This post, written by Donna Begg, was originally published on one of our favorite sites, YourTango.
Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that affects 1 in 10 Americans.
Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that affects 1 in 10 Americans at some point in their lives. More than 80 percent of people with symptoms of depression don't receive adequate treatment for their condition, but the number of diagnosed cases keeps increasing by 20 percent each year.
Depression is more than a feeling of sadness; it's associated with multiple physical and mental symptoms, and it has a major impact on a person's quality of life and their family.
Since adults are usually the ones affected by depression, one has to wonder what it's really like to be a parent and deal with this serious problem.
Parental Depression and Children
Although widespread, depression is still misunderstood. It is not uncommon for people to identify it with a common feeling of sadness, but as mentioned before, depression is more than that. Moreover, this mood disorder affects the entire family of an individual and not just one person.
The JAMA Psychiatry published results of a study that showed that children of depressed parents experience various problems too. The research found that diagnoses of parental depression throughout a child's life were strongly associated with worsening school performance.
It is important to mention that both maternal and paternal depression had a negative impact on a child's life.
Scientists concluded that parental depression has a far-reaching effect on an important aspect of a child's development, with implications for future life course outcomes. Scientists who worked on the study explain that depression in a parent is a modifiable risk factor because the parent's symptoms can be treated.
Parental depression is also associated with:
- Child's poorer physical health and well-being.
- Behavior problems in children.
- Greater functional impairment.
- Higher rates of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents.
What do parents with depression and anxiety want you to know? People who struggle with depression or some other mood disorder and have kids at the same time, want others to know the following:
- They aren't irresponsible.
- Struggling with depression/anxiety isn't a sign of weakness.
- Depressed parents aren't selfish.
- There are good days and bad days.
- Regardless of the circumstances, depressed parents do their best to take care of their children.
- They, sometimes, don't confide in others out of fear of being shamed.
- Depressed parents are NOT unfit parents.
Parenting isn't the easiest job in the world, generally, and it requires a perfect balance between work and home. You also need a lot of time, resources, and emotional and physical strength.
When a person is struggling with depression, these needs are amplified. Here, we can compare depression to some severe diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and so on. At some point, this problem compromises a person's functioning and his/her family.
Parents with depression also have the added challenges of irregular sleep, lack of energy, trouble concentrating and sustaining attention, irritability, and moodiness. Some signs of depression, such as feelings of helplessness and low self-esteem, become even more severe in depressed parents.
A consistent family routine and support from loved ones are crucial, but there are many other things one can do.
Parents who deal with depression and anxiety along with raising kids witness numerous challenges. How to parent when depressed? You shouldn't forget the following:
1. It's OK to be "good enough".
Chasing perfection can be quite exhausting and overwhelming for a person. Nobody's perfect, and always bear in mind it's OK to be "good enough," you're doing your best
2. Get support.
Depression may make you feel like you're alone, but you're not. You don't have to deal with it on your own; get support from family, friends, and other parents who're going through the same
3. Depression doesn't define you.
It's not uncommon for people to identify themselves as their condition, but you should avoid doing so. Depression is an illness, it's not you!
4. Take a break.
Don't blame yourself for your condition, it's not your fault. It's OK to take a break from time to time, relax, and take care of yourself. If necessary, ask someone to babysit or pick kids up from school if you feel overwhelmed that day
5. Make time for yourself.
Depressed parents usually feel guilty when they do something for themselves, but everybody needs it from time to time. Make some time for yourself, read a book, write, do what makes you happy. This is an immediate mood lifter, and your children will be grateful as well
6. Understand your triggers.
Depression is persistent, but there are good and bad days. Some situations only worsen your condition; keep a journal and write everything down. Understand your triggers, and do your best to avoid or manage them.
Parents with depression face various challenges, and their condition can have a major impact on their children. Establishing a routine for an entire family, making some time for yourself, and acknowledging the fact it is not your fault and that illness doesn't define you is a good way to cope.
Remember, get support!
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