May 21, 2019
How to Talk to Someone Who is Struggling with Anxiety or Depression

When a family member or loved one is struggling with a physical ailment, most people feel comfortable providing kind words and assurances until the person has healed. When it comes to emotional struggles such as anxiety or depression, many are unsure how to act or what to say for fear of making the person feel worse or otherwise exacerbate the situation. With 300 million people around the world having some form of depression, according to the World Health Organization, it’s important to know how to talk to someone who is struggling.

Statistics about anxiety and depression

Depression is more prevalent than people may know. Here are the latest depression statistics:

  • 2 million adults in the United States—equaling 6.7 percent of all adults in the country—have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year
  • 3 million U.S. adults experienced an episode that resulted in severe impairment in the past year
  • Nearly 50 percent of all people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder
  • It’s estimated that 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lifetime.

Here are a few more facts according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • It’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

How to tell if someone is struggling with depression or anxiety

Depression and anxiety are two different medical conditions; however, their symptoms, causes, and treatments can often overlap. people still struggle sometimes to determine the difference between these two conditions. This is because many people with anxiety also develop depression. Roughly 50% of people diagnosed with depression with also be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis in order to treat the correct conditions. Here are two lists that can help determine what a person may be struggling with according to

Symptoms of Depression

  • depressed mood
  • lack of interest in enjoyable activities
  • increase or decrease in appetite
  • insomnia or hypersomnia
  • slowing of movement
  • lack of energy
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • trouble concentrating
  • suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • excessive worry
  • restlessness
  • being easily fatigued
  • trouble concentrating
  • irritability
  • sleep disturbance
  • muscle tension

Of course, it’s important to have the person evaluated by a mental health professional to accurately determine what issue or issues the person is struggling with.

Communicating with a person who is struggling

Whether the individual is suffering from depression, anxiety or both, it’s important to communicate with them in an empathetic, non-judgmental fashion. If a family member or loved one appears to be suffering, try the following suggestions to speak with them candidly about what they’re going through:

  • Talk to them in private
  • Listen to their story
  • Tell them you care about them
  • Ask directly if they are thinking about suicide
  • Encourage them to seek treatment or to contact their doctor or therapist
  • Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems or giving advice

While your communication should not take the place of a licensed professional, showing care and compassion can greatly impact the individual. Using phrases such as “I care”, “I’m here for you”, “How can I help?” and most importantly, ask if they’ve discussed their feelings with a mental health professional can make a huge difference in helping them on the road to recovery. Knowing what to say to someone who is depressed isn’t always easy. While you may feel awkward and unsure at first, know that whatever you say does make a difference to the person who is struggling. Be sure to also take care of your own mental health. You won’t do your friend or family member any good if you collapse under the pressure of trying to help. When your own needs are taken care of, you’ll have the energy you need to lend a helping hand. Seek group or family counseling if you too start feeling overwhelmed or overburdened.

Communicating with someone who struggles with anxiety or depression can be difficult but understanding the best approach can have a powerful impact in the long run.