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How to Be a Caregiver for Someone With MDD

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023

Caring for a loved one with major depressive disorder (MDD), commonly known as major depression, can be both emotionally challenging and deeply rewarding. Providing support and care to someone with depression requires patience, empathy, and a broad approach to well-being.1

Understanding major depression

MDD is a serious mental health problem. It can make a person feel sad all the time, lose hope, and not enjoy things they used to enjoy. People with depression often have a range of symptoms, including changes in:1

  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Energy
  • Concentration

Learning more can help you better understand what your loved one is going through and how you can provide support.

Engage in open conversation

Effective conversation is the cornerstone of caregiving for someone with major depression. Create a safe and nonjudgmental space where your loved one feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings.1

Encourage open chats about their experiences and emotions. Listen, offer validation, and avoid dismissing their feelings. Simply having someone to talk to can provide immense relief for someone with MDD.1

Recommend professional help

Encourage your loved one to seek professional help from a mental health expert. Treatment for MDD often includes therapy and may involve prescription medicines. Go to medical appointments with your loved one if needed. You also can remind your loved one that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.1

Set a routine

MDD can disrupt daily routines and make even the simplest tasks feel overwhelming. As a caregiver, you can help your loved one establish a structured daily routine. Set realistic goals and priorities, breaking down tasks into manageable parts. Having a regular schedule can make even difficult tasks more approachable.1

Help them follow their treatment plan

If your loved one is prescribed medicine, help them stay on track with their treatment plan. Monitor their drug schedules, and offer reminders as needed. Be aware of possible side effects, and report any concerns to their healthcare provider. Treatment for major depression often takes time to begin taking effect, so maintaining consistency is key.1

Encourage self-care

Remember that self-care is essential for everyone. Encourage your loved one to engage in activities they once enjoyed or explore new interests. Physical exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep play crucial roles in managing depression. You can be a role model by practicing self-care yourself.1,2

Offer support

Depression can make even daily tasks seem impossible. Offer help with these tasks, such as household chores, grocery shopping, or meal preparation. Offer to go with your loved one to appointments, or organize transportation if needed. Small gestures of support can make a big difference for your loved one.1

Encourage social connections

Isolation is a common symptom of MDD. Encourage your loved one to maintain social connections, even if they may be reluctant to do so. Help them go to social events, attend support groups, or join online communities. There, they can talk to people who can relate to and affirm their experiences.1

Respect boundaries

While providing support is essential, it is equally important to respect your loved one's boundaries. Understand that there may be times when they need space or solitude. Avoid pressuring them to open up or engage in activities when they are not ready. Respect their need for privacy and independence in their recovery journey.1

Get help for yourself

Caring for a loved one with major depression can take a toll on your own well-being. If you need it, seek support for yourself through therapy, support groups, or talking to trusted friends and family members. Sharing your experiences and emotions can help you maintain your own mental and emotional health. When you are healthy, you can take better care of your loved one.1,2

Stay patient and hopeful

Recovery from major depression can be a gradual process, and there may be ups and downs along the way. Be patient and maintain hope. Celebrate small victories and remind your loved one that you believe in their ability to manage their depression. Your unwavering support can be a source of strength for them.1

Taking care of a loved one with MDD is a big job, but it can be meaningful and fulfilling. You can help by giving both practical and emotional support. Take care of yourself, too, and ask for help when you need it. By being patient, kind, and understanding, you can make a major impact on their life with major depression.1,2

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