Just about 7% of the adult American population is struggling with depression. This means that many of you have experienced this yourself or are in an intimate relationship with someone who has dealt with the challenges that depression brings. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and confused about your partner's depression, and oftentimes, partners end up feeling frustrated about their inability to help their loved one to feel better. Although it is normal to feel worried or overwhelmed by your partner's challenges, there positive steps you can take to help your partner get through the difficulties of depression. Here are 5 suggestions to help you through this process.
- Do not ignore the problem. You may want to push aside or avoid acknowledging your partner’s change in mood and energy level. Perhaps you feel that your partner would be upset with you for “criticizing” their behavior. Although it makes sense to want to ignore these issues, it is essential that you, as the partner of someone displaying these symptoms, talk to you partner about it and encourage that he or she seek help immediately.
- Remain empathic. It can be easy to forget that your partner is in real pain and is suffering, especially when he or she is short-tempered, withdrawn, and negative. Depression often makes people feel hopeless or worthless, making it important for you to find empathy for your partner’s experience and to express it regularly so that they feel understood and loved.
- Get educated. Take time to read about what depression is and how it is treated. This will help you know what you might expect from your partner and dispel any myths or inaccurate preconceived notions you might have about depression. Learning about your partner’s challenges will allow you to be a better supporter of his or her recovery.
- Seek out your own support. Depression can take its toll on partners, too. You may feel rejected by your depressed partner or lonely, frustrated, and anxious about his or her well-being. Individual and couple therapy can be an incredibly helpful resource for you as you navigate your partner’s recovery from depression.
- Increase positive interactions with your partner. Research suggests that depression can result in an overall decrease in positive interactions between couples, which ends up only contributing to the depression. Make a concerted effort to create pleasant moments, even small ones, between you and your partner. Over time, these positive interactions will build, likely bringing much-wanted relief to both you and your partner.
Author info: Rachel Goldsmith, MS, MA