If you are dating someone with depression, you will know that it affects their whole outlook on life. With the right knowledge, you can learn to be a supportive partner, while still honoring your own needs in the romantic relationship.
Depression can be defined briefly as a mood disorder that creates persistent feelings of sadness, negativity, or gloom. Learning more about depression will give you a more accurate understanding of what your partner is going through and how they navigate everyday life. There is no magic cure for depression, but it needn't be an insurmountable obstacle to a relationship.
To successfully date someone with depression, you'll need to learn to accept their feelings just as they are. This may sound challenging, as it includes feelings caused by their depressive symptoms and mood changes, which you can think of a bit like the weather - sometimes bright, sometimes overcast. But, when they're having negative thoughts or if they feel sad, your non-judgmental acceptance may be reassuring.
It is important for someone with depression to feel heard. If they know you are listening, they will feel supported. This emotional support can help them manage depression with more emotional awareness - that is, they can take a step back and be mindful of what is going on inside them, and know they need not be entirely at the mercy of their mindset. You can take the initiative and help connect them with support groups if they are open to it.
Avoid projecting too far ahead, both in your relationship and in everyday life. Your partner may feel overwhelmed if they think you have too many expectations of them. This can be difficult, as it means accepting they may not be able to give you the reassurance you might want about your future together. However, it leaves room for spontaneity - for taking things as they come, having important conversations as they arise, or for that long-awaited vacation!
People with mental health issues like depression tend to become withdrawn and may seem like they have lost interest in socializing. Social support, in the form of support groups, for example, can help foster connection with other sufferers and empathetic people. The depressed person may then feel motivated to implement lifestyle changes or take other action, such as better self-care, which they believe may support their well-being.
One thing people with depression have in common is a negative explanatory style. This means the way they explain life to themselves is pessimistic, to the point they may end up feeling helpless. You can help to (gently) question their narrative - is it really true? Severe depression affects people's thoughts to such an extent that they may display cognitive distortions - their perception of something may have become very different from reality. You can point this out, and identify positive things to at least acknowledge together.
Although someone with depression can often seem to wallow in extreme negativity, it is important not to tend towards the other extreme and try to cheer your partner up with exaggerated positivity. This could be counterproductive, and make your partner feel you are being dismissive of their feelings - they won't find relief in trying to kid themselves that they feel great. Some days, they may simply lack the emotional capacity to feel positive.
Communication is a two-way process, one which, when dating someone with depression, may test your relational skills. It's very important for you to be honest about your own needs and your own emotions. This helps to avoid frustration around the unique challenges of dating someone with depression. If you're having a bad day, speak openly about it. Honesty helps both parties feel heard.
When you feel frustrated, it can be easy to think, "Why does he still say things like that?" or "Why won't she stop thinking so negatively?" Indeed, some things a depressed person says or does may seem hard to comprehend for someone not experiencing depression. Remember it's not your job to fix your partner's depression, nor is unkind or derogatory language a way to 'shake them out of it'.
Since depressed people can easily fall into a kind of lethargy and lack motivation, you can be the proactive one in the relationship. You can lead by example: make lifestyle changes to your own life, demonstrate your own self-care, eat, or cook and share balanced meals, and avoid alcohol or excessive caffeine. Ask your partner how you can better support them, and perhaps help them seek professional help if they're open to it.
Life takes unexpected twists and turns. Healing from depression is not a constant, linear progression. In challenging times, you can remind your partner that ups and downs are inevitable and the important thing is a continued, general improvement in their condition. On days when you yourself feel sad, try and remember that it will pass, and feel lucky that you have the emotional resilience of a healthy person.
Dating someone with depression presents challenges. Coping with such a relationship can be demanding, and it is essential you remain very aware of your own physical and emotional needs. Your own mental health may also start to suffer, so it's important not to neglect self-care and your well-being.
Depression symptoms vary from one individual to the next, but mental health professionals list a number of common symptoms, such as:
Yes, depending on the nature of the person's condition and its severity. Depression is not an obstacle to happy relationships when managed mindfully. For this you need to educate yourself on your partner's condition, be a good listener, and ask questions - a more accurate understanding of depression, and particularly how they personally experience it, will stand you in good stead.
A depressed person will often experience low energy and a lack of motivation. If they are fully absorbed in coping with their hopelessness and other negative feelings, they may seem distant, not committed to the relationship in the way you are. They may lose interest in doing fun activities together or even basic things such as sharing a meal. Frequently, they may lose the desire for physical intimacy.
In so far as it's worth dating anyone, yes. If you know about the condition, and if there is mutual attraction and a desire for a relationship, then dating someone with depression, for example, can still be deeply fulfilling. Since depression can hinder a person in expressing their full potential, you will know that when they get better - as they can, with the right therapy and support - they'll be an even better version of themselves!
It is doubtful whether there is any easy way to end a relationship. Remember that it is always possible to reach out for help - the advice or perspective of trusted friends or family, or even a couples counselor. If you are convinced separation is the only viable option, then the only way is to communicate your decision to your partner, clearly, without ambiguity, and with total honesty. Make them understand that you still care and wish only the best for them. Do not feel guilty - you are not the cause of your partner's depression, and you cannot be their savior either.
It is a bit of a cliche to say expect the unexpected, and yet, because depression causes mood swings and may impair a person's ability to control their emotions, do not expect a smooth, predictable ride. Expect to have to hold space for your partner, and to need plenty of patience. Anticipate being the proactive one in the relationship, and quite often its pillar. In many cases, you can expect also to be hugely valued, loved, and respected. Nevertheless, spend time to learn new coping skills, and to learn not to take things too personally - the voice of the pain of depression is not the true voice of the person you love.
Someone with depression is likely to be less outgoing or sociable than the average person, and possibly withdrawn and self-centered. They are therefore probably not going to be actively seeking a partner or a relationship. This doesn't mean they are emotionally unavailable, or cannot experience loving feelings. Mental health in this case is not an obstacle to falling in love.
Dating can have beneficial effects on depression. But, it is not a panacea and cannot completely eradicate depression symptoms. Anybody dating makes themselves vulnerable to the risk of rejection and disappointment, which someone with depression may cope with far less well than someone in good mental health. However, dating can be an opportunity for depression to stop taking over all aspects of a person's life. It can be encouraging, liberating, and even empowering, for a person with depression to feel themselves expand into a relationship. Their condition no longer dominates their existence, and dating can bring light into dark places.
Depression can affect the way you relate to your partner. Someone with depression may experience a kind of apathy, which makes them less interested in shared activities in general, but even places, social circles, or leisure activities they used to get excited about, may hold less appeal. If you are the one suffering from depression, the above may make you feel indirectly less attracted to your partner. Things you used to share, part of the glue of the relationship, might fail to inspire you anymore. You may feel you have less in common.
Physiologically, depression can result in decreased libido and a loss of interest in sex and intimacy. As a result, depression can indeed make you feel less physically attracted to your partner.
Dating someone with depression can be difficult, but need not be impossible when you both want the relationship. At GIA Miami, we offer the most advanced, up-to-date, and evidence-based therapies for depression and many other mental health conditions. We combine cutting-edge technologies with tried-and-tested therapies such as CBT, all administered or facilitated by our acclaimed experts. The journey back to mental wellness starts with us.
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