16 things you only know if you have anxiety

16 things you only know if you have anxiety

I’m going to get right to the point here: I suffer from anxiety.

My heart’s racing at the thought of writing this article.

I’m imagining all the things you might think of me – ‘You’re a terrible writer,’ ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about,’ ‘What qualifies you to write about anxiety?’

If catastrophizing were a GCSE, I’m sure I’d get an A*, right up there with heart palpitations and special achievements in insomnia.

And you might be there with me. You know you’ve got anxiety when:

1. You think those Keep Calm tee shirts are annoyingly patronising.

2. You tried deep breathing but it made you feel light headed so you felt anxious about it.

3. You practise mindfulness but keep getting up midway through to check the coffee machine/gas hob/iron isn’t on (it isn’t).

4. You still have exam nightmares despite taking them over 10 years ago. And in some of them you might be naked.

5. You check your phone every 30 seconds when you’re meant to meet your date just in case they’ve decided to ditch you.

6. At night your mind is a constantly scrawling to-do list, keeping you awake remembering that you mustn’t forget things.

7. You forget things because you didn’t sleep well, because 6.

8. You get ready for a night out two hours early (just in case) then pace the room repeatedly asking, ‘Shall we get going, then?’

9. You strategically position yourself on the train platform exactly where the doors will open and you know you’ll get on first, then are horrified when the train doors stop two feet away from you. Hor.Ror.

10. You rush to get a seat on a train while subconsciously listing best to worst people to sit next to. (Worst is next to drunken chatty person eating kebab and pasty combo, who spills crumbs on you and tries to chat you up on the last train home. And then vomits.)

11. You’ve left two hours early for an event (see 8) but the train stops between stations. Dread. Then the tannoy announcement is both inaudible and incomprehensible. Blind panic.

12. You’re so anxious on your night out, you completely forget what you’re saying mid-anecdote and start babbling incoherently while you scrabble around your frantic head trying to remember what you were saying.

13. You laugh maniacally hoping this will satisfy everyone (see 12) as the natural end to your story.

14. Before job interviews you practise your smile in the mirror, trying to replace the look of sheer terror with one of ‘competence and reliability’. Even resting bitch face would be an improvement at this point.

15. You’re two hours early for your interview (see 8 and 11) and have to keep replying ‘I’m fine, thanks,’ to offers of tea and biscuits when what you really want to do is run out of the building, all the way home.

16. You have a bath before bed when you get home as self-help 101 for anxiety, but all that happens is that you can’t sleep (see 6) but you now smell of lavender essential oil. And you’re clean. Bonus.

Narcissism and terrorism: how the personality disorder leads to deadly violence

What do Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis, Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, and Isis killers Mohammed Emwazi and Jake Bilardi have in common? Delusions of grandeur, a fear of failure and a need for admiration

When Man Haron Monis, self-styled Islamic cleric, took 18 hostages in the Lindt cafe in Sydney, he declared himself to be a jihadist on behalf of Islamic State. Reports of the siege immediately went global. But, in fact, Monis had no connection to the group; he had brought the wrong flag to his own siege, and demanded that police bring him the right one in exchange for releasing hostages.

In the inquest into the siege, which concluded last week, Monis was described as a “man spiralling downwards”. He had no job but many debts, had lost custody of his children and faced a lengthy jail term. Seeking “power and influence”, he had even briefly joined a biker gang, but was rejected as too “weird”. “His constant goal in life,” junior assisting counsel Sophie Callan summed up, “appears to have been achieving significance.”

Pretending to be an important cleric, in reality he was on bail for sordid crimes: as an accessory to his ex-wife’s murder and for multiple sexual assaults on women, committed while posing as a “spiritual healer”. He claimed to be a refugee fleeing persecution in Iran; it now seems likely he fled after embezzling money. Diagnosed with a number of mental health problems, he was a relentless attention seeker with delusions of grandeur and a con man, who elevated his personal grievances with the heavenly glow of Islamic jihadism.

Before he took hostages, Monis sent vicious letters to the grieving families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Monis’s lawyer sternly instructed him not to talk to the press when he was on trial for this crime. It would harm his case. Like a moth to the flame, Monis rushed out to the assembled media and stood gesticulating, long robes fluttering, proclaiming dramatically: “This pen is my gun and these words are my bullets.”

'This pen is my gun and these words are my bullets' ... Man Monis outside court in Sydney in 2009. Photograph: Sergio Dioniso/AAP
 ‘This pen is my gun and these words are my bullets’ … Man Monis outside court in Sydney in 2009. Photograph: Sergio Dioniso/AAP

It was a humiliation – the Australian high court threw out an appeal against his conviction for the defamatory letters – that provided the emotional trigger for the subsequent siege. Monis would have been understood, and diminished by being seen, as his lawyer described him, as “a damaged goods individual”. Accordingly, he wrapped his outburst of deadly rage in an Isis flag, and claimed he was acting on behalf of the caliphate. Like other lone-wolf killers, he gained a greater significance to his actions by attaching his personal grievance to a larger ideology. And like so many of this decade’s most infamous terrorists and murderers, his theatrical crimes suggest he was pathologically narcissistic.

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pervasive grandiosity, an extreme desire for attention, a sense of entitlement, a willingness to exploit or mistreat others, an excessive need for admiration and a lack of empathy. Yet narcissists can be fragile too and prone to outbursts of humiliated rage. Their grandiose self-beliefs are built on foundations as solid as quicksand, hence the need for constant admiration and attention, shoring up their unstable sense of self.
As the co-author of a recent study, Brad Bushman, explains, narcissism is the claim that you are superior to other people. From this core belief, bad things flow. “I’ve been studying aggression for about 30 years,” says Bushman, “and I’ve seen that the most harmful belief that a person can have is that they’re superior to others.” Narcissists “fantasise about personal successes and believe they deserve special treatment. When they feel humiliated, they often lash out aggressively or even violently.”
Psychologists warn that narcissism is on the increase. Invisibility is a central terror of the narcissist, and in our world of hyper-individualism, the competitive pursuit of attention produces winners and losers, those who painfully feel passed over and excluded. One response to the shame of exclusion and marginalisation is violence, which enacts revenge at the same moment that it lifts the person out of oblivion.

At the more pathological end of the spectrum, we have what the psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg called malignant narcissism, the source of much “evil in the world”. Disappointed in reality, love turns inward, the self becomes idealised, doted upon, admired and excused. Narcissism becomes deadly when destructive impulses become fused with the conscience, transforming lying, manipulation, murder or even terrorism into noble, moral acts. Malignant narcissists may even kill to slake their thirst for attention.

Andreas Lubitz at the Golden Gate Bridge in California. His behaviour resonates with Monis and other narcissists. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
 Andreas Lubitz at the Golden Gate Bridge in California. His behaviour resonates with Monis and other narcissists. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

While we may never know with certainty why the Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz flew a plane with 149 other people into a mountain, his behaviour has many resonances with that of Monis and other narcissists. He once warned a girlfriend: “One day, I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.” Narcissists can have violent mood swings as they are alternately inflated and deflated, puffed up by hubris, or crushed by a collision with reality that cracks open a cauldron of shame. In Lubitz’s case, he had just suffered blows to central life goals – remaining a pilot, making captain, and keeping a longstanding girlfriend after cheating on her. She and others have said that Lubitz had frightening mood swings and aggressive outbursts. Excessively preoccupied about how he looked and how he appeared to others, he responded to his girlfriend’s doubts by suddenly buying two prestige Audis – a his and a hers – just before the crash.

Depression is a deeply painful condition, usually marked by withdrawal, ruminative sadness, self-blame and excessive guilt. Those concerned about the stigmatisation of depression after Lubitz rightly point to the fact that self-harm rather than violence is more likely. There is a very different kind of depression however; the shame-rage spiral of the narcissist who reacts to failure with other-directed, humiliated fury. As Jeff Victoroff, neuropsychiatrist at the University of Southern California argued in the LA Times: “We need to stop talking as if this was a suicidal guy with access to an airplane. This was a murderous guy who probably had elements of a mood disorder and personality disorders.”

In narcissism, an inflated grandiosity is repeatedly punctured by an unbending reality. Depression and even suicide can be the reaction. Elsa Ronningstam, a Boston-based specialist in narcissism, calls this the “my way or no way!” suicide. The narcissist defends against feelings of catastrophic failure by resorting to a fantasy of specialness, an illusion of mastery and control. Sentiments such as “I fear nothing, not even death” (Lubitz’s breathing as the plane hurtled towards the mountain was steady); “death before dishonour” (failing to make it as captain); and “I’ll show you” (the rejecting girlfriend, the wider world) can be elements in the egoistic suicide. In pathological narcissism there is a complete lack of empathy towards those that rage destroys, such as the 149 others he killed. If Lubitz wanted fame, he was rewarded posthumously. Since the crash, searching for his name on Google brings up more than 12m hits.

‘Who gets to decide who lives or dies?’ ‘Me’

Or consider Anders Breivik, responsible for the slaughter of 77 people in Norway. He wanted to be the worst mass murderer in history. Psychiatrists did not find that he had paranoid schizophrenia, as first thought, but several disorders, most notably an extreme narcissistic personality disorder.

Breivik’s narcissism is in abundant evidence in Asne Seierstadt’s new, gripping account of his life and crimes, One of Us. When police tried to take a mugshot of him, he protested. He wanted them to use Photoshopped studio images he had posted online. Foreseeing the humiliation of not looking his best after the massacre, these showed him with makeup and in powerful poses – wearing military garb festooned with medals, or aiming a rifle in a tight sports suit with the words “Marxist Hunter” emblazoned on the sleeve.

The police refused and went to take the photo anyhow. They were astonished when Breivik, stripped to his underwear for the shot, with a sudden, grotesque theatricality adopted a proud body-builder’s pose, side on, hand on hip with muscles flexed.

He wanted to be the worst mass murderer in history ... Anders Breivik raises his fist in a rightwing salute in court. Photograph: Heiko Junge/AFP/Getty Images
 He wanted to be the worst mass murderer in history … Anders Breivik raises his fist in a rightwing salute in court. Photograph: Heiko Junge/AFP/Getty Images

Like Monis, Breivik also claimed a larger political significance to his crime, only this time as Christian crusader. In his 1,500-page online manifesto, he gave himself lofty titles such as “Grand Commander of the Knights Templar”. He had not slaughtered innocents but performed “political executions” of “cultural Marxists”. A policeman asked him: “Who gets to decide who lives or dies?” Breivik’s answer: me.

Malignant narcissists, though devoured by envy and rage, can still idealise powerful figures whose beliefs conveniently justify the destruction of those they denigrate, says Kernberg. This makes them susceptible to taking an ideology such as jihadism to the point of violent extremism. In Terror in the Name of God; Why Religious Militants Kill, Jessica Stern interviewed many terrorists. She found a common theme: “They start out feeling humiliated, enraged that they are viewed by some ‘Other’ as second class. They take on a new identity on behalf of a purported spiritual cause. The weak become strong … rage turns to conviction.” As the world is simplified into good and evil, they feel “spiritually intoxicated”. The “apocalyptic violence” on behalf of their spiritual calling, committed as if in a trance, is addictive, the ultimate high.

In the deeply troubling phenomenon of suburban jihadists, young people with narcissistic traits may also be attracted to what terrorism expert Raphaello Pantucci calls “jihadi cool”. This is a chillingly brilliant marketing exercise via social media: a teenage adventure camp with a Kalashnikov among flowering meadows; a world of belief, purity and struggle; a prefabricated heroic identity to slip into; a tightly woven place in the world; the promise of obliging brides and sex slaves; a secure sense of superiority to the fallen, craven and corrupt world of the impure infidel; a loyal band of brothers; and permission to kill. Above all else, what is promised is significance.

He had found his place in the world, as a suicide bomber

It is that significance that seems to have attracted another sad, lonely, lost boy, Jake Bilardi, now known as “Jihadi Jake”, from a featureless outer suburb on the plains of northern Melbourne. This tender-faced wisp of a lad, with a cloud of long, soft hair, is now memorialised in a famous photo. Flanked by two burly jihadists, Bilardi’s pale, skinny arms hold on to an oversize Kalashnikov.

From an affluent atheist background, Bilardi was an isolated loner. His search for meaning followed his parents’ divorce, when he lost all contact with his father, then lost his mother to cancer. He was a disturbed boy with mental health issues that his father admitted were never addressed. Young Jake craved attention, had wild rages and attacked his parents with weapons such as scissors. A highly intelligent maths whizz, he found school life an agonising social humiliation. He was horribly bullied and friendless. Capsized emotionally by the death of his mother, he converted to Islam.

Bilardi wrote a political blog. His extremism grew. So did his paranoia. One post tells how, sitting in his living room, he looked at his brothers and thought they might kill him. He dropped out of school and isolated himself, but, via the internet, developed new attachments, to a world far away, to an ideal of earthly perfection, the caliphate run by Isis.

This painfully shy, anxious boy found his place in the world as a suicide bomber ... Jake Bilardi (centre). Photograph: AAP
 This painfully shy, anxious boy found his place in the world as a suicide bomber … Jake Bilardi (centre). Photograph: AAP

Ideology has the capacity to make a butterfly out of a grub. Bilardi managed to find moral perfection in beheadings, sexual slavery and attacks on priceless artefacts from the past. In Isis he would find true “brothers” who would value him, whom he could impress with his willingness to die, such as the burly jihadists flanking him in that photograph.

In Bilardi’s manifesto, From Melbourne to Ramadi, Australia was condemned as “a land full of such filth and corruption that no one in their right mind could live there without a craving to let some heads roll”. A picture of people shopping is captioned: “The talking pigs of Melbourne, Australia, in their sty …” Dehumanised as pigs, his fellow Australians could be slaughtered. Stockpiled in his Craigieburn home were the ingredients for a bomb. His manifesto told of plan B: “Launching a string of bombings across Melbourne, targeting foreign consulates and political/military targets, as well as grenade and knife attacks on shopping centres and cafes and culminating with myself detonating a belt of explosives amongst the Kuffar.”

This painfully shy, anxious boy, rejected, taunted and bullied, finally felt he had found his place in the world, part of a glorious struggle that promised him a heroic identity and spiritual immortality as a suicide bomber in Iraq. He described driving into Aleppo, and feeling utterly elated when he saw the Isis black flag flying high. After his death, he was no longer invisible, but infamous, acquiring another kind of immortality.

Christopher Lasch wrote in The Culture of Narcissism of how the “society of the spectacle” encourages the desire to have one’s life recorded and transmitted to an unseen audience: “The prevailing conditions thus brought out narcissistic personality traits that were present in everyone.”

And especially, one might add, in mass killers and jihadists. Fame is not just about being known. It is a fast route to high status and social dominance. Fame delivers the illusion that you matter more than other people. One of the Charlie Hebdokillers, Cherif Kouachi, originally sought to escape his life of petty crime and poverty by becoming a famous rapper. He sought a very western form of fame, and failed, before gaining it by launching an attack on the west.

Idolised by Isis recruits ... Mohammed Emwazi
 Idolised by Isis recruits … Mohammed Emwazi. Photograph: screengrab

Fame played a part too for Mohammed Emwazi, the British man now known as “Jihadi John”. Formerly an obscure London lad with modest prospects, he is now a new human type, the celebrity beheader. Stern says: “Some experience a different kind of high: they like weapons and they like to kill, and they would do so for almost any reason.” The only real clue we have to the mystery of Emwazi is his violent, rage-filled outbursts as a youngster. On joining Isis, however, the sadism that Kernberg warns of in malignant narcissism becomes clear, in the evident pleasure with which he kills aid workers and journalists, and in the exultant torture he metes out beforehand. “Feel it? Cold, isn’t it?” Emwazi said to freed Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa, holding a blade to his neck. “Can you imagine the pain you’ll feel when it cuts?” He describes in horrific detail each stage of the beheading; “I’ve seen it before, you all squirm like animals, like pigs. The third blow will take off your head. I’d put it on your back.”

As justly reviled as he is by many, Emwazi is idolised by Isis recruits as the personification of jihadi cool. Such killers get fans. Breivik complains from prison about the “human rights abuses” of being given old versions of PlayStation, while his fans send him his favourite perfume, Chanel Egoiste, also the favourite brand of Isis commander Abou Bilel. Such killers may speak as if they are acting piously under the eye of an all-powerful God, but they actually act with a sharp, greedy eye for their audience of human peers. Getting a narcissistic hit of attention is indissolubly part of what Jessica Stern and JM Berger, authors of new book Isis: The State of Terror call the appeal of “the crack cocaine of violent extremism, all the elements that make it so alluring and so addictive purified into a crystallised form.” Understanding that truth, repugnant as it is, will have to be a part of any effective programme of counter-terrorism.

Sinead O’Connor is Telling Us Mental Illness is Killing Her. Do We Give a Damn?

Last week Sinead O’Connor posted a video from a New Jersey hotel room, in which she shares in raw, unflinching detail, her long battle with mental illness.

In the video she is shaken and terrified and lonely. 
She is angry, vulnerable, heartbroken. 
The frustration in her eyes and her voice are palpable.

“People who suffer from mental illness are the most vulnerable people on Earth.”she pleads. “You’ve got to take care of us. We’re not like everybody.” 

I wonder if it matters.
I wonder if it will take her leaving to matter.
That seems to be how this all works.

In the aftermath of the suicides of high-profile figures like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington in recent days, or Robin Williams or Kurt Cobain well before them—the world suddenly fills with grief-stricken fans offering tributes, sharing their disbelief, and lamenting the shock of the loss. They adorn doorsteps with makeshift memorials. They gather in tear-filled vigils. They create posthumous tributes. 

And in the hours immediately following such tragedies—they comb through the dead person’s social media posts, song lyrics, and last days, asking the question, “Could we have seen the signs? Were their signs pointing to something so terrible?”

Sinead O’Connor is a neon sign.
She is a flashing billboard.

Her every word, every tear, every quaking expletive born out of desperation, is a rescue flare shot into the night sky.
She is telling us where she is and how to find her.
She is showing us what it is to live with mental illness, and how pressed against the precipice of staying here, that she and so many others are.

She is begging us to give a damn while she can still feel it.
She is telling us in essence, that were her premature demise to come, it should not be a shock to us.

This is the part of mental illness that we struggle with: mentally ill people; those who are abrasive or self-destructive or volatile. We don’t like to deal with that. We don’t like to watch people ranting in lousy hotels rooms about how alone they feel and are.

We don’t care for people with mental illness very well.
We distance ourselves, we minimize their sickness, we condemn their symptoms.
We wash our hands when they become too difficult to handle, when their care becomes too messy.
We ghost them.

We don’t do this to Cancer victims or to people with Heart Disease or those ravaged by infection. We don’t make fun of them, we don’t call them weak, we don’t question their choices—and we sure as hell don’t leave them alone to be overtaken by their illnesses.

The only thing we do really well with mentally ill people is to memorialize them and to navel gaze later on what we might have missed.

We shouldn’t miss this.

Sinead O’Connor is saying on this side of existence, “Help me and people like me, while we’re still here.” She is asking us to step into the storm of mental illness and rescue people.

She is asking it for singers and actors—but  for police officers, for school teachers and stay at home parents, too. She’s asking it for high school students and veterans and elderly couples. She is asking it for tens of millions of people who may not have the strength to lay themselves out in a video for the world to critique.

I hope we listen to Sinead.
I hope someone who is close enough to her, reaches out and into her life and tells her she’s worth fighting for, that she’s beautiful, that she’s not alone, that she matters.

I hope we all do this for our parents and spouses and children and best friends and neighbors and co-workers who need this.
I hope we begin treating mental illness like the deadly disease it is.

I hope we learn to love mentally ill people well—instead of settling on eulogizing them well.

Prone To Depression? Scientists Say It’s Due To Your Creativity

Esther Rivers

Those of us who have experienced depression understand its loneliness, its breathtaking ability to make us feel as if we don’t belong or have no real direction. But science is showing us that there may be more to this frustration than meets the eye. Those with creative brains tend to experience the world in different ways than others.

Evidence is rising to connect creative minds with depression and other mental health issues, but not for the reasons you may think. Though the mad artist and the creative mind have often been associated with mental health problems, science is showing that creatives feel depression due to their brain’s interactions with their environment – not because of their work. Some creative types may feel they are unusually prone to depression, when really we are experiencing quite a natural reaction to the world around us.

Creative brains work on a different level

According to neuroscientist and author of The Creative Brain Nancy Andreasen, less creative types tend to adapt quite quickly to situations and surroundings based on what they have been told by authoritative figures, while those with creative minds experience things quite differently:

“This flexibility permits them to perceive things in a fresh and novel way, which is an important basis for creativity. But it also means that their inner world is complex, ambiguous, and filled with shades of gray rather than black and white. It is a world filled with many questions and few easy answers. While less creative people quickly respond to situations based on what they have been told by people in authority — parents, teachers, pastors, rabbis, or priests — the creative person lives in a more fluid and nebulous world.”

We experience the world with a different viewpoint: we question, ponder, and analyze. This can, unfortunately, lead to feelings of isolation, social alienation, or depression because we are different, and maybe because we feel we are strange or weird. What might seem a ‘normal’ environment, for a creative type, can be stressful and introverted in our complicated approach to society.

We are not alone

Such feelings of isolation are understandable, and there are many people who feel this same way all over the world. We all need to find others like us in order to feel a true sense of belonging. In the same way that politicians would probably feel uncomfortable and somewhat distressed at a dance school, so too do our creative minds feel disillusioned when it comes to fitting in somewhere we don’t feel we belong. Without the right tools, and the right encouragement and support to aid us in understanding that our differences are what make us special, we can very much begin to give in to the throes of depression.

Embracing your creativity

Andreasen says that there are a few things we should remember when it comes to our creative minds. We must acknowledge our gifts, our talents, and under no circumstance let them go to waste. We need to treasure our talents and nurture them, as if we are tending to a precious garden. If we block out our talents, we are blocking out our true selves, which can lead to severe depression.

We must also embrace our strangeness – because we will likely always seem odd to someone who is less original than we are. Being weird is far more interesting than being normal. And surround ourselves with our people!! Our creativity will flourish, not to mention the fact that we will be loved and supported for exactly who we are.

Andreasen admits that it is far more likely for creative types to be prone to mental illness which comes from “a problem with filtering or gating the many stimuli that flow into the brain.” Some creatives tend to shy from human contact because of highly sensitive personalities. But by understanding and embracing our uniqueness, we are helping to gain some ground in the fight against depression.

20 Things to Remember If You Love A Person With Depression


Christian Maciel

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 350 million people all over the world with depression. With that staggering statistic, it is highly probable that we will all interact at some point with someone experiencing a bout with depression. With that probability in mind, the very people you would not expect to be experiencing depression, such as friends, family, co-workers, and even your boss, will be the ones fighting it.

As a psychotherapist, it is crucial to disclose that in my years of experience working with individuals and even marriages experiencing depression, one of the most devastating aspects of dealing with depression is the stigma and negative criticism that comes from others. Furthermore, people may not even know that their behaviors and comments are being negative or hurtful and sometimes even make the depression feel worse.

With this in mind, here are 20 simple things we can remember when interacting with those that may be having a fight with depression. Any one of these points will not only help with the stigma surrounding depression, but may even help the individual dealing with depression.

1. They are strong in character

In a recent Tedx talk, psychiatrist and philosopher, Dr. Neel Burton explains that depression can represent a deeper search for meaning and significance in life. A person experiencing depression can be seen as working to make sense of life and trying to achieve more, fix more and improve more. Moreover, depression can be a way of preparing a better and even healthier future for ourselves and those around us. Dr. Burton goes on to mention that some of the most influential and inspirational people have dealt with depression such as, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Their search for peace, happiness and peace led their hearts and minds into the pit of depression, but they ended up changing the course of history.

It takes immense will and transparency to acknowledge the presence of depression, but it also pushes people to create answers in the darkest moments in life. In conclusion, depression can take people into the deep woods of our souls and help clear out any unneeded weeds, or shrubs that may be hiding the beauty of life. It is not an act of fear, cowardliness, or ignorance.

2. They love it when you reach out to them unexpectedly

I believe that one of the biggest assumptions of someone dealing with a bout of depression is that they want to be left alone. Although that could seem true at times, it is a dose of healthy social medicine when a friend, a loved one, or a neighbor drops by to say hello. One growing theory about the root of depression in our society is the lack of social relationships in our communities and even in our families. There is a constant dose of emptiness and disconnection in our everyday interactions due to overworking, television and technology. People managing depression need more company, more friends, more people reaching out to them, and more people wanting to spend time with them, not the opposite.

The next time you find yourself thinking about someone that is going through a depressive state, think of a nice, engaging and friendly act you can show them, instead of choosing to stay away from them. If we use the example of Jesus, He was always with people. To take it further, Jesus chose to spend time with trusted associates and not be alone too often. In fact, it was when He was alone that Satan chose to tempt him the most.

Consider your loved ones and friends that are experiencing depression as a needing you and your presence more than ever. It is interesting to think about the times when I was growing up and my mother would always make it a point to lean on her sisters and brother during times of trouble or loneliness. Family and community is a natural remedy for depression. Let’s start to use it more often.

Mother Teresa put it very well, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”

3. They do not want to burden anyone

Only a depressed individual understands how hard it is to hide their feelings and thoughts from others to avoid being shamed. One characteristic of a person dealing with depression is that they are keenly aware of themselves, their thoughts, their feelings and the behavior of others towards them. The weight that depression can bring upon a person is enough to bury them for a day – the burying of those around them is not on the to-do list.

Unfortunately, individuals fighting depression may push to be alone because they do not want to impact anyone negatively. Although this may not always be the case, depressed loved ones desire to manage their depression successfully and not allow it to touch anyone ever so slightly. This can be a paradoxical situation because being alone can actually exacerbate the symptoms of depression.

Depression can make someone feel as if they’re a burden to the world, especially to those around them. They are not seeking attention, nor want any coddling or rose-colored glasses handed to them. It is a valuable insight to recognize that managing their depression effectively is the most important goal of a depressed individual, not causing anyone any burdens or pain. If they do happen to hurt you or offend you, remember that they are not the enemy – their depression is the true enemy. Tell your depressed loved one that you accept them fully, unconditionally, and remind them of any and all positive traits you love about them.

4. They are not “broken” or “defective”

The human body is a complex machine. It is the oldest organism on Earth and we still do not know how to fully prevent it from breaking down. Still more complex though is the human brain and it’s many structures and functions. Although the cause of some forms of depression are not fully known or understood, many of us make the assumption that a depressed individual is defective, or flawed. The quality of the person is not correlated with the diagnosis of depression. Much like having a big chin, being overweight, or having a lisp is a characteristic without a given or specific cause, depression can come about in a person’s life for many reasons. It is not indicative of a broken or defective person.

The most helpful thing you can do is continue to value the depressed individual and continue to see them as whole, strong, and valuable.

5. They are natural philosophers

Individuals living with depression have many questions and opinions about life, about happiness and about their significance on Earth. It is not enough to simply make money, or launch a successful career. It is not enough to simply live the “American” dream. It is not enough to simply live in the present and hope it all works out. Depression has a funny way of making your perspective broader and more inclusive.

Depressed individuals would love to make the world a better and more just place. They would love to have answers to all of life’s challenges and then would like to share that knowledge with as many people as possible. At times, this inquisitiveness can be an enemy, since it will create your questions than there are answers.

So, recognize that at their core, depressed individuals are intelligent, inquisitive, curious and creative. This is a positive, not a negative.

6. They are fighting hard against depression and appreciate lots of support

In the biggest fight of their lives, depressed individuals need cheerleaders, not bullies. It is in the darkest moments that friends can become angels and angels become lifesavers – literally. You will have a choice at some point in your life to be a lifesaver or a lifetaker. Be a lifesaver. Give the gift of acceptance, help, encouragement and presence.

7. They like opportunities for fun and laughter

What’s the opposite of depression? Mania! It is a proven scientific phenomenon that laughter is good for the soul and the mind. Depressed individuals function the same way. I always like to remember the Jerry Seinfeld episode where Jerry has a sick friend in the hospital and tries to do his “set” to cheer him up and make him laugh.

Well, he ends up killing his friend because he made him laugh too hard. Don’t worry – you won’t hurt your depressed loved ones or friends with your humor and laughter. Dish it out and dish it out often.

8. They are sensitive to other people’s feelings and actions

Depressed individuals care – and they care a lot. They care about how you feel, how you see them, how you see yourself and what others need. It may be that they care too much! Some of the most caring people I have ever met are people that suffer from some sort of depression. Let them know what you need and what you do not need.

Set boundaries with them that are respectful, clear and considerate. Also, ask about what their needs and wants are and let them know what you are capable of giving, or not giving. There is nothing better than a sound relationship based on healthy communication and boundaries.

9. They should be treated respectfully

There is a negative stigma attached to dealing with depression. And, it’s not the depressed individual doing the stigmatization. It is society. I cannot repeat this enough – reducing the stigmatization will help alleviate the societal effects of depression. Respect is a value much more than it is an act. If it was an act, I would rather pay for it, than expect it and not receive it. Respect involves seeing beyond the depressed individual and seeing the whole person.

Depression has the ability to mask many other positive and truly remarkable qualities of a person. Do not let depression lie to you and lie to your loved one. Celebrate what you don’t see initially by seeking out the goodness of those suffering with this tough illness.

10. They should be treated like anyone else

No need for eggshells, or tiptoes. Go about your business and assume your depressed loved one is 100% healthy. Sometimes just living a routine, but a predictable, purposeful routine, can bring such a boost and be a remedy for depression.

11. They have talents and interests

We all have talents and abilities. We all have stinky breath too. Your depressed loved ones love to do something too, no doubt. And, guess what? They can probably do it really, really well! If you don’t know what it is, then, you’ve just found your next mission. Go find out. Help them find what their true passion is. Seek out ways to grow that passion, to develop and hone that passion and ultimately erase that negative identity that comes with fighting against depression.

12. They are fully capable of giving and receiving love

Every human being on Earth is capable of giving and receiving love. And, you guessed it! Your depressed loved ones are no different. Give, and you shall receive. Treat others as you would like to be treated. And, the list of rules and laws could go on and on. It does not matter that someone is fighting depression. The quality and ability of love does not change. It is still there! Reach out for it, but also give it yourself. You’ll find much more love than you thought was there.

In the small windows of reprieve from the symptoms of depression, there can be wonderful episodes of remarkable joy, laughter and communion. If you have to wait for those windows to appear, then just think about the fact that not every scene of your favorite movie is perfect. You just have to wait for your favorite parts.

13. They love learning about how life works

In searching for ways to relieve their depression, individuals fighting depression are natural problem-solvers. Do not be surprised if they are voracious readers, or learners. Do not be surprised if they ask questions that cannot be quickly answered. Many of the world’s leaders and trailblazers were led by deep analysis, deep thinking and deep, but strongly-rooted beliefs and values. What an insight! Depression is not a disability, but an ability that has the potential to depress! No one person can answer all of life’s question, nor solve all inequalities. Sometimes, simply allowing the questions to be asked is enough.

14. They do not plan on losing the fight against depression

The fight against depression may be lifelong, or it may last a moment. Regardless, the fight is one that must be won. The question always is: when will this depression leave and how can I speed this up a bit? The plan is to win against depression. The plan is not to lose and live in self-pity. Of utmost importance is to remember that depression is treatable and there are many, many resources to help someone do so. One of the first steps in fighting depression is to acknowledge its presence. In acknowledging its presence, you can begin to treat it. Many times, a person in denial will spend countless amounts of energy hiding their depression, or trying to deal with it via their own will.

15. They may feel sad for no apparent reason, so just be with them

Just like the fog invades the meadow, which eventually ruins your morning drive to work, depression can sneak up on its victims. Moods can be volatile and labile. It is not something that is easily controlled with a switch or a lever. Remember that fog? Can you just wish it away? Probably not. Your loved ones are trying very, very hard to be happy, pleasant and engaging, but what they need is simple.

They need you to just be there. Literally. Simply sit with them and read a book together, watch a comedy together, or take a trip to the local coffee shop and have a sip together. No psychologist is needed here, only your presence and acceptance. Let the fog fade away as the morning sun rises and welcomes in a new day.

16. They may not have as much energy as they would like to have

One of the symptoms of depression is fatigue or lack of energy. One of the most helpful antidepressants that has been proven by research is exercise. I realize that maybe you have heard of this recommendation before, but let me be a little more specific. The type and duration of exercise can vary, but the minimum that could have an effect is to do fast walking at least three times a week for 30 minutes each time. That is the amount of exercise someone needs in order to feel an anti-depressive effect.

Isn’t that convenient? So, if the sun is out and the breeze is whispering for you to come out and play, invite your loved one out for a walk. They may not see an immediate effect, or they actually may! Either way, exercising in this way is increasing their chances of beating depression and increasing their energy levels.

17. They may seem irritable at times – do not take it personally

Irritability is another symptom of depression. Although there is no excuse for treating people disrespectfully, it is important to let any friction with a depressed individual to slide off your back. On the other hand, it is acceptable and important to set expectations and even boundaries with a depressed individual. An expectation is a minimum standard that you expect of someone. A boundary can also be thought of as an expectation that is set in order to keep a harmonious relationship.

If a depressed individual has hurt your feelings in some way, it is okay to tell them so; however, as with any relationship, it is recommended that you remove any blaming from the exchange. Simply let your depressed loved one know how you are feeling and what you would like from them instead. Also, if your depressed loved one is not willing to listen, try again later when emotions are cool. Let them know you love them, but that you love yourself too. Not only are you modeling good self-love, but you are also modeling good communication skills and boundary-setting.

18. They do not want to hear “shoulds”

As in, “you should go out more with your friends.” If there is a kryptonite for depressed individuals, it is this one – the “shoulds”. Depressed individuals already have a deep and ingrained habit of “shoulding” themselves to the limit. In case you don’t know what a “should” is, it is a statement that has a “should” inserted in the middle of it. For example, you “should” go out and exercise more. You “should” just snap out of it. If I were you, I would do x, y and z. You “should” do it like I would.

Not only does this set up a relationship of condescension, it assumes that the depressed individual does not have a mind and will of their own. The bottom line is that it feels like the person making those statements is being a parent. And, depressed loved ones do not need a parent telling them what they “should” do. Instead, a depressed loved one should be asked as many open-ended questions as possible. This will help the depressed individual think through their options, consider alternatives, explore ideas, expand their abilities and so on and so on. “Shoulding” them is only going to put up a wall and nothing will get accomplished in this way. Remember, an open-ended question is not a yes or no question.

A yes or no question: do you have a favorite color? Yes.

An open-ended question: what are your options right now? Hmm…

19. They need lots of family support and encouragement

This one is a must. It is not true that family makes depression worse, or that it doesn’t help. In fact, there are treatment models for depression that involve family or a marital partner. And while it is probably that depression can make a relationship suffer, there is also a great power in utilizing a relationship as a tool for helping depressed individuals learn about themselves and to learn how to regulate interactions.

One of the best ways to make a difference in a depressed person’s life is to let them know you are there for them. It is something that must not be simply assumed. It is something that has to be communicated directly, face to face. Something that must be considered is the way in which you show support and encouragement. Here is a small list of recommendations:

– Give a small, sincere compliment.

– Notice their strengths and positives.

– Include them in events or plans.

– Remove any kryptonite from your language (shoulds).

– Respect their feelings and thoughts, but use open-ended questions as much as possible.

20. They need positive reinforcement more than criticism or negative reinforcement

Sea World trains its killer whales via positive reinforcement. In parenting training, positive reinforcement has been shown to work better than negative reinforcement in getting the behavior you want. In almost any relationship, highlighting the positive and celebrating that, is a healthy and effective way to increase desired behavior. On the other hand, being the recipient of positive reinforcement is a wonderful feeling. All of us have been employees at one point or another in our lives. Even in the workplace, receiving compliments for our work, and being cherished for our efforts, increases both our productivity and our dedication to the job.

Your depressed loved one will receive a boost in self-esteem whenever you decide to use positive reinforcement. Try it.