Depression is not only a challenge for those who are directly dealing with it, but it also affects those around them.

Caregiver's Response When A Family Member Has Depression

If someone falls into depression, family members are often obliged to take on the role of a caregiver. Some people feel that they should be able to "fix" the situation and make the symptoms of depression go away. However, failure to fix the situation can lead to stress and anxiety for the caregiver.

There are also family members who worry that they may be the cause of their loved one's depression. It is important for them to realize that depression is influenced by many different factors such as genetics, biology, and environment. Although family members play an important role in helping treat depression, they should not be held responsible for causing or treating the condition.

Some family members may experience feelings of fear, anxiety, and powerlessness. Anger and irritation may also arise, and this can lead to feelings of guilt and shame that they cannot help their loved one. Research shows that relatives of depressed people are also more likely to have health problems, and they face an increased risk of burnout, depression, and psychological distress.

Recognizing and understanding these reactions is important because family members' responses can affect the individual's depression treatment. Additionally, it helps caregivers take care of themselves and avoid mental health risks while supporting someone with depression.

How Does Depression Affect Family Members?

Cause Mental Harm To Family Members

Individuals struggling with depressive disorders can spread feelings of extreme anxiety among other family members. Witnessing persistent sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest - the characteristics of depression - can make those around you extremely miserable. Family members may experience helplessness, frustration, and sadness as they try to support the individual.

Strain Family Relationships

Depression can strain family relationships. People with depression may withdraw from social interactions or appear upset, stifling communication between family members. Conflicts and misunderstandings may become more frequent, further contributing to the emotional burden.

Impact on Children

In families with parents or adults suffering from depression, children are often the most vulnerable. Children may not understand the complexities of depression, but they will feel the change in their family’s interactions. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and confusion in children.

Cause Financial Stress

Depression often leads to functional decline, including difficulty maintaining work. As a result, family members may face financial strains due to reduced income, which can lead to additional stress and instability.

Cause Social Isolation

Depression can lead to social withdrawal, for both the individual with depression and their family members. Family members may feel that they have to cancel social activities or limit their activities to care for and meet their loved one's needs.

Mental Health Risks In Caregivers

Caring for someone with a depressive disorder often requires a lot of effort. Stress from caring for a loved one can have negative effects on both the physical and mental health of the caregiver. Not only do they spend significantly more hours per week providing care, but they also face a variety of issues such as personal stress, physical and mental health problems, lack of sleep, and time constraints for personal and family activities.

Women - who often take on the primary role of caregiving - have higher rates of depression than men. The condition is especially common in the US, with about 12 million women experiencing clinical depression each year, a rate twice as high as men.

However, this does not mean that male caregivers do not experience mental health problems. Although they may be willing to hire outside help for assistance with home care duties, they are less inclined to confide in friends or participate in social activities, so they often feel lonely and lack a support network. Besides, men are often less likely to admit their mental health struggles, and instead of seeking help, they often express unchecked emotions, become irritable, overwork, or even self-medicate using alcohol, cigarettes, or other addictive substances.

>>> Read more: Depression In Men

Military and veteran caregivers also face a higher risk of depression. For these people, physical and mental health problems such as dementia, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) pose special challenges. Trying to cope with daily life while supporting a loved one can leave them feeling overwhelmed and increase their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Even when individuals receive inpatient treatment in healthcare facilities, depression in family members may still persist. Making the decision to move a loved one to a care center is stressful – loneliness, feelings of guilt, and monitoring the care a loved one receives in this new location can cause additional worries and tensions.

How To Help Yourself?

When you are caring for someone with depression, it is important to talk to them about which behaviors are unacceptable and which are dangerous. Additionally, consider the following guidelines and strategies:

Stick To The Treatment Plan

Support from relatives and friends is indeed important but is often not enough to handle depression. If you notice your loved one is facing depression, encourage them to seek professional help. Depression can be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Tell the person that you care about them, but that you cannot help them with their depression alone. Explain why you think they need to seek professional help and remind them to follow the advice of mental health professionals. For example, you can encourage them to attend all sessions with a specialist or advise them to take their medications as prescribed. It is important to maintain discipline when using prescribed medication, and not to stop taking medication even when the symptoms appear to be alleviated.

Say “No” To All Forms Of Abuse

If the person you are caring for uses abusive language towards you, tell them that it is unacceptable and that they should not do that. If they show any signs of physical abuse or violence, firmly ask them to stop.

If you are worried that you may be in danger, ask for help from other family members or friends. If you live with that person, it may be necessary to involve local law enforcement officials. If you don't live with the person but are being physically abused or assaulted, you should avoid going near them, and wait until someone qualified to help calm them down. It is helpful to prepare a Go-bag with all the essential belongings, in case you are living in an abusive environment, in which violence can be commonplace.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Encourage the person you are caring for to focus their energy on healthy behaviors, such as exercise. Regular exercise reduces the risk of depression, it can help your loved one recover more quickly.

You should also encourage them to have a healthy diet, and consider supplementing vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids (usually found in fish oil), because when these nutrients in the body are deficient, the risk of Symptoms of depression may increase. Research shows that the majority of depressed people have low vitamin D levels. However, just 3 months of vitamin D supplementation was able to help reduce their symptoms of depression. Another study also shows that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids can cause certain effects in some cases of depression.

Take Time For Yourself

You can’t care for others effectively until you are healthy. Therefore, proactively do the above to prevent exhaustion and pain when caring for someone with depression. In addition, you need to set boundaries: Talk to the person you are caring for about harmful behaviors; Encourage them to follow the recommended treatment plan; At the same time, build healthy habits for yourself, respecting your own mental and physical health needs.

Let your depressed loved one know that you can't always be there for them 24/7 and that you need some time for yourself. Try to practice a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep in moderation. To control stress, take a reasonable time to rest and participate in your favorite activities.

If you feel you are having symptoms of depression, go to a medical facility for timely examination and diagnosis, or contact the Vietnam - France Psychology Institute via Hotline: 0979.158.463 for specific advice. Early intervention is key to improving health and quality of life.


[1] How Depression Can Impact Family Members.,with%20a%20relative%20with%20depression

[2] How depression impacts close family members.

[3] Depression and Caregiving.

[4] Setting Boundaries with a Person with Depression.



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PSYCHOTHERAPY CENTER IN HCMC: Landmark 81 & Landmark Plus, Vinhomes Central Park, 720A Dien Bien Phu Street, Ward 22, Binh Thanh District, HCMC, Vietnam

Phone: 0979.158.463 (Business hours)


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