Depression can be devastating for those who suffer from it and dramatically impact their daily life. It also weighs heavily on those who love and support the person suffering. It can be hard to recognize signs of depression in those we love, and it can be even more challenging to confront these people with our concerns. However, depression should not prevent you from having a healthy relationship.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mental health condition associated with symptoms such as persistent sadness and loss of interest in previously joyful things. People may experience these symptoms to different degrees, which can make this disorder hard to identify. To receive a diagnosis of depression, a person must experience these symptoms for two weeks or more. Unfortunately, for many who suffer from depression the symptoms can persist for years. Depression is thought to potentially be caused by a few different factors. Changes in levels of neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and serotonin, can create a chemical imbalance that contributes to depression. Hormonal changes, such as those associated with pregnancy or menopause, can also lead to symptoms of depression. If you have had depression in the past or have family members who suffer from depression, you may also be at higher risk to suffer from depression. Some environmental factors can also contribute to depression. These include having a chronic medical condition or experiencing something traumatic.
Depression can be a hard disorder to empathize with and understand. We all have times when we may feel down or tired, and it is easy to think a person will eventually feel better or get over it. Unfortunately, people dealing with depression cannot just move on. Here are some symptoms that your loved one may be struggling with depression:
- Sadness: They frequently express feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or cry without an obvious cause.
- Mood changes: Depression can impact a person’s attitude and may make them irritable or angry. They may get upset with others without a real reason.
- Sleep changes: Some people with depression find it hard to get out of bed and spend excessive time in bed. Others may start to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep for a reasonable amount of time.
- Change in appetite: You may notice your loved one does not seem to have the energy or desire to eat. In other cases, people with depression overeat and may put on weight.
- Apathy: Depression can cause a person to lose interest, even in events or hobbies that they used to love.
- Slow thoughts and movements: Some people with depression struggle to find the energy to accomplish a task. Depression can slow their thought processes and speech.
- Physical pain: More often in older adults and young children, depression can cause a person to experience and focus on pains that may have no explainable cause.
- Feeling of worthlessness: Some people with depression struggle with feelings of low self-esteem and self-doubt. They may feel like nothing they do is good enough or they are doomed to fail.
- Suicidal thoughts: Expressing thoughts of self-harm or suicide are signs your loved one may be suffering from depression. Even if they appear to be joking, any comments related to suicide should be taken seriously and addressed appropriately.
Treatment for depression includes lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications. By incorporating these different treatment methods, people with depression can effectively manage their symptoms and potentially treat their condition.
There are many things that can be done at home to help a person manage their symptoms and improve their mental health. Exercising can help reduce symptoms and improve energy levels. Socializing with friends and family can help prevent people from feeling alone and focusing on their negative symptoms. It is also important to be educated about depression.
Working with a mental health professional can also help people manage their symptoms of depression. There are different types of therapy that can be used to treat depression. During these sessions, people can learn to manage their stress and anxiety and work through potential contributors to their symptoms.
There are many medications that can be prescribed to help someone manage their depression. Each class of medications acts a little bit differently to counteract a person’s symptoms. Medications can be extremely effective in minimizing symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, these medications take one to two months to reach their full effect and the waiting period can be frustrating for those who are suffering. Medication regimens can change as a person tries to find the medication that works best for them. The good news is if one class of medications does not work well for someone or the side effects are not tolerated, there are many options to choose from.
Does My Partner Have Depression?
Sometimes recognizing depression can be one of the most challenging parts of dating someone with this condition. If your partner has been diagnosed, or if they have received a diagnosis in the past, they are likely more aware of the signs and symptoms and what treatment options they have. They may have been working through their condition for a while and already be receiving appropriate treatment. If this is a new diagnosis, they may be trying to determine which medications work best for them and how to incorporate lifestyle changes into their routine. Either way, receiving a diagnosis can help your partner cope with their disorder.
If you are dating someone and are concerned they might be showing signs or symptoms of depression, it is important to communicate your concerns. Be honest with your partner about your thoughts. Make sure you express your concern for them and your support. If needed, don’t be afraid to reach out to other friends and family for help. If you are concerned for their safety, you may need to reach out to professionals or emergency services.
In some cases, your partner may not agree with your concerns and be resistant to seek help or treatment. In these cases, try to get other friends or family involved in the conversation. If they still refuse to seek help and you feel their mental and emotional health is impacting your relationship, do not be afraid to evaluate your relationship and consider a break-up. Again, if you are concerned that your partner might cause themselves harm, reach out to professionals or emergency services for help.
How To Support a Partner With Depression
Depression can bring a lot of challenges to an otherwise healthy relationship. Dating someone with depression can leave you feeling helpless and frustrated. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your boyfriend or girlfriend if they suffer from depression. Below are some things to consider when trying to help your partner through their condition.
1. Depression is Complicated
If you are dating someone with depression, it is important to understand that depression can be related to many different factors and experiences. These may include:
- Family history of depression
- Previous diagnosis of depression
- Chronic medical conditions
- Periods of extreme stress
- Traumatic experiences
- Substance abuse
Understanding the cause of depression in your significant other can help you understand their diagnosis. This can help you determine the best ways to support your boyfriend or girlfriend through their difficult situation.
2. It’s Not About You
It can be hard to understand your partner’s depression, and you might wonder if you have done something to cause or contribute to their condition. This can be especially confusing if you feel like they are often frustrated with you. It is important to remember that depression does not always have a direct cause and is associated with physical changes in the brain, chemical levels, hormone imbalances, and family history. It can also cause a person to be irritable, and if you are around them often you might be an easy target for any outbursts. Understanding that depression in your partner is not about you can help prevent a lot of frustration.
3. Not Everything is Because of Depression
It can be easy to blame depression for any frustrations your partner expresses and to minimize their concerns. However, it is essential to recognize that these feelings are not always caused by depression. Blaming depression for arguments or your partner’s real feelings can leave them feeling misunderstood and leave you both frustrated. Listen to what your partner is saying and try to work through these frustrations with them. Educate yourself on the condition so you can better understand what they’re going through.
4. Understand You Can’t “Fix” Them
When you see someone you love experiencing pain, your first instinct is likely to try to fix the problem. Because you have probably felt sad or down in the dumps at times, it might feel like it is easy to coach your partner through their depression. This is not the case. Depression is not a short-term sadness or tiredness that can be fixed with sleep and a positive attitude. Your partner needs your support, but it is unfair to expect them to bounce back if you provide them with happy experiences or motivational insights. Try to avoid giving them “tips” for treating their depression or trying to force them to get up and do something. Instead support them by listening to their feelings and reminding them that this won’t last forever.
5. Keep Open Communication
When you are dating someone with depression, open communication is key to keeping the relationship healthy and supporting your loved one. Let them know you are there for them and available to listen. Listening to your partner’s concerns, feelings, and frustrations plays an important role in understanding the best way to support them. Sharing your concerns with them about their health and well-being can also help them see the importance of seeking or continuing treatment for their condition. By having open communication, you are validating your partner’s feelings and showing them that their mental health is important to you.
6. Depression Can Affect Your Sex Life
Depression can impact the emotional relationship you experience with your partner, but it can also impact your physical relationship. One symptom of depression is a lack of interest in sex and a lack of energy. There are also medications used to treat depression that can decrease a persons’ sex drive. This can be extremely troubling for someone with depression who is trying to have a successful relationship. Let your partner know you understand this is part of their condition and you fully support them.
7. Don’t Forget Self Care
When you see your loved one suffering, it can be easy to focus on them and forget about yourself. This can be a dangerous slope. Remember, in order to be a supportive partner and help maintain a healthy relationship, you need to maintain your own emotional and physical health. Find a support group or friends you can spend time with away from your partner. Share your accomplishments and frustrations with your partner. It can seem uncomfortable to talk about these things when you know your partner is struggling, but you have to remember that they want to be involved in your life. You are an essential part of the relationship.
Dating someone with depression can be challenging and leave you feeling helpless. Educating yourself on the condition and listening to your partner can help you get a better understanding of what they are struggling with. Offering your support can help them work through their symptoms. At the same time, it is essential to balance your own needs with the needs of your partner. Focus on communication with your partner to stay aware of their struggles and continue to build a healthy relationship with them.