How Do I Explain My Depression to a Loved One?


Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders in our world today. Depression affects many individuals throughout their lifetime and their families, where symptoms may become debilitating and devastating. Explaining depression to loved ones can bring a mix of emotions like frustration, embarrassment, confusion, or shame. Discussing depression can be challenging, especially when trying to explain how you feel when you may not know how you feel or trying to fake a smile when you are not happy inside. 

You may have no idea how to explain your depression as you don’t understand it yourself. You may try to explain your challenging thoughts to someone who may struggle to understand, which only contributes to feelings of loneliness and isolation. While all of these emotions and thoughts are valid, depression is a disorder that becomes more severe over time if it is not addressed. Here are some suggestions that will help with explaining your depression to a loved one.

Explaining Depression Using Defined Language

One way to begin explaining your depression to a loved one is by using dictionary terms or medical language and having an open conversation about the prevalence of depression. Using defined language and statistical evidence will help them make connections about how depression functions and how common it truly is, especially when you explain depression to someone who does not understand it. Starting a conversation about depression, in general, can be a great start to explaining your depression to a loved one. 

What Is Depression?

Depression, otherwise known as major depressive disorder, is a serious medical condition that negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. For an accurate diagnosis, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks and represent an alteration in a previous level of functioning. Depression should be diagnosed by a professional, although symptoms may be easy to recognize. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Weight changes 
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia or other sleep difficulties
  • Loss of energy
  • Increased fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Suicidal ideation 

Depression vs. Sadness or Grief

When discussing depression, be sure to clarify that depression is not just experiencing sadness. Upset emotions come and go, but depression can become severe and consists of unpleasant moods. The ending or loss of relationships, loss of a job, or death of someone important can be very challenging emotional experiences. Feelings of grief and periods of sadness are natural. While depression can develop as the cause of persistent sadness or grief, it is uniquely its own condition. An example of this difference is that grief is typically accompanied by painful feelings that surface in waves. However, depression involves mood changes, loss of interest, and loss of motivation for at least two weeks continuously. Although depression and grief can coexist, grief tends to ease over time, while depression feels like it will never end. 

Explaining Depression In Your Own Terms

Describing personal symptoms and experiences of depression can be more challenging than using defined language, as you have to comprehend what you are experiencing and then express it in words. It is also challenging to explain irrational or intrusive thoughts that may arise with depression, which only increases feelings of vulnerability. 

The easiest way to explain your depression in your own terms is to reflect on when it began and perhaps why, other contributing factors to your depression, and symptoms you are experiencing. Despite individuals with depression sharing many common symptoms, depression looks different for everyone. Maybe you are not as engaged in your schoolwork or career life as you once were. Perhaps you would rather tune into movies than social gatherings, which seems unlike you. By pinpointing what life changes may have contributed to these mindset changes, you may be able to identify what needs to change moving forward. 

Seeking Help

If you are considering explaining your depression to a loved one, take it as a sign to accept love and seek support. Regardless of why you want your loved one to know, this is the beginning of seeking treatment and support for your diagnosis. 

Psychotherapy is always a great start. Psychotherapy is discussing your thoughts, feelings, and other emotions with a professional during counseling or therapy. Treatment for depression can look like many things, such as attending gatherings to increase social activity, reading self-help books, attending support groups, mindfulness, or considering other forms of treatment. Your loved one will likely want to help you locate resources and additional help for your depression as well. Your depression does not define you, and always remember that you are not alone. 

Depression is a mental health disorder that negatively affects thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Depression is different from sadness or grief in that it lasts for extended periods of time, and may feel like the feelings will never end. When experiencing symptoms or a diagnosis of depression, it may be challenging to explain it to your loved one, as you may feel scared, confused, and hopeless. Casa Recovery assures you that although it is difficult, it is worth it. Explaining your depression to a loved one can be done using medical terminology and statistical evidence, reading off signs and symptoms that you are experiencing, or trying your best to explain your thought patterns. Depression is confusing to understand even for yourself, so remember to be kind and patient with yourself during the process. At Casa Recovery, we focus on individualized mental health and substance use treatment. For more information about Casa Recovery, call us today at (888) 928-2272.

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