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The Impact of Depression on the Family

Depression is difficult no matter who you are. It is a disorder of the mind that can affect any person at any age. Depression doesn’t care that you’re a mother; it doesn’t care that you’re a father. No matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from, the impact of depression on the family can be devastating.

But, what about the rest of the family? Depression often isn’t limited to a single individual. It can seep into the rest of a home in more ways than one. When a parent is sick, children are prone to asking many questions. Suddenly it becomes the elephant in the room. Mental health has come a long way but is still ‘taboo’ for many families to talk about.

This is where we come in. We’re going to talk about how depression can impact a family – and what can be done about it.

Signs You or Your Family Member May be Depressed

Of course – everyone knows that sadness is the hallmark symptom of depression, but when it is someone else, it can be challenging to know what to look for. Depression often shows up in subtle ways that may later seem like giant neon signs we somehow missed.

Symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling on edge
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling empty or unfulfilled
  • Aches and pains
  • Feeling anxious
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed
  • Having a difficult time concentrating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Restlessness

While these are all symptoms to look for within yourself, there are a few warning signs to look for if you suspect someone in your family may be depressed.

These include:

  • A sudden lack of motivation
  • Sleeping too much
  • Low energy
  • Changes in appetite – either eating too much or too little
  • Skipping meals
  • Low sex drive
  • Avoiding things they used to enjoy
  • Isolating themselves from others
  • Avoiding social activities
  • Having a difficult time cleaning up after themselves
  • Having a chronically messy room
  • Not taking care of themselves – wearing unwashed clothes, not brushing their teeth, not showering…
  • Spending all day in bed

Since many families are not equipped with the knowledge of depression or the education on how to approach it, these behaviours may become the central point of arguments or frustration – causing tension to build and relationships to become strained.

The Impact of Depression on the Family

Ways Depression Can Impact the Family

Depression can affect a family unit, whether you’re a 15-year-old girl or a 45-year-old father. No matter who you are, if you live with or near family, your depression is likely affecting them without you even realising it.

Caregivers Guilt

Many parents just want to see their children happy. Many husbands or wives want to do everything in their power to please their spouses. When someone in the family becomes depressed, it is often the caregivers that begin to feel the most guilt about it.

Many parents take their children’s depression personally or as a sign that they’ve failed. Families may often feel as though they need to ‘fix’ their loved one – and while this idea is well-intended, it can often make someone with depression feel even worse.

In other circumstances, family members may feel as though they are responsible for the depression – trying to figure out if something they did caused their loved one to feel this way. It is important to remember however, that depression is an incredibly messy disorder and often doesn’t arise from one singular event.

Family members experience other ailments as well as burnout, exhaustion, and various forms of psychological distress as they spend much of their waking time caring for or worrying about their family member.

Marriage Strain

Marriages require both partners to give their all, to keep the relationship strong and a household afloat. But what happens when suddenly one partner has retreated completely into their own isolated bubble?

Depression can make it difficult to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone feed kids, make school lunches, and clean up around the house. Some spouses that have never experienced depression before may become angry, bitter, or frustrated at the other as they perceive their depression as a lack of motivation. They may feel as though the other person is simply being ‘lazy’ or has given up on trying.

In other ways, tension may begin to form as a spouse has to take on the work of two adults for an unknown period. This can cause stress and resentment to build up as family members feel unappreciated for all the extra tasks they’re doing around the house.

Children May Bear the Brunt

If depression is running rampant through a family, children, unfortunately, bear the weight of it more than anyone else. Whilst we’d like to think children are oblivious to what’s going on; in most cases, this is a gross underestimate of how much children pick up on the world around them.

If they’ve spent years playing puzzles, doing crafts, and baking with mum, to then find themselves playing alone in their room most of the time, they’re going to feel that undeniable shift. In addition, they may witness arguments between parents about a spouse’s depression. They may hear their father yelling at their mother about how she hasn’t cleaned the house in a week. This type of conflict can impact children for the rest of their lives.

Depressed parents interact less with their children compared to parents who have a healthy emotional state of mind. This shouldn’t come as a surprise by any means, as anyone who is depressed knows how hard it can be to fake happiness around those we love. In addition, some household tasks such as caring for younger siblings may fall onto children of depressed parents. This demand for maturity at a young age can cause children to later become depressed themselves.

Generational Depression

The term ‘generational trauma’ is explained as a phenomenon that can happen in families with unresolved mental health issues, traumatic circumstances, or other negative histories.

Think about it this way: a grandfather that grew up in the early 1900’s experienced depression as a young man. Since mental health wasn’t talked about or accepted then, he suffered in silence. He eventually had children of his own, but did not interact with them, care for them, or nurture them the way a healthy father should.

Because of this, those children grew up wounded by their father for ignoring their needs. They may try to fill this void with drugs, alcohol or behavioural disorders, and end up having depression themselves. Then, they go on to have their own children and repeat the same pattern their own father did with them. This kind of generational trauma can carry on for decades, even centuries.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, depression spreads to nearly every family member in some way or another. If you suspect someone in your family is depressed, there are a few ways you can help.

Educating yourself on depression is a wonderful place to start. The more you learn about depression, the quicker you can spot the signs, and the easier it will be to understand why your loved one may be acting the way they are. Depression can be complex and confusing for everyone involved. Knowledge is power.

In addition, don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. If your spouse is suffering from depression, it can become easy to quickly set aside your own needs and desires. Take time to ensure your cup is full before trying to fill theirs.

Depression places a burden on every family member, no matter what the situation may be. The effects of parental depression can be quite like a effect, which is why it is incredibly important to seek professional help. Not only can this benefit you or your loved one, but it also benefits your children, grandchildren, or your great-grandchildren for decades to come.

Orchestrate Health offers bespoke mental health services that people can access from the comfort of their own home or within their community, with rapid response times and even daily visits if needed. Orchestrate Health can provide help for those struggling with depression, and remove the inconvenience of travelling to and from appointments.

Please click here to learn more about our specialist private depression treatment.




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