Helping And Watching A Friend's Recurrent Depression?


I have a friend who I have watched repeatedly cycle through depression. He tends to stay severely depressed for weeks, sometimes longer.

Over the last year, the episodes have gotten worse and worse. There is almost always a trigger. Typically it stems from a rejection, whether career or relationship wise. It is also triggered by anxiety attacks. He is prone to anxiety attacks (2-3 times a year) which tend to occur in the summer but usually don’t appear to have a trigger.

He is taking medication for the anxiety attacks but not the depression. His first anxiety attack was when he was laying down and he said it felt like a ton of bricks on his chest. Since then they tend to come out of the blue during the day in a wave of queasiness during the day. The attacks are always followed by almost a week of depression and antisocial behavior.

He also suffers from frequent stomach issues. His doctors have tested him for brain seizures in regards to the anxiety attacks but were inconclusive. They gave him medication to see if that would help.

How would he go about finding a good psychiatrist and does this sound like straight up recurrent depression? And how does a friend best handle/help a friend when they get like this? Thanks, K.

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I find it somewhat surprising that your friend has been prescribed anti anxiety medications but none for his depression. In terms of depression, I couldn’t help wonder if he may suffer from Bipolar Disorder. The reason for this thought is your mentioning that he repeatedly cycles through depression. The cyclical nature of what you describe does have a Bipolar quality to it. Of course, there is no way that I can make a diagnosis. I don’t know your friend and the Internet is anonymous. All I can do is suggest some thoughts or ideas I had while reading your E. Mail.

While you report that there is usually a trigger for his episodes of depression, it is unlikely that events such as rejection, really explain his changes in mood. Social rejection is something that most people experience and without suffering from long periods of depression. My thought is that your friend suffers from depression or some type of Bipolar disorder or some other type of mental illness. That would explain the length of his depressive episodes and the fact that he is getting worse.

As far as anxiety attacks and stomach issues, it’s important to know that anxiety usually accompanies depression. Physical problems, such as stomach pains or discomfort in other parts of the body, are commonly seen in cases of depression.

I agree that it is a good idea for your friend to be seen by a psychiatrist. In fact, I’m not sure why that has not already occurred. My suggestion is that he ask his physicians for a referral to a psychiatrist. If he has health insurance, his policy may have a list of doctors, including psychiatrists. Remember, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor and can do a psychiatric diagnosis as well as prescribe the appropriate medicine. He could also confer with your friend’s other MDs.

However, you cannot either make these decisions for your friend nor ask for a psychiatrist for him. That is something he needs to do for himself. All you can do is be every empathic and caring.

One more thing, if your friend becomes so very depressed that he threatens to commit suicide, you can call 911 and report his suicidal threats. They will come, have a look at him and, if they deem him a threat to himself, will take him to the hospital for further evaluation.

Best of Luck

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