Monday, April 8, 2024

What To Do If Your Partner Is Depressed

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Negative Unrealistic Ways Of Thinking That Fuel Male Depression

All-or-nothing thinking. Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground

Overgeneralization. Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever

The mental filter. Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.

Diminishing the positive. Coming up with reasons why positive events dont count

Jumping to conclusions. Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader or a fortune teller

Emotional reasoning. Believing that the way you feel reflects reality

Shoulds and should-nots.Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldnt do, and beating yourself up if you dont live up to your rules.

Labeling. Classifying yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings

They May Deny The Problem

A depressed spouse may deny that they have any problem at all, Ben-David says.

âMany people with depression or mental health issues donât want to be âfixed.â They may just want to be heard. If in the process of listening to your partner, if you hear things that are too hurtful for you to handle, then turn to a professional for help,â he says. âYour spouse may not identify their behaviors as depression. If theyâre acting out with sex, drinking, drugs, or food, they may say, âI need this. It eases my stress.ââ

Encourage your spouse to get help and a diagnosis from a mental health professional. They can start with talk therapy and, if they need it, prescription medication, Barber says. Make an appointment with a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or family doctor for a diagnosis, and begin therapy.

âPsychotherapy plus medication has shown to work better for depression than just medication. Medication without talking is not going to help,â says Barber, who adds that medication may be more appropriate to treat people with severe depression.

Some couples choose to have therapy together, especially if depression has led to sexual issues in the marriage, such as an affair, Ben-David says. Your depressed partner may prefer to do solo therapy. If theyâre struggling with addiction, they need to treat that before tackling their depression, he says.

How To Set Boundaries With Your Depressed Partner

Depression is an illness, but that doesnt make it okay for your partner to blame you for everything or abuse you emotionally. Heres how to set healthy boundaries with your partner to protect yourself, help your partner and preserve the relationship:

Remind your partner that while they cant control how depression makes them feel, they can control their actions.  

Ultimately, your partner is the only one responsible for his or her actions. No one can help being depressed, but they can control how they treat others. According to Steven Stosny, Ph.D., no matter what happens in life, the person you love and trust will always care about your wellbeing and will never intentionally hurt you. When your partner acts against this and you let them, you both violate the implicit promise you made to each other that gave you the courage to love in the first place, Stosny explains.

Say, I understand youre hurting, but talking to me in that way is unacceptable.

In this instance, it may help to explicitly state what is acceptable to you and what is not. For example, when your partner feels angry, suggest they go into a room and scream and shout into a pillow rather than taking their frustration out on you. Explain that if they shout at you or use abusive language, you will calmly close the door and walk away until they’ve calmed down.

Let them know that you’re always there, but only if they treat you with respect.

Know when to seek help or walk away

Create A System For How You Each Want To Be Supported

While you should never rely completely on your partner for emotional support, it is incredibly important to show up for each other. Supporting your partner can take many different forms, from verbal reassurances to making joint plans to leave the house.

“Having respect and understanding for your partner as they’re coping with their mental health challenges will help to keep a love connection healthy,” Egel says. “Your relationship will remain in better standing as you support your partner while allowing them to work through their own individual depressive symptoms.”

It can be helpful to make a plan for support ahead of time for each person’s depressive episodes rather than winging it when symptoms pop up. Do they want encouragement? A listening ear? Gentle reminders?

Emphasis on the word “gentle.” Since you likely spend more time with your partner than most, you may be the first to notice when their symptoms start to worsen. It can be helpful to let your partner know what you see, but you have to tread lightly. Avoid accusations or shaming. “You can say, ‘I noticed you’ve been eating less. Have you noticed that?'” Brateman explains. “In a very gentle, just, ‘I love you, and I’m curious’ sort of way. That shows interest but not blaming.”

Work Together To Come Up With An Action Plan For Especially Bad Days

5 Warning Signs your Spouse is Depressed And What to Do ...

Particularly when you’re depressed, it’s not always easy to say something like “Hey, can I share something really difficult with you?”

So when your partner is having a good day, sit down and talk about what you can do when they’re really going through a rough patch.

That could look like:

  • Giving them space and giving yourself full permission to accept that their mood has nothing to do with you
  • Encouraging them to get out of the house, even if they have zero desire whatsoever at the time
  • Using a safe word that indicates you should stop what you’re doing to give them your full attention

This can be especially helpful if you have no clue how to help, but are eager to do so. Sometimes, just asking can be the start to a productive, mutually beneficial conversation.  

Dont Withdraw From The Relationship

I know when Iâm depressed, my instinct is to shut down. Thatâs a mistake, marriage and family therapist Vonda Schaefer told me. âDonât give into that call to isolate and withdraw from your spouse,â she said. âNot only will your depression worsen, but your marriage will be weakened.â Even if you arenât feeling up for deep conversation, Schaefer said to find small ways to stay engaged. She suggested planning healthy meals togetherâa win-win scenario because nutritious foods can help shorten the duration of a depressed period and âsharing the load of lifeâ reminds us that we arenât alone.

Remember That Depression Isnt Just A Mental Illness

It used to drive me mad that Rob wouldnt get out of bed. It took a while to realise that he couldnt rather than wouldnt. I was so sure he would feel better if he came out for a walk or met his friends, but depression is a physical illness, too. As Dr Cain says: Physically, depression impacts energy levels. People sometimes feel very tired and want to stay in bed all the time.

Being Depressed Is Not The Same As Being Sad Even Really Really Sad

Once-depressed girlfriend here. If she is truly, clinically depressed, understand that you can be supportive but you cannot help her not be depressed. Being depressed is not the same as being sad, even really, really sad. You can probably cheer her up a bit, distract her a bit once in a while, you might even help her have a really good day, but you cannot cure this situation because its not a matter of taking someone sad and making them happy.

Some depressions resolve by themselves in time, some cannot without professional help. I think even ones of the former category are helped with professional interventioncounseling, psychodynamic therapy, medicationusually a combination of these.

If you want to help her, help her find good, professional help. When you are depressed, finding a good doctor or a therapist can feel like climbing the Himalayas, there are so many steps and so many dead ends along the way. Help her with all that, I would say thats the best thing you can do. And look after yourself tooyou cant help her if you are mired in her misery as well.

They Can Be More Irritable

All of the therapists Talkspace spoke to described men with depression as being more irritable on average than their female clients.

They can fly off the handle or have a short fuse, said therapist Roudabeh Rahbar. She also used words including moody and touchy to describe male clients.

Therapist Candice Christiansen said they often had more anger issues and struggled with being too serious about the subject of depression or anxiety.

Men often hide depression because they see it as a sign of weakness, Christiansen said, but the symptoms tend to seep out in the form of irritability and fatigue.

Build Your Own Support System: Friends Family Hobbies Community

Remember two very important things:

Its not your fault she is depressed. Even if something you did seemed to trigger a bad day for her, this is an illness in her mind, and if X event hadnt triggered it, Y event would have.

There is nothing you can do to fix it. You cant make it go away and you cant make it better.

What you can do is tell her/show her you love her and be a constant in her life, something she can trust when she cant trust her own mind. Ask her what she wants/needs for support. If she asks for something, follow through if you can.

And build your own support system: friends, family, hobbies, community. I feel being with someone who has depression can be incredibly draining on your emotional resources. Make sure youre securing your own oxygen mask before trying to help her with hers.

Talk To Your Friends And Family

You may fear that friends and family wont understand. But trying to maintain appearances while supporting your partner is exhausting. Opening up conversations to friends and families, and getting them involved usually makes a big difference in tackling the stigma and building a circle of support, says Dr Kousoulis. Hardy adds: All the advice we would give to someone who is unwell with depression also applies to loved ones who support us: make sure you are supported, reach out for help in understanding more about the illness, keep the channels of communication open; dont be afraid to ask questions, and prioritise self-care.

Tip 2: Support Your Health

Positive lifestyle changes can help lift depression and keep it from coming back.

Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems; whether youre sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.

Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out, such as work overload, money problems, or unsupportive relationships, and find ways to relieve the pressure and regain control.

Practice relaxation techniques.A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

Spend time in sunlight. Getting outside during daylight hours and exposing yourself to the sun can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. Take a walk, have your coffee outside, do some yard work, or double up on the benefits by exercising outdoors. If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.

Develop a wellness toolbox to deal with depression

Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. The more tools for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if youre feeling good.

  • Spend some time in nature.
  • List what you like about yourself.
  • Read a good book.
  • Avoid The Vicious Circle

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    If your depressed spouse withdraws from you or has angry outbursts all the time, itâs easy to feel hurt and alienated, and react with similar behaviors, says Jacques Barber, PhD, Dean, Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY.

    âThis can create a vicious circle and make the spouse with depression even more depressed, alienated, angry, and retreating into themselves,â he says. âYou have to realize that dealing with depression is very difficult, and your partner isnât doing something malicious. Itâs the depression. If someoneâs angry with you all the time, you want to be angry back! But remember: Depression isnât contagious. This wonât last forever and can be treated. Itâs easy to blame yourself. But most couples do survive this.â

    Should you schedule an intervention with other friends and family to approach your depressed spouse about their issues? Be careful before you take this step, Ben-David says.

    âItâs important not to be accusatory. Itâs more important to observe and let them know what youâve noticed. Say, âIâve seen you looking more sullen and unhappy.â Talk about the changes youâve observed,â he says. Itâs OK to share your feelings too, and let your spouse know that youâre hurt by specific behavior changes. âTell them, âWeâre not having anymore. Youâre not spending time with me.ââ

    Understand And Validate Their Feelings

    It is important to listen to the person with depression and express empathy, which is the ability to understand and share someone elses feelings. One way to demonstrate empathy is to reflect what the person says.

    For example, if they say, I just feel like things will never get better, their partner can reflect that by saying, It sounds as though you are not hopeful about the future.

    Continually trying to cheer the person up is not helpful as this invalidates their condition and their feelings. Phrases such as tomorrow will be better or try to cheer up do not take into account the nature of the illness.

    You Dont Need To Stay With Him

    Protecting your mental health is more important than being with him, no matter how much it seems like he has become everything to you. If the relationship is bringing you more pain than happiness despite attempts to make it healthy leaving is the right decision.

    It might seem like you are abandoning him, leaving him at the mercy of his depression and without your love to protect him. Nonetheless, men have a responsibility to work with those they love to overcome the depression and make it more manageable. You should leave any man who is not doing enough to make the relationship work, and men who suffer from depression are no exception.

    Check For Underlying Conditions

    Dozens of health conditionsincluding heart disease, diabetes, lupus, viral infections, and chronic paincan trigger the same symptoms as depression, Walfish notes. So can scores of prescription medications, including some birth-control pills and drugs that treat acne, herpes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer. Your family doctor can rule out underlying causes and decide whether or not its really depression.

    How To Deal With A Depressed Boyfriend

    The World Health Organization estimates that over 264 million people suffer from depression globally. This estimate cuts across all ages, meaning you likely know someone battling this mental illness if you arent yourself. 

    Depressed people are our friends, our siblings, our parents, our partners; and they deserve all the support they can get.

    When you dont know what to do to make a depressed loved one feel better, it can be numbing. You want more than anything to cheer them up, yet, most of the time, you cant help but feel powerless. Or worse, you end up making your partner feel worse.

    Being in a relationship with a partner that gets depressed a lot can be incredibly challenging, no one prepares for that. As much as you want to support him, youd definitely prefer if he was mostly happy all the time. 

    What Ive come to learn, however, is that one should never underestimate the power of words. When it comes to depression, especially your partners, there is such a thing as the right and wrong things to say. 

    Supporting A Partner With Depression

    We asked our supporters for advice on how to support a partner who has depression.

    Be patient with them and try and go with the flow as much as possible. As hard and weird as that sounds.

    Understanding how depression affects your partner can be key to building a healthy, supportive relationship that cares for the mental wellbeing of both partners.

    Depression can cause people to withdraw, behave differently or become more irritable. Common symptoms include insomnia, feelings of worthlessness and loss of interest in activities. It can even lead to physical aches and pains.

    Living with depression for a longer period of time can take a toll on your partner’s levels of energy, motivation and passion. It’s important not to take changes personally or as a reflection of your partner’s investment in the relationship.

    “Keep doing things that you both enjoy.”

    Depression, like many mental health problems, can take over your life. Its important to remember and remind your partner that the depression diagnosis is only a part of their identity. They also have many other roles and interests. Being able to fulfil these roles is a big part of recovery.

    We know that exercise and staying active can protect our mental health. You may like to suggest going for a walk or visiting your favourite places. Keep trying but dont push too much if they arent ready to join you.

    You may notice gradual changes in their mood, rather than a massive improvement from one moment to the next. 

    If You Love Him Its Worth It

    When you fall in love with a man, no obstacle seems too large. Depression can threaten a relationship, but couples can overcome it by understanding the illness and knowing how to respond to various situations.

    It seems daunting, but these are only situations you should prepare for. They are not guaranteed to happen. Either way, youll know how to protect your mental health and do your best to make things work with your man.

    If your partner is struggling with depression and its impacting your relationship, consider online couples counseling with a licensed therapist a convenient, inexpensive way to get your relationship back on track. 

    Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

    Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

    Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

    Remember To Help Yourself As Well

    Caring for a partner with depression can be emotionally draining.  Its important to practice self-care and increase your own support during this time. It is extremely important for partners of those with a depression to take care of themselves. These tips will help you cope:

    • Dont give up your own life and interests. Engage in your outside interests and hobbies for a break from the stresses of your daily life. 
    • Maintain a support system. Having friends and family to confide in ways your partner cannot is important for your overall emotion well being. 
    • Seek professional help for yourself, if needed. The recovery process can be stressful for partners of those struggling with mental health illnesses. Your well-being is just as important as your partners. If you need someone to talk to, or if you think you may be suffering from symptoms of anxiety or depression, contact your doctor or consider visiting a mental health professional or joining a community group.  

    Admit That You Cannot Cure Your Partners Depression

    7 Ways to Tell If Your Partner Is Depressed

    Your spouse needs your love, support, and concern, but these important qualities cant reverse depression any more than they can control blood sugar, ease arthritis pain, or clear out clogged arteries. Just as you wouldnt rely on love alone to cure a medical conditionor withdraw love because it didntdont expect that your feelings or attention will be able to alter your spouses off-kilter brain chemistry. Use your love to get help and to remind your partner of his or her intrinsic worth during this challenging time, Walfish advises.

    Get Educated On Their Symptoms

    Depression doesn’t look the same for everyone. Some people, for example, appear “normal” but transform into an entirely different person during temporary depressive episodes; others may feel persistent pangs of hopelessness for days, or weeks, at a time.

    No matter the severity or characteristics of your partner’s depression, there may be moments when you feel slighted, rejected, or straight up offended by their actions. Gaining knowledge about what they’re going through can help you to understand where they’re coming from.

    For example, one of the common symptoms of depression is loss of interest in pleasurable activities. Those who experience depression often find that the things that typically bring them joy seem dull and uninteresting.

    Remembering that it’s not you, it’s the condition, can be a big relief in times when you might otherwise be totally confused.

    Learn more about depression here.

    Ask Them How They’d Like To Be Helped

    “Too often we assume what another person needs based on how we would like support,”Dr. Jessica, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle.

    If you like to be cuddled, for example, you might think your partner likes to be cuddled, too.

    But since everyone’s different, it’s important to figure out what they actually prefer, she says. Talk about it, and honor what they need.

    Remember Each Person’s Battle With Depression Is Their Own Battle

    Yes, that means, you should avoid taking on your partner’s mental health as your own burden. It can be tempting to dive into a caretaker role for your partner, especially when you know exactly what it’s like to be in their shoes. But that way lies codependency. It’s not healthy to rely on each other for happiness or support, as it transforms the relationship from two loving adults into a therapy-client or parent-child dynamic.

    “You want your relationship to be your relationship,” Brateman says. “You don’t want to move your relationship into, ‘I’m going to be responsible for your depression. I’m going to cheer you up.”

    On the plus side, she says it can be easier for people with depression to not take their partner’s depression personally. Because they’ve been there, they understand that their partner’s depression is a part of their partner’s own mental state, not a reflection on them or the relationship.

    He Might Interpret Neutral Things In A Negative Way

    Depression often works like a game of telephone where no one wins.

    One person says something nice. The person with depression would love to receive this kindness as it is, but their depression has set up a series of negative filters. By the time the kind words reach the person with depression, the filters have mutated it into something negative such as an insult or affirmation of their negative beliefs. Dating makes the situation even more difficult because there is more vulnerability.

    Evgueni Borissenko, who has dealt with severe depression and blogged about it, talked about what this can be like in cases such as his.

    Even if you think you have answers, they can turn your answers around and turn them into problems of their own, Borissenko said, describing how severely depressed men might respond to positive support.

    If this happens, choose your words carefully. Tell him exactly what you mean and explain why what you are saying is positive. If his response seems like an attack, resist the instinct to be defensive. This is vital because attacking back can exacerbate his depression. Stay calm and ensure he knows exactly what you are trying to express.

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