Loxley Jones was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety in 2016 and has since worked to educate others about mental illnesses.
There is no getting around it, loving someone who has both anxiety and depression is not easy.
To give you a bit of understanding, people who suffer from both fight daily battles with themselves. Depression is the voice of doubt and self loathing, while anxiety is the constant alarm system of overthinking and panic. People who suffer from both may be incredibly ambitious, yet have little motivation. They may also be incredibly smart and gifted, but get poor grades in school.
How can this be?
In most cases, anxiety comes first, and while the person may know that their thoughts are irrational, they still tend to dwell on them. This then leads to feelings of doubt, failure, and self loathing about the problem, so the anxiety evolves into depression.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
- Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.
Here is a good list of depression symptoms from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
1. Don't take it personally when your loved one is feeling withdrawn.
Honestly, there is nothing more difficult than explaining to someone why I just don't feel like doing something. I would say that about 99.9% of the time, when I feel disinterested and act "far away," it is simply because I feel depressed.
So as your loved one's partner or friend, I am telling you, you did nothing wrong!
Ask your loved one how you can help, and respect that they're going through a tough internal problem. Do not keep asking if you did something wrong and do not keep asking why they are upset. Like I said, it probably has nothing to do with anything you did, and constant questions like these can add unnecessary stress. And especially do not say things like "Just be happy." If your loved one could choose to just suddenly not be depressed, they would.
2. Be patient.
As listed above, people who have anxiety and/or depression can have difficulty making decisions. It can be so frustrating, but trust me, you being patient for that extra 10 minutes it may take for your loved one to choose an outfit means the world to them. When I am overthinking a decision, I am completely aware that I am taking forever, and it only adds to the panic when the person I am with tries to hurry me. Offer your input on the decision (it does help) and offer words of encouragement, but do your best to not rush your loved one.
3. Don't let them steamroll themselves.
This can be a really difficult one to handle. Sometimes when people are caught up in cycles of depression, they can feel incredibly hopeless and become trapped in self-pity. They also completely catastrophize every little situation and convince themselves that no one loves them, and they are the most useless human being on the planet. Calmly remind your loved one that they are in fact loved, and that it is not the end of the world. Help rationalize their fears and doubts, and give them simple steps that they can take to get out of this rut. Patience, again, is key here.
Your loved one may argue with you, and completely blow everything out of proportion. And while this can get frustrating, don't belittle them or their worries. If you have given every piece of advice you have, tried to rationalize with them, and they still feel like shit- take a step back.
Take a deep breath, and calmly say, "I'm sorry you feel this way." Then offer to just simply cuddle, or do something like watch a movie or take a nap together. And just give your loved one some time to calm down and process what you said. Chances are that later they will start feeling a little better.
I don't claim to speak for everyone with anxiety and depressive disorders. What may work for some people may not work for others. However, the best and last piece of advice I could give anyone who loves someone with depression and anxiety is this next one.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Take the time to talk to your loved one about what they are experiencing. While you may not be able to fully understand, it will sure be a load off of their shoulders to know that they have someone who is on their side.
Share Your Thoughts
Do you have any advice for people who have loved ones with anxiety and depression? Please share your comments below!
© 2018 Loxley Jones