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Watching your partner struggle with depression can be extremely difficult. No one likes to see someone they care about suffer, and depression can feel senseless and even hopeless at times. Take heart knowing that there are ways you can support your depressed partner. There are also some important things to keep in mind to make sure you’re not taking on more than you can handle, for everyone’s safety.
Millions of Americans experience mental health issues, and roughly 8.4% of Americans experience a major depressive episode every year. That’s about 21 million people each year who experience depression. Chances are, you know or love someone who experiences depression.
How can you tell if your partner is depressed?
Here are some signs of depression in adults:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Appetite shifts
- Changes in sex drive
- Disinterest in things they used to enjoy
- Intense feelings of sadness or numbness
- Increased risk taking
- Increased drug or alcohol use
- Swings or shifts in mood and personality
- Problems concentrating
- Thoughts or acts of self-harm
If your partner is showing any or all of these signs, they might be depressed. If you’re wondering how you can deal with a depressed partner, here are 5 tips to help.
Take care of yourself
It might seem urgent to ignore your own needs and focus on your partner during times when they’re depressed, but remember that you deserve care as well. Remember how, on planes, they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping anyone who is with you? You can’t be a source of support or refuge if you’re not taking care of yourself.
Remember that you can’t be everything to someone, even if you really want to. Eventually it will become unmanageable to avoid taking care of yourself, and that can feel extra overwhelming when you’re already stressed because of a depressed partner. Take care to keep yourself well fed and hydrated, get lots of sleep, and take time for yourself regularly. Making time for mindfulness or movement can also help you when coping with something hard.
Remember you’re a team
When your partner is not feeling like their normal self, you might feel lonely or even frustrated over the situation. Try to keep in mind that as a couple, you’re on the same team. Instead of viewing the situation as you vs. your depressed partner, look at it as you and your partner vs. depression. This reframe might help you feel less frustrated and remind you that you’re not alone in this. Couples therapy is a valuable tool for couples dealing with depression. They can use their relationship as a supportive resource to advocate for the individual and their partner.
Learn more about depression
It can be hard to remember this sometimes when you’re overcome with stress and worry, but depression isn’t personal, and it’s not a choice. Depression is a mental health disorder, and there’s nothing you did to cause it or make things worse. You’re not a bad partner just because you have a partner with depression. It might take lots of patience and compassion to remember that it’s not about you when your partner is depressed. Do what you can to educate yourself about depression so you can separate fact from fiction when those feelings come up.
Make time for your interests
Taking care of your depressed partner might take a lot of your time and energy, but make sure to set aside time for things that are just for you. Do you have any hobbies you care about or want to make time for? Are there classes you could take locally or online on subjects you’re interested in? Can you make regular plans with your support system so you can take some time away from your home life when you need a break? Even if it feels like a chore to add something else to your to-do list, it’s important to keep doing things for yourself, not just for other people.
Know when to call in help
You can’t be the only source of support for your partner when they’re depressed. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not helpful for your partner to only have one person to rely on. We’re social creatures, and we’re meant to live and heal in communities. Who else can you call in for help? Maybe it’s a therapist, for yourself or for your partner. Maybe it’s family members or friends who can be there for you. Other people find help in support groups or in online communities. You don’t have to go through this alone.
Keep in mind that if your partner is so depressed that they’re considering hurting themselves or someone else, it’s time to call in help from a professional, whether it’s a therapist or a mental health hotline. Depression is a disorder, and you don’t have the power to cure it yourself, no matter how much you might want to. For everyone’s safety, calling in a professional depression treatment is the best choice.
Are you looking for more support while you help your depressed partner?
Whether you need someone to talk to on your own, or your partner is looking to talk to someone, our Houston therapists at Grief Recovery Center can help. Get in touch with us today to get started.
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