When a person is suffering the torment of a stressful, depressive or anxious episode, it can be so hard for loved ones and friends to connect with them. For the sufferer, the torment can be exacerbated because no one understands what they’re going through.
Here’s 5 ways you can develop understanding so you can reach a loved one.
1. A common reaction to a sufferer is: “Oh, come on, you’ll be OK, it’s all in the mind.” Although stress, depression and anxiety have their roots in thought, there are many other symptoms involved. Severe headache, back pain, muscle pain, exhaustion, palpitations, hypertension, shaking, loss of appetite, loss of sex drive and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities to name several. There are many other symptoms and it’s also important to understand that no sufferer experiences the same symptoms. E.g. One may develop severe back pain another may develop headaches. As you can see, it is much more complicated than “all in the mind”.
2. Another reaction is to say “What have you got to be so worried about? Many people throughout the world have it much worse than you do and they’re happy.” Now fair enough, when you look at the plight millions of people have to endure around the world, living in squalor and poverty, then yes, they do have a terrible time. So do people who suffer severe illness and disability. But this just won’t have any bearing on how a sufferer feels at all. In my own case, when people said this to me it meant nothing because I couldn’t change their circumstances and I was struggling to solve my own problems. I couldn’t care about anyone else. This is a symptom of depression. A sufferer will turn inwards and disconnect from society. They need help to solve their problems. Pointing out that others have it worse will not help in any way.
3. Non sufferers find it very hard to accept depression, anxiety and stress as real problems. Many will say “Oh, you’ve just got the blues. Don’t worry, they’ll soon go away.” Of course, there will be times in all of our lives when things don’t run smoothly, when things go awry, when the weather is awful, when friends let you down, when you just feel a bit sad. We call these “the blues” and we know that the blues will eventually lift. There is a big difference between “the blues” and stressful, depressive or anxious episodes. Sufferers firmly believe their torment will never end and they cannot see a positive outcome to any problem. Add these feelings to the physical symptoms and you can see that “the blues” is vastly different.
4. Self-deprecation is typical of these problems. Sufferers will put themselves down at every opportunity. They’ll do it when they’re alone and they’ll do it when they’re in the company of others. E.g. “No, you go ahead. I won’t bother because I’ll just get it wrong like everything else I do.” When you hear this, avoid the urge to challenge it or reprimand. Instead, gently and subtly remind them of a time when something went well. Just say “Hey, do you remember that time when you…” Challenging or reprimanding will only arouse resentment and they’ll just think you’re against them. This is a very subtle way of reminding the sufferer of a more positive event.
5. Frustration is also common amongst people who cannot understand what their loved one is going through. And it can soon give way to anger and resentment as patience wears thin. Criticism begins. “You’ve always been negative. The glass is always half empty with you. All you’ve ever done is look on the downside. You want to stop feeling sorry for yourself and pull yourself together.” Whilst I can understand the frustration, this kind of approach will only have 2 outcomes: Your loved one will resent you so much they will start avoiding you and their torment will deepen. As frustrating as it is, please resist this. Give them space. Reassure them you’re there for them no matter what. If your frustration is getting the better of you, take a time out to gather your thoughts by going for a walk. Yes it’s hard but the alternative is to make things harder.
I know it’s so difficult to reach loved ones and I know it’s so hard to understand what’s happening. This article will help you and your loved one to deal more effectively with the torment.
Until next time.
Copyright 2006 Christopher Green