5 Tips on How to Help Someone With Depression and Anxiety

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


If you have a loved one who has depression, anxiety, or other mental health condition, but you’ve never personally experienced the symptoms of mental illness, then you may be wondering how to help someone with depression and anxiety. In this blog, we will discuss 5 tips for supporting a loved one with a mental illness.  

1. Recognize the Signs

Whether your loved one is being treated or not, it is important to be able to recognize the signs of depression  and anxiety. People may not always realize that they are experiencing symptoms of a mental condition, or they may not realize when their symptoms have worsened. If you know what signs and symptoms to look for, then you may be able to help your loved one recognize them and take action to prevent a crisis.  

 Some symptoms of depression and anxiety that you may notice include:  

  • Irritability and/or anger 
  • Crying spells
  • Sudden emotional outbursts
  • Ruminating: constant negative thoughts 
  • Fatigue  
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities 
  • Isolation: avoiding contact with friends and family
  • Restlessness  
  • Changes in dietary habits: overeating or loss of appetite 
  • Unexplained physical ailments, like aches and pains or G.I. problems

If you notice these or other symptoms in your loved one, you may want to consider talking to them about getting help. Some supportive things to say include:  

  • “What can I do to help you?” 
  • “You are important to me.” 
  • “You don’t have to go through this alone.” 
  • “I am here for you.” 
  • “Would it help to talk about it?”
  • “I may not understand how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.” 
  • “You won’t feel like this forever, this is only temporary. I know you will get through this.” 

Avoid things like telling them it’s all in their head, asking what’s wrong with them, telling them there’s no reason to be upset, and telling them to be more positive, look on the bright side or snap out of it. Choose your words carefully and stay positive, even when it seems all they want to focus on is the negative.  

2. Understand You Can’t Fix It 

Another important aspect of learning how to help someone with anxiety and depression is understanding you can’t fix it for them. Your job is to listen and offer support — not to solve their problems.  

You may feel frustrated that you can’t change the way they feel, so remember that it’s not your responsibility to fix it. Clinical depression and anxiety aren’t always situational; symptoms will often come on for no obvious reason. So, don’t try to reason them out of it; just be present and lend them your support, love, and encouragement. 

If you get frustrated, take a few minutes to breathe and collect your thoughts before speaking; remember that their negative behavior is not who they are — it’s coming from the depression and anxiety.  

Patience, empathy, and listening are the most important skills to practice when interacting with someone in the grips of anxiety and depression.  Remember, talking isn’t always necessary; sometimes just being there, sitting quietly with them is the best support you can give. 

3. Encourage Them to Get Professional Help 

If your loved one is not being treated for anxiety or depression and you notice their symptoms worsening, encourage them to seek professional help. A licensed psychiatrist can recommend a treatment plan to manage their symptoms of anxiety and depression and achieve stability.  

Some people may be reluctant to go to a psychiatrist or to talk about their mental health. One thing you can do is encourage a visit to their family doctor. Sometimes, the word of a professional may be the wakeup call they need.  

4. Support Them During Treatment 

There are no quick fixes for mental conditions like depression. Treatments like medication can take up to six weeks to fully feel the effects. As a supporter, you can help encourage them to keep going to therapy, taking their medications, and/or going to their psychiatrist appointments.  It is incredibly important to stick to the treatment plan, especially taking one’s medications every day as directed. Ask your loved one if it would help to have you remind them to take their meds at the appropriate times.

You can also encourage your loved one to participate in fun, uplifting activities and do other things that will help them feel better.  

5. Don’t Forget About Yourself

Remember that you are not responsible for your loved one’s recovery. They must decide for themselves to take back their life. Another thing to keep in mind is that you may need to set boundaries with them. You can’t and shouldn’t drop everything and neglect other responsibilities for them all the time. Of course, you may need to do that some of the time, but you can’t be there for them 24/7.    

Also, remember the importance of open communication. Just because your loved one is struggling with a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t be honest with them about your feelings. You won’t be able to help your loved one if your own physical and mental health are suffering, so don’t neglect yourself in the process of trying to help them. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.

It’s OK if you’re unsure about just how to help someone with depression, anxiety or another mental health condition. The most important thing is to be there for your loved one in whatever way you can be. Contact  us at Serenity Mental Health Centers to schedule an appointment for a consultation about treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.