How to Help Adult Children Who Are Having Mental Health Issues

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how to help an adult child with depression


Various signs and symptoms of depression in adults, including persistent feelings of sadness, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, fatigue, and thoughts of self-harm. We explored the importance of parental involvement in supporting adult children with depression, emphasizing the need for patience, encouragement of healthy habits, and celebration of progress. Additionally, we discussed the benefits of seeking professional help and adhering to treatment, such as counseling, medication, and specialized programs. Overall, the blog highlights the critical role parents can play in providing support and guidance to their grown-up children with depression, fostering an environment of understanding, empathy, and recovery.

We’ll discuss these topics in this blog:

Symptoms to Look Out For

Depression can show up differently for everyone. Here are some signs you might see in your grown-up child

  • They might feel sad or empty a lot.
  • They might not want to do things they used to enjoy.
  • They could be really tired or have no energy.
  • Their eating habits might change, like eating more or less than usual.
  • They might have trouble sleeping or sleep too much.
  • They might feel worthless or guilty.
  • It might be hard for them to focus or make decisions.
  • They might think about hurting themselves or ending their life.

If you see these signs in your adult child, it’s important to get help from a professional.

Parental Involvement in Teen Depression

When your young adult child is dealing with depression, how you help them can be different for each person. Kimberly Christensen, a psychologist, says it’s okay to stay in touch with your child regularly. You can call, text, or check in to see how they’re doing and ask about their daily life. Treat your child like an adult by maturely talking to them and giving them space to make their own decisions.

It’s important not to always solve your child’s problems for them. Let them learn and grow on their own. Steve Lownes, a therapist, says it’s okay for both you and your child to make mistakes. Keep an eye on your child’s behavior, especially if they’re still living at home. You can still set rules and boundaries to help them become more independent while they’re with you.

Depression’s effects on adults

Depression can have a wide range of effects on adults, impacting various aspects of their lives including their emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and physical health. Here are some common effects of depression on adults

Emotional Effects

Depression often leads to persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Adults may also experience heightened irritability, frustration, or anger. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and have difficulty experiencing pleasure (anhedonia).

Cognitive Effects

Depression can affect cognitive functions such as concentration, memory, and decision-making. Adults may have trouble focusing on tasks, making decisions, or remembering things, which can impair their ability to function effectively at work, school, or in daily life.

Physical Effects

While depression is primarily a mental health condition, it can also manifest physically. Adults with depression may experience changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances (insomnia or oversleeping), fatigue, aches and pains, headaches, and digestive problems.

Social Effects

Depression can impact relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Adults may withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves, leading to feelings of loneliness and alienation. They may also have difficulty communicating or expressing themselves, which can strain relationships.

Work or Academic Performance

Depression can significantly affect work or academic performance. Adults may struggle to meet deadlines, attend work or school regularly, and perform tasks efficiently. Absenteeism and presenteeism (being physically present but mentally absent) are common among individuals with depression.

Substance Abuse

Some adults may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with their depression symptoms. Substance abuse can exacerbate depression and increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder.

Risk of Suicide

Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. Adults with depression may experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors, especially if their condition is severe or untreated. Individuals with depression must seek help from mental health professionals if they have suicidal thoughts or intentions.

Impact on Daily Functioning

Overall, depression can impair an adult’s ability to carry out daily tasks and responsibilities. Simple activities like getting out of bed, showering, or preparing meals may feel overwhelming. This can lead to a cycle of self-neglect and exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and guilt.

How to Provide Depression Support to an Adult Child

If you’re a parent wanting to help your grown-up child with depression, there are a few things you can do

Stay Patient and Supportive

Understand that recovery from depression takes time, and be patient with your child. Offer consistent support and reassurance, letting them know you’re there for them no matter what.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Help your child establish healthy routines like regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy and to spend time with supportive friends and family members.

Monitor Medication

If your child is prescribed medication for depression, help them stay on track with their treatment plan. Remind them to take their medication as prescribed and monitor for any side effects or changes in their symptoms.

Be Mindful of Your Well-being

Supporting a loved one with depression can be emotionally taxing. Make sure to prioritize your self-care and seek support from friends, family, or a therapist if needed. Taking care of yourself will enable you to better support your child.

Celebrate Progress

Recognize and celebrate even small victories and progress your child makes in managing their depression. Positive reinforcement can boost their confidence and motivation to continue their treatment journey.

Remember, every person’s experience with depression is unique, so it’s important to tailor your support to your child’s individual needs and preferences.

Benefits of Adult Depression Treatment

Helping your grown-up child with depression means explaining why seeking help is important. Many people with depression keep their feelings inside because they’re afraid of not being understood. But getting treatment gives them a safe place to talk about how they feel without worrying about being judged. Counselors who specialize in depression know how to talk to them kindly and help them open up.

Sometimes, taking medication can also help. A doctor can decide if it’s a good idea and monitor how it affects the person. They can adjust the dose or type of medication if needed.

Some people find it helpful to go to a special program for depression. It’s a relief for them to take a break from their everyday stress and focus on feeling better. These programs often have a cozy atmosphere, good food, and support from others who are also working on their mental health. It can feel like a home away from home.


In conclusion, depression can have significant effects on adults, impacting their emotional well-being, cognitive functioning, physical health, social relationships, work or academic performance, and overall quality of life. Recognizing the symptoms of depression in a grown-up child is crucial for providing timely support and intervention. Parents can play a vital role in supporting their adult children with depression by staying patient and supportive, encouraging healthy habits, monitoring medication, prioritizing their own well-being, and celebrating progress. Seeking professional help and adhering to treatment can greatly benefit individuals with depression, providing them with a safe space to express their feelings, access medication if necessary, and participate in specialized programs aimed at managing their symptoms. By offering understanding, encouragement, and guidance, parents can help their grown-up children navigate through depression and work towards recovery and improved mental health.


Q1. How can I help my 20-year-old son with anxiety?

A1. Whenever possible, parents should sit down with troubled children and listen without commenting. Acknowledge that everyone feels anxious at times, and start the conversation by acknowledging that. “Ask what stresses him and listen without freaking out or making judgments about what he should or shouldn’t do.”

Q2. What do you say to your son when he is depressed?

A2. Listen, comfort, offer your support, and show love to them. Set up an appointment with your child’s doctor if the sad or bad moods continue.

Q3. How do I talk to my adult son?

A3. Any relationship requires honest communication. As your child grows older, it’s vital to continue listening and fostering open dialogue without blaming, even when you – or they – make mistakes. The foundation for connectedness and positive influence lies in listening, which builds trust and compassion.

Q4. When should you walk away from an adult child with a mental illness?

A4. A toxic relationship may be time to consider walking away if it becomes too emotionally draining, negatively impacts your mental health, or otherwise doesn’t improve.

Q5. How can I help my adult son with social anxiety?

A5. There is no rational way to handle anxiety, so a rational response is unlikely to help, especially during a stressful time. Instead, work with the emotions. Accept that they are anxious, and instead of being direct, be kind and patient with them.

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