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How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout

Each year more than 17 million Americans suffer from a depressive illness, yet few suffer in solitude. How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed explores depression from the perspective of those who are closest to the sufferers of this prevalent disorder–spouses, parents, children, and lovers–and gives the successful coping strategies of many people who live with a clinical depressive or manic-depressive and often suffer in silence, believing their own problems have no claim to attention.

Depression fallout is the emotional toll on the depressive’s family and close friends who are unaware of their own stressful reactions and needs. Sheffield outlines the five stages of depression fallout: confusion, self-doubt, demoralization, anger, and finally, the desire to escape. Many people will find relief in the knowledge that their self-blame, guilt, sadness, and resentment are a natural result of living with a depressed person.
        
Sheffield brings together many real-life examples from the pioneering support group she attends at Beth Israel Medical Center of how people with depression fallout have learned to cope. From setting boundaries to maintaining an outside social life, she gives practical tactics for handling the challenges and emotional stresses on a day-to-day basis.

From the Trade Paperback edition.“Depression fallout” is the emotional upheaval suffered by the friends and family members of someone who’s depressed. Because at any given time, 17 million Americans are suffering from depression, there’s a huge number of people suffering from this, says author Anne Sheffield, the daughter of a depressive. She compassionately recalls situations discussed in her support group at New York City’s esteemed Beth Israel Hospital to illustrate how “co-sufferers” can successfully cope with their grief, confusion, guilt, and reduced self-esteem.

One of the most overlooked yet thoroughly damaged lots of depression fallout victims, she says, are the toddlers and children of depressed mothers. Children with behavioral problems at home and in school may be struggling for attention they don’t get from a depressed parent. She writes, “Although a depressed parent of either sex creates problems for a child, the bulk of the research on parental depression and its effects on young children has zeroed in on the mother, because she is the center of a young child’s existence: the primary nurturer, teacher, and emotional and social contact. Ideally, a mother is a good listener, communicator, and problem solver; authoritative without being authoritarian; warm and consistent; and tolerant and patient. Mothers in the grip of depression are often just the opposite: harsh, critical, impatient, irritable, and unaffectionate. And because one in every four women will suffer serious depression at some time in her life–more often than not, right in the middle of her prime childbearing years of twenty-five to thirty-five–the research findings are applicable to a very substantial number of children.”

Without being flippant, Sheffield inserts bits of humor into the book. She describes what she calls “sticky-flypaper depressives” as those who blame themselves for everything and anything that has ever gone wrong, whether it be a relationship, or, as one psychiatrist recalled from one patient’s session, “the bad Broadway season of 1947.” She also gives a thorough analysis of the many causes of depression, illustrates the five stages of depression fallout, and considers the benefits and downfalls of psychotherapy and how a fallout victim may be affected by it. Sheffield offers reassuring advice on how fallout victims can defuse stress and rebuild their self-esteem and social lives, abundant resources and references for support groups and informational organizations, and an extensive list of medications commonly used for the treatment of mental disorders. No matter what the age or relationship of the fallout victim, How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed will prove to be a much-needed dose of sympathy.
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