Parenting a child with special needs can be overwhelming and it’s important to know how to recognise the signs of parental depression. The extra responsibilities and worries that come with a diagnosis for your child can quickly find you in a position where you start to ignore your own needs as you focus all your energy on helping your child.
It’s natural to want to do all you can to give your child the best possible life. However, if you don’t have support, the ongoing strain of special needs parenting can take a toll. The fact is, if you continue to push through and fail to look after your own needs, you’ll find your physical and mental health will be affected.
When you’re faced with isolation, financial strain, exhaustion and negativity over a prolonged period of time, it can lead to changes in your brain. These changes can affect your mood, how you interact with the world around you and how you cope with day to day life, resulting in depression.
In this resource we explore signs of depression for special needs parents, what it is and its typical symptoms, strategies for managing depression, and additional resources for support.*
What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that makes you feel sad, unmotivated and uninterested in the world around you. It can interfere with daily living, affect your sleep, impact decision making and make it hard to undertake even the simplest of tasks.
When you feel low, stressed and overwhelmed, the chemicals that help regulate your response to negative emotions tend to decrease. If you experience times of ongoing stress, these levels may permanently reduce, making it even harder to cope with the demands of daily life.
It’s easy to feel alone, isolated or misunderstood when you’re constantly fighting for access, assistance and funding for your child. However, if you don’t address these feelings your situation will become even more difficult as the longer you’re exposed to negative emotions, the harder it is to manage them.
Now, everyone has bad days and everybody can feel low from time to time. This isn’t depression. However, if your low mood continues long term and you can’t remember when you last felt joy in life, this is a sign that you may be depressed.
So, how can you figure out whether you’re just having a bad day or experiencing depression?
Signs of Depression
There are many signs of depression, including:
- Being in a bad mood or feeling sad all the time
- Difficulty enjoying activities or daily life
- Difficulty with making decisions
- Restlessness or agitation
- Sleep Disorders
- Reduced libido
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of uselessness and hopelessness
- Reduced self-confidence
- Avoidance of people
- Mood swings
- Reduced appetite
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Loss of interest in things you like
- Permanent tiredness
As a general rule, if you experience any of these signs for more than two weeks, contact your GP for help and support. If you think you have parental depression, or already have a diagnosis, it’s important to know that you are not alone.
Even more importantly, there are effective ways you can support yourself through depression, to help you get through and find a new way forward as a parent.
Strategies for Managing Depression
If you believe you may be experiencing parental depression, there are a number of steps you can take to begin managing depression.
Visit your GP or psychologist: This is the best way to start if you think you may be experiencing depression. Your GP can make an assessment and get you the help you need.
See a therapist: Occupational therapists, psychologists, relaxation therapists and others can help to make your daily life easier with exercises and tools to help you feel more in control.
Ask for help: Ask family or friends for support so you can focus on your needs. Ask them to help get the kids to school, assist with meal prep or be a sounding board for you.
Take time for yourself: For at least one hour per week, do something just for you. Take a bath, go out for a walk, do sports, meet a friend, have a date night or practice a hobby.
Talk with your partner about your feelings: Be honest with your partner about how you are feeling. If they don’t know you’re struggling, they can’t give you the support you need.
Eat healthily: Good nutrition can have a positive effect on your mental health. Create a weekly meal plan to make it easy to stick to good choices and to reduce daily decision making.
Try relaxation exercises: Activities such as yoga, pilates, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic training can help improve your focus and relax your mind.
Start a sleep routine: Reduce stimulation before bed and try for an earlier bedtime to ensure you get more rest each night. Aim for between 7-9 hours sleep a night.
Exercise: Moving your body is an evidence-based method to improve mental health. Playing sport or going for a short walk makes you feel good by increasing chemical levels in the brain.
Join support groups: Talking to others experiencing similar challenges can have a positive effect on your mental health, helping you feel less alone and more understood.
Try JettProof calming sensory clothing: The gentle compression provided by JettProof sensory clothing helps calm down the body, reduce stress and increase overall wellbeing.
About Jettproof Sensory Clothing & Autism
JettProof calming sensory clothing may assist children and adults living with parental depression, as well as Austism, ADHD Sensory Processing Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Apraxia, Dyspraxia, OCD and Anxiety. Stay up to date with the Jettproof journey by following us on Facebook and Instagram or by joining our mailing list to receive regular updates.
*Please note, Jettproof is not a medical or psychiatric provider and the following guide should not be used as diagnostic criteria or medical advice. We strongly advise speaking with medical and/or psychiatric professionals if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of depression.