Can Depression Be Caught From a Loved One?
“Come on, man, you’re bringin’ me down!”
That particular phrase is from a movie, but we’ve almost all felt that way at one time or another. A spouse, a parent, a sibling, or other loved one has the blues and is projecting their negative feelings onto you. Does that mean you are “catching” their depression? Maybe.
When someone you are around is in a particularly good mood, it can rub off on you, perhaps improving your day. Unfortunately, the same appears to be true when you are around someone who is down in the dumps, except you end up with the opposite effect to your day, as noted by Clinical Psychiatrist Dale Archer, MD, commenting that there are various studies that prove these results. “Depressed folks can bring you down indeed,” he told one website.
Take Care of Yourself
It is important to take care of yourself when you are consistently in the presence of a depressed person. In an effort to cheer someone up, you can often end up in the role of caregiver. Caregivers often neglect themselves in the act of caring for their depressed loved one and this can bring on its own stress, anxiety, and depression, at which point two people have compromised health issues.
One can get so caught up in caring for another that they start refusing social activities they might have otherwise attended. They might stop exercising or start grabbing fast food while on the run, instead of eating a healthy meal. They might stop eating regularly at all. Catching this kind of depression also can lead to feelings of isolation and resentment. The next step becomes a strained, or terminated, relationship between the two.
How Their “Funk” Can Become Yours
When a person can’t help another get out of their “funk,” they sometimes take it as a failure on their own part, feeling that they are not strong enough to handle the challenge. Every day that they can’t bring a depressed person around becomes another negative thought. Internalizing these thoughts and keeping them bottled up inside every day leads to negative thoughts about themselves, and then the caregiver’s depression starts to seep in.
How to Pull Both of You Out of Depression
When you feel the black dog, as Winston Churchill called his own depression, bearing down on you, it’s time to act. Brush your hair, make a good meal for both of you, get out to a movie, and most importantly, make sure you bring your depressed loved one along for the ride. Brush his or her hair, help him or her get into some “about town” clothes, and involve that person in as many things that you are doing as you can.
Make sure you talk, often, about how this person’s depression is making you feel. Try to get that person to see a therapist. Maybe a doctor can decide if a trial of medication might be enough to help that person pull him or herself up out of the doldrums. And as hard as it can be sometimes, be patient. People don’t get depressed overnight, and they don’t get you depressed overnight.
Additionally, make it a point not to take a person’s depression personally. You didn’t cause it. You can try to help, but it’s most important not to let yourself “catch” that depression in the process.
Nurture yourself and you’ll be helping to nurture your loved one, and your relationship, back to health.