How To Love Someone With Depression And Be A Supportive Partner

Many people experience sadness, feeling blue, and a loss of interest in certain activities they enjoy from time to time. However, if these feelings persist and are affecting your life, it could be depression. Millions of people globally struggle with depression.¹

It can be difficult when someone you love has depression, but if your partner is or may be depressed, there are strategies you can learn to support them through it.

Have you considered clinical trials for Depression?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Depression, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

How does depression impact a relationship?

Depression can impact relationships in many ways. The partner who is struggling with depression might feel tired, have less interest in socializing with you or engaging in activities you used to enjoy together. They might experience emotional changes like increased irritability.

When your partner has depression, this can affect your emotional health over time, leading you to feel:

  • Shut out

  • Anxious around your partner

  • Responsible for your partner's recovery or happiness

If your partner has depression, it can also cause them to lose interest in sex. A study showed that more than 42% of females and 33% of men with depression experienced a decrease in libido.² These effects can create challenges in your relationship, including feeling less desirable or attractive or less connected to your partner.

Supporting your partner with depression 

It can be frustrating and difficult trying to relate to your partner when they are struggling with depression, but there are different ways you can support your partner and improve the relationship. Your support and companionship can be essential to their recovery and help them to cope better with their depression.

Actions you can take to be there for your partner include:

1. Ask questions 

Asking about their feelings or symptoms can show them that you're interested in their experiences. There are certain questions you'll want to avoid so you don't come across as being judgmental, including:

  • When will you feel better?

  • Don't I make you happy?

  • Why won't you just cheer up?

Ask helpful and supportive questions instead:

  • How are you feeling today?

  • Is there something I can do to help?

  • Would you like to vent/talk to me about how you feel and I’ll just listen?

2. Learn about depression 

Educating yourself on depression can make you more understanding and equipped to support your partner with depression. Learning the different symptoms can help you recognize them in your partner to better help them. Symptoms might include:

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

  • Loss of sexual desire

  • Slowed speech and movement

  • Unintentional weight loss or gain

  • Restlessness, agitation, and pacing

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

  • Loss of energy or fatigue

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Negative talk

Understand the different types of depression, as well as how they are diagnosed and treated.

3. Understand and validate their feelings 

It's important to listen to your partner and express empathy to ensure they feel heard and supported. Empathy is the ability to share and understand another person's feelings.

Communicating with your partner 

Communication is important when you are trying to love and support your depressed partner. It helps to practice new, more effective ways of communicating to navigate and help them through this difficult time. You'll want to reconsider how you approach communication. Often, depression is fueled by cognitive distortions and negative thinking patterns.³

It's understandable that you'll likely want to reassure your partner and tell them that certain beliefs they have are completely false, which may include things like:

  • They can't do anything right

  • They'll never get better

  • Nobody would care if they disappeared right now

Try to validate their feelings without agreeing with them. This is more effective than attempting to refute their negative thoughts and beliefs. Draw their attention to their positive traits and strengths instead.

Encourage them to question the negative thoughts and beliefs they hold. For instance, you can ask them to name one thing they do right, or remind them of something they do well. This can gradually help your partner to see that their thoughts aren’t based on reality and they have an overly negative perception of themselves.

Find more advice on what to say to someone experiencing depression.

What are the signs of severe depression or suicide risk?

It is scary to think that someone you love could ever think of ending their life. But when someone is depressed, they can think there is no way out.

Because suicide is a real threat to people with depression, it's important you learn the warning signs, such as:

  • Expressing feelings of self-hate or hopelessness

  • Talking about harming themselves, dying, or suicide

  • Seeking out weapons, pills, or other lethal objects

  • Acting in self-destructive or dangerous ways

  • A sudden sense of calm or even seeming upbeat after depression

  • Saying goodbye and getting affairs in order

  • Giving away their personal belongings

If you think your partner is considering suicide, don't hesitate to act. Let them know about your concerns and seek professional or emergency help urgently.

How to encourage your partner to get help

It can be difficult to get your depressed partner to start treatment. Depression saps motivation and energy, so things like finding a doctor and even making an appointment can seem daunting to your depressed partner.

There are also negative thinking patterns involved, where your partner might believe their situation is hopeless and that it's pointless to seek treatment.

If your partner resists getting help:

  • Encourage them to see a doctor for a general check-up

  • Offer to help them find a doctor or therapist

  • Let them know you'll go with them to their appointment

Ways to look after your own mental health 

If your partner has depression, it's only natural for you to want to support them in any way you can. But if you're neglecting your own basic needs, you won't be able to keep supporting them.

Prioritizing your own needs even while you prioritize theirs is essential, as stress and exhaustion can eventually take a toll on you and lead to burnout.

Self-care practices you should follow include:

  • Eating regular, balanced meals

  • Setting aside time for quality sleep

  • Enjoying your hobbies

  • Taking time alone now and then

  • Making time to be physically active

  • Relaxing with family and friends

  • Building emotional awareness through journaling, meditation, or art

The lowdown

Loving and supporting a partner means accepting them as they are. When your partner is living with depression, this acceptance is even more important. Sometimes, helping them through their depression can be as simple as listening and validating their feelings. However, extra support is usually needed to nurture your relationship and keep your bond strong when going through this difficult time.

Remember to take care of yourself while caring for your partner. While it’s natural to want to fix their problems, their depression isn't something you can control. You can, however, control how you care for yourself. Being physically and mentally well yourself will enable you to take better care of your partner to help them recover from depression.

Have you considered clinical trials for Depression?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Depression, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64


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