CBT and how to help a loved one experiencing anxiety and depression

How to Support a Loved One with Depression

In my work as a CBT Therapist in London, I help many people thorough CBT to have a better life. However, one of the points that are always brought up by my clients is the seemingly lack out support and understanding from people close to them. To some extent, it’s understandable and providing them with more information about the mental health issue in question and how cognitive behavioural therapy can help.

We can all experiences nervousness, be worried or sad now and then, however,  if these feelings become permanent they might affect our daily functioning. If you think about that one in four in the UK will experience a mental disorder from adolescence this is not surprising. Anxiety disorders affect around eight mills. Of the adult population every year. Depression affects approximately 19% per cent of the adult population annually. CBT is the recommended therapy by NICE to treat Anxiety and Depression.

CBT and what should you be looking for?

Anxiety and depression can be troubling for its sufferers, and it’s not easy watching a person close to you go through it. You’ll probably feel helpless, and You might ask yourself; what are the signs I should I be looking out for? What can I do to help? What is support out there for me being on the outskirts of anxiety and depression? CBT is the therapy evidenced to treat Anxiety and Depression and can also provide advice to you as the person on the perimeter of these mental health issues troubling someone close to you.


CBT and Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety is a physical, mental and behavioural change we feel in response to a threat. Some refer to this as the ‘fight or flight’ response, because they prepare us to respond to danger. This kind of reactions is a naturally occurring part of our daily life. Anxiety disorders, however, are when the Anxiety becomes a permanent and intense part of our daily life and starts affecting our behaviour often negatively. The combination of the physical and mental reaction we experience share an extreme sense of fear and worry. It can change all parts of the body in extreme cases — anxiety disorders when worrying creates a sustained pattern when there is no real danger or threat. CBT is evidence-based and recommended by NICE as the therapy to treat Anxiety.
Depression is related to the feeling of sadness, which most of us experience from time to time. This is a normal reaction to life. When depression is more than just a feeling of unhappiness, or a brief period of feeling ‘down’ it’s categorised as clinical depression. You might be feeling ongoing sadness or loss of pleasure and enjoyment in your life. To be diagnosed for clinical depression, you must experience feeling sad intensely and consistently for more than two weeks. CBT is evidence-based and recommended by NICE as the therapy to treat Depression.

Indications and effects of anxiety and depression can vary significantly between individuals. However, there are common symptoms for each of them you should we be looking out for.

Symptoms of anxiety CBT lists may include: 

  • Frequently feeling anxiety and excessively worried about your life
  • Predicting one disaster after another
  • Thinking that your worrying will prevent bad things from happening
  • Finding it difficult to tolerate any degree of uncertainty
  • Worrying that your worries are becoming out of control
  • Not being able to stop worrying, and its anxiety is affecting your daily life
  • Finding it hard to sleep, or you have nausea, IBS symptoms, aches and pains, difficulty concentrating, and are indecisive or feel hopeless
  • You are not enjoying activities or events which used to be pleasurable
  • Feeling chronically anxious or depressed.

Symptoms of depression CBT lists may include:

  • Persistently feeling of low mood or unhappiness
  • The feeling of low self-worth and with a loss of confidence
  • Experiencing guilt, anxiety and irritability
  • Losing energy, general aches and pains and little motivation to do things
  • Losing interest and pleasure in day-to-day doing
  • Appetite – either eating less or more
  • Sleep disorder – difficulties getting off to sleep or early morning waking
  • Loss of interest in sex and/or reduction in sex drive
  • Hard to concentrate, make decisions and remember what to do
  • Hopelessness and helplessness about the future
  • The problem being around people leading to withdrawal and isolating self
  • Thoughts of death and suicide
  • Beliefs which are extreme, negative, self-critical and unhelpful

If you notice some of these symptoms, or the person close to you has had a formal diagnosis, how can you help? Below I have listed some CBT tips which can help you and your loved one.

But, you can’t just jump in and fire away. Helping someone with anxiety or depression requires some thought and care.


5 CBT Tips To Help Someone With Anxiety and Depression

  1. Get the right basics which are to find a mutually convenient time and place to have a conversation. This is a very personal experience, and an atmosphere of comfort will be helpful
  2. Be an active listener as giving advice might not be received well at first. You’ll need to ask questions and listen and respond carefully to what they tell you about how they are feeling. Sometimes they want to do the talking and raise their concerns and feel supported. You might have to save your advice for another conversation.
  3. Body language is essential when you want someone to feel comfortable. Eye contact and not sitting with arms and legs crossed appearing closed but rather in a more lounging position can help create a pleasant atmosphere.
  4. Use open-ended questions so that you get as much information as possible and not just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no. Some ideas from CBT could be “So tell me about..?” or “What’s troubling you?”
  5. Be fair, calm and in control of your own emotions. Someone with Anxiety or Depression can feel uncomfortable opening up and even get angry if you ask, ‘Are you okay’ (when it’s obvious they are not)

It can be a big task to care for someone with Anxiety or Depression, and you may feel regrets, guilt, fear or even anger.

Here Are 3 CBT Thoughts That Can Help You Look After Yourself.

  1. Learn about anxiety or depression. This will help you understand the person acts the way they do and for you to monitor your feelings and reactions.
  2. Look after yourself so you don’t get exhausted. You have to try to live your life and that you do things that you enjoy.
  3. If it helps you to help your loved ones, then you might benefit from having a person to talk to about what you are going through with your loved one. This could seem like an endless chain, but hopefully, this would only be a question for you of venting what you are taking in. I can be very emotional to support someone with Anxiety or Depression.

Caring for someone who with an anxiety disorder or depression can be hard and you might feel very isolated.

But you are not alone, and we talk to many partners and relatives who are calling on behalf of a loved one to get CBT for Anxiety or Depression.

Which condition do you require support with?

Learn which conditions are treatable with CBT therapy.
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