Parenting a child with special needs can be overwhelming, and it’s important to know how to recognize 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, 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 occasionally. 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
● 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 several 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 the body, reduce stress, and increase overall well-being.
About Jettproof Sensory Clothing
JettProof calming sensory clothing may assist children and adults living with parental depression, as well as Autism, 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.