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.
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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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Depression | Anxiety & Depression Association of America
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