply peering in from the outside – either trying to stay hidden and far away or desperately trying to get in and see everything.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I feel that bringing awareness and education will help lift the demonizing stigma these disorders bring. With less stigma there is more room for acceptance, trust and healing. But this is not only to benefit the person struggling, but also those surrounding that person.

Anxiety disorders are said to effect over 18% of the population. Depression – over 19 million people. And clearly, there are many more who love someone with one of these diseases. Fact is, the people affected are not alone in the need for assistance.

A wife who lies in bed crying day in and day out can put a lot of pressure on a husband. A father who finds it terrifying to leave the house can add a sense of embarrassment for his children. A sister who cannot hold down a job and seems to always need a leg up can often put a sibling in a defensive stance. Living with or loving someone who is struggling with anxiety or depression can be draining, frustrating and lead to resentment.

Sometimes there are ways to alleviate a person’s symptoms, duration and severity of their disorder and doing so will create a smoother life for everyone involved.

First of all, it needs to be recognized that anxiety and depression are not controllable. A person cannot simply stop feeling the way they are feeling. They cannot merely stop the physical symptoms like a racing heart, numbing of arms, sweating, breathlessness, crying and extreme exhaustion. They are not doing this on purpose and if they could stop it, they would.

Secondly, they need to know that there is trust and respect. If during an argument their disorder is thrown into their face like an insult out of anger, it will be difficult for them to feel trust the next time they are needing support. Being called psycho or crazy can be extra hurtful to someone with a mental illness, regardless if the words were not really meant or believed by the person saying it.

Third, educating oneself can do a great deal for both people in any given relationship. The more a person gains knowledge of the disorder, its symptoms, treatments and triggers – the more they can help during the worst moments and help prevent during the best. And even the most modest attempt to learn will allow the person struggling to realize someone cares enough to do so. They will then know that they actually DO have someone in their corner.

Another thing that is important is seeking treatment. Many people suffering refuse to find professional help either out of fear, shame or fatigue. Knowing that a caring loved one is encouraging their healing can be a great motivator. Knowing that seeing a “shrink” will not cause a loss of respect might be all they need to get the intervention required to quell the pain.

And lastly, get support! Talking to others dealing with these issues, seeking counsel and sharing feelings can do a lot to make mole hills out of mountains. Bottling up is no good for anyone. Friends and family are working through this disorder with their loved one. They experience the downfalls and the chaos too. Their feelings are just as relevant without a diagnosis as those with one.

Living with anxiety and/or depression can feel like constantly trying to climb out of a deep, muddy hole with an armful of sandbags. Everything seems so much more difficult – even getting out of bed in the morning can be a monumental feat. The simplest tasks can be a dreaded challenge. Nobody wants to feel this way. And they are not doing this TO anyone. It is happening TO them and sadly, others are caught in the crossfire. But eventually the bullets will stop flying, the smoke will clear and blissful, fulfilling lives and relationships could appear just beyond the horizon. Together, it can be reached.

For further information and resources, please visit the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

I wrote this with the intention of submitting to Patch…that is why it is written differently from my typical blogs (ie. no vulgarities…goddamnit)

32 thoughts on “How to REALLY Help Someone with Depression or Anxiety

  1. My stepson has depression, I’ve mostly left his Mum to deal with it but now feel I need to aswell.
    We just returned to the UK from a trip to NYC where one night I lost it with him and now feel really bad about it and came on here to learn more about how to help.
    the bad side of me says fuck it he’s not my kid but the good person in me knows I have to help and that will make it easier for everyone involved including him.
    He’s 23, no job, dropped out of university and now does nothing. he’s fiercly intelligent and I just wish he’d do something, I’ve only just learned what each day feels like for him so I’m going to make time to understand more, his Mum thinks I’m great that I’m so tolerant and don’t lose it more often but I realise that it’s not enough.

  2. I like this but I have to say, I disagree with your statement that a person with anxiety or depression is not doing it to anyone else. I think it is highly complex, and interpersonal, and sadly far too common that symptoms of any sort appear as veiled, enigmatic messages to another. See, for instance, Louise Kaplan’s work on eating disorders among women as stemming from a revenge drive aimed at the parents (many times the narcissistic or abusive father), a way to make others feel just as helpless as one was made to feel growing up.

    Of course at one level it is not about anyone else, but at another, and I’d say, primary level, all symptoms are intersubjective and aimed at others–the wife who cries in bed all day, or the husband who won’t leave the house–these activities do not occur in a vacuum, and there is quite an element of performativity to them. Analysts see this all the time with transference, where the analysand attempts to frustrate the analyst’s desire in a way that compensates for how the analysand’s desire was frustrated growing up.

    1. my partner doesn’t leave the house what so ever i have to do everything from when she wakes up until she sleeps again but evan when she is in bed i worry still

  3. It always boils down to taking yourself too seriously, does’t it. Does is really matter is 10 million people know your name? Billions do not. It is always hard not to view yourself with negativity or excessive positivity, but no one said it would be easy.

  4. Plus..u should let the one u date know u hv mentality ill..n if u cant deal with marriage n impossible stay with anybody else in same roof evenbhave medication..then i bet u.. dont start the relationship just for trying or boring..u drag n hurt other people feeling in the end when u say its over by no special reason. N then start another relationship n end up the same…yes!!u hv depression but other also have feelings. .u cant just without responsibility by just blaming ur depression when thing get worse!! cure urself first before u date n hv relationship.

  5. I think whoever have mentality illness have to let ppl they date in the beginning.i felt like got fooled. hurt when he dont like and can sent u home whenever he want but when u need to save few mth salary a big sum of money just to buy ticket to see him.but he can just lie that he will busy n change ur ticket 2nd day if he felt he dosent want u there. n lie lie..I hate this!…
    So I guess date with anxiety or depression man will kill myself at last. .my health getting worse n cry without reason. .I hate how he made me like this!!….he dont know what is love n can torture u feeling by revange if u hurt his feeling…
    I just human being not robot!! I guess tht will b enough n I will stop seeing him n slowly help myself to get out of this stupid relationship!!
    I hate him ..I treat him well nicely but he lie n use me!!….

  6. I date v anxiety n depression man..in beginning he sweet n look well..then came out withdraw n saying thing that hurt. N whatever I do is not right for him..also cant have my opinion. .
    Be with him just like walk in the egg shell.he dont know how to take care your feeling. .very selfish n cold blood most of time..in the end I became depress.. wanna let go this relationship..n he seem dosent care too..n force u away by laying n b a liar. .I will never date man hv mentality illness ever..they grab me down..n I can be sick n suck!!!!
    Still feel sad how he treat me..

  7. how do you get someone to go to see a therapist- I completely understand that they have to accept the help and its their decision ultimatley – but they are getting worse and worse and worse and desperatly need help! Ive tried everything!!! even seeing someone myself!

  8. Hello. I’m new to this site. Long story shortened: My son has been married 15 years to his wife that has anxiety/panic disorder. They have 2 children. His wife has such anxiety that my son cannot go to work without her. She waits for him with the kids in the car until lunch. He takes them home for lunch, then they go back and she lets the kids play outside in good weather until he’s off. He can’t have a minute to himself to even see a therapist (I suggested that to him). She can’t stand to let him out of her site, she feels she will die of a heart attack. She knows this is so hard on him and says she feels worthless and should just kill herself so he and the kids don’t have to put up with her. My son is beyond hopeless at this point. He can’t talk to anyone, because they tell him he should not put up with her “crap” and just leave, but he is very loyal to her and is out of options. She has been in and out of Therapy for years, but this is the worst it’s ever been. The last therapist told her that she has the choice to be happy or not and to just give it over to God. I’m so worried about my son, but I know that I cannot do anything for him except worry and think about them. I’m just letting off steam and I thank you all for patiently reading this post.

  9. Hi my friend is very depresses and lost her best friend and now everyday she feels angry and sad and not up for anything and she still sees her (ex) best friend at college in some of her classes and her friend always looks happy and is fine without her.. how can I help her or what can i say or do, she is already seeing a Psychiatrist and she still feels that everyday is too much for her and does not want to be here. she is very anxious sometimes and she has a lack of serotonin.. what to do??

  10. hi am 22 years old my gf suffers from both theses symptoms i personally don’t understand it but its really getting her down n i will do anything to help her that’s why am on here to find sum one could answer some questions for me i just want her to feel safe n secure with me and to know am here for her bt im struggling because i dont no enough about it and trying to keep a job and a house and my own problems in life i just need some help please email me would be well appreciated thanks

    1. I am so happy to see how much significant others care and make efforts to help. It is so nice to see. I wish I could help, but I can say that there is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist yourself and learn how to deal with it because you need to look out for yourself too. They will help you learn to deal with this and give you tips on how to help her. It truly is not hopeless. Best to you William!!

  11. My wife is suffering from anxiety. Now I try to be a laid back person, try to stay calm and go with the flow…..I try. I look at depression and anxiety as an excuse and not a disease but my wife’s symptoms are seeming to tear our relationship apart. Some days are better than others and some are worse or way worse. We can’t even have an adult conversation about the house,finances,work,kids nothing without her getting pissed about something I did or said. I am not trying to fight or argue but it seems as though once we get close she turns on me like I did something wrong. I don’t know how to handle myself in these situations and get pissed right back with no resolution and sometimes say mean things that I know are hurtful, but she says them too. Now we have 2 kids and I love my wife very much but this is taking over her life and carrying me along with her, I just want her to be

    1. Depression and Anxiety are not an excuse. They are overwhelming emotional states that are difficult to deal with. Sure there are ups and downs, but there are those in life. I suffer from Depression and Anxiety, have my entire life. I have really good runs of time, where my anxiety and depression are easier to deal with.. other times I can be in a funk for months or longer. Typically if my stress level increases, or there are big changes in life I have a tremendous time dealing with them. I think you BOTH need to be in therapy. Not only for her benefit, but for yours. Dealing with a loved one who has a disease is hard work, and can take its toll emotionally on you. I have been through therapy 4 times, usually when my depression and anxiety start to significantly impact my relationships with others. I know, that I may need therapy and medication on and off for the rest of my life. Your wife is probably the same, and you may need to go to therapy too. Its not that bad, its helpful and can get you through some hard times.

      1. I have been in and out of therapy since the age of 14. I am now 38. It does certainly go in cycles. Therapy is not horrible. You may need to shop around to find a therapist you can trust and groove with. But I think most find it refreshing after a while. Definitely doesn’t hurt.

    2. I feel very similar, my wife has depression/anxiety also, sometimes she often gets chest pains and muscle aches, her job stresses her out very much, but for some reason she is not looking for a new one even though she says she wants one. I always try to reassure her things will work out and remind her I am here for her. It gets tough, she will say something hurtful and claim it was a joke and I have to just take it and keep telling myself “she did not mean it, she is just having a bad day.”, but that is often hard to do. I love her very much, but I cant understand things, sometimes I think she actually likes feeling down. I want to help her but am afraid that she will feel insulted by telling her she has a problem and should seek help.

      1. Very sorry it took so long to respond, Jim. I really want to commend you for caring enough and being so supportive of your wife. I cannot imagine my husband, even though I am sure he cares, searching the internet for ideas on how to help. I really appreciate your efforts. But you also have to take care of yourself, so do not allow yourself to be a punching bag.

        About her liking to feel down. I wouldn’t say like…but I do get it. Sometimes even a warm pile of shit can get comfortable. Even to the point where it is too difficult, scary or uncomfortable to try to leave it. We get so used to feeling like crap that we almost become dependent on it. It becomes our identity at times.

        I would let her know that you are concerned but are hopeful because you have done some reading and know there is help and hope. I would encourage her to find help and remind her how common it is. But know there is only so much you can do. She has to want to feel better.

        Best of luck to both of you, Jim.

    3. I have very similiar situtation as yours, my husband can be very good sometimes, but on one of those days, a small thing can triger his anger, regardless what I said and what I do, he takes as againest him. I have gtt him involve some activities that we both like – eg Cycling. He is getting better, but still I don’t know which day he suddently becomes different person, it is like living in bomb field sometimes.

    4. that is exactly what my partner does to me it is like a bomb ready to go off any minute and when it does she goes her anger hits the roof and i try calm her down i get my head bitten off

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