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Depressed Spouse: How to Help a Partner with Depression

Depressed Spouse: How to Help a Partner with Depression

Depressed Spouse: How to Help a Partner with Depression

Published: June 9, 2022

Depression is a mood disorder which often materializes as sadness, negativity, or gloom.

Depression is a very common mental health illness and according to the World Health Organization, people born after 1945 are ten times more likely to have it.

It can be difficult helping a partner with depression as they may seem distant and not commit to the relationship. You might often need to be the proactive one. However, you can also expect to be valued, loved, and respected.

If your partner experiences depression, you can learn to be a more supportive partner. Some ways to do this are to:

  • Learn about depression
  • Encourage them to seek professional support and treatment
  • Provide support during recovery
  • Focus on small goals
  • Create a supportive home environment
  • Be an active listener
  • Learn questions to ask and avoid
  • Learn the warning signs of suicide
  • Learn how to take care of yourself

How to Help my Partner with Depression

Learn About Depression

Depression is a mental health condition that makes you lack motivation and feel persistently low. While it is normal to feel helpless and low sometimes, if this lasts for a long time and interferes with your daily life, then you might have depression.

When family members notice that someone they love has depression, it can be very difficult to know what to do, so understanding the mental illness and knowing how to support your partner can be important. You might also be able to help others support your partner better.

Depression can manifest very differently in different people. Your partner's symptoms may include some or many of the following:

  • Persistently feeling low
  • Not finding joy anymore
  • Losing interest in things that they used to find meaningful and fun
  • Sleep disturbance - constantly being tired
  • Extreme mood swings and difficulty controlling emotions
  • Irregular eating habits - weight gain or loss
  • Decreased libido
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Persistent anger, agitation, anger outbursts
  • Feelings of hopelessness - powerless to change bleak future
  • Reckless driving
  • Withdrawing from friends and family members
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

There are also different types of depression. While symptoms of depression may be the same during depressive episodes, these episodes may be more or less regular and last for different periods of time.

Main types of depression:

  • Major depressive disorder (or major depression) - a period of low mood lasting two weeks or more.
  • Persistent depressive disorder - a long-term form of depression that lasts for two years or more.
  • Bipolar disorder - alternating periods of extreme lows and highs.
  • Seasonal affective disorder - low moods that generally happen during the winter months and go away in the spring and summer.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a lot of additional helpful information both about the symptoms of depression and what support is available.

Encourage Them to Seek Professional Support and Treatment

Depression is a common mental health condition so there is lots of help available. However, there is evidence that less than a third of people with depression receive treatment.

People may not realize that they have symptoms of depression and think that they have to will themselves better.

It might be helpful for you to share symptoms you have noticed with your partner, find treatment options, encourage treatment from a mental health professional, and accompany your partner to appointments.

As well as medical support, you can look into self-organized support groups. Speaking with people who are experiencing similar things might help your partner to feel less alone.

It is important not to push them if they do not feel ready to seek treatment.

Provide Support During Recovery

Recovering from depression is not linear. Your partner may still have lows even when they are generally doing better. Help your partner stick with the recovery process. For example, if they still need you to accompany them to appointments, support them with this.

Focus on Small Goals

Too many expectations can be overwhelming for people experiencing depression. You should therefore avoid projecting too far into the future. Instead focus on small goals. If your partner struggles to get up in the morning, you can focus on things like getting up and eating healthily.

This might be difficult for you as it may not provide the reassurance you need about your future with your partner. It is important for you to look after yourself so that you can deal with this. We will speak about how to take care of yourself later.

Create a Supportive Home Environment

Your partner may lack motivation to take the lead even at home. You can create a supportive environment by cooking and eating healthy meals together, avoiding having alcohol in the house, and doing exercise together.

Do not require your partner to be involved all the time as this might put them under pressure. You can do these things alone when they do not feel up to it and gently encourage them when they seem to be doing better.

Be an Active Listener

Active listening is the practice of listening which helps to build trust between the listener and speaker and makes sure that the speaker feels heard and supported.

When your partner is depressed, it is more important that you listen to them than offer advice.

Active listening requires that you pay attention without judgment. You can clarify and summarize what your partner has said so that they know you have heard what they are saying.

You may not have all the answers, but listening and asking open-ended questions so that they can say everything they need can be very helpful for your partner.

What to Say to Your Partner Who is Depressed

You should be careful with the questions you ask your partner as they could have a negative impact on how they feel. It is recommended to ask questions which are supportive and collaborative rather than making them feel like they need to deal with things alone.

Using positive reinforcement can also help as your partner may feel very negatively about themselves and not see their positive values. However, don't try to cheer them up with exaggerated positivity. This could make them feel like you are dismissing their feelings.

Questions to Help, Support, and Collaborate

What can I do to help?

What can we do to get through this together?

What changes can we make to help you feel better?

What helped you last time you were depressed?

Questions to Avoid When Your Partner is Depressed

Why are you making such a big deal about this?

Do you feel better?

What's wrong with you?

Don't you know how lucky you are?

Warning Signs of Suicide

People living with depression may self-harm, have suicidal thoughts and ideations, and attempt suicide.

You should seek immediate medical assistance by calling 911 if your partner attempts suicide.

Suicide prevention is clearly preferential to dealing with things when someone has already attempted suicide. Knowing the signs of suicide can help you to recognize if your partner needs help.

Signs to look out for include:

  • Speaking about suicide and death
  • Buying something such as a gun or pills
  • Preparing a suicide plan
  • Saying goodbye to people
  • Getting affairs in order
  • Social withdrawal
  • Reckless behavior and risk-taking

If your partner is displaying these symptoms, there are places you can get support.

How to Take Care of Yourself When Your Partner has Depression

Supporting a partner with depression can be draining. Make sure you don’t forget your own physical and emotional well-being. Look after your own mental health as it may suffer.

Here are some ways you can look after yourself:

  • Practice self-care
  • Eat balanced meals
  • Exercise
  • Rest and relax
  • Spend time with friends

Does Depression Make it Harder to Love?

You might sometimes feel like your partner does not love you because they experience apathy which makes it difficult for them to do the things which usually connect you. For example, you may have connected through walks or going to the cinema, but your partner does not feel able to do these things now.

They might also experience a loss of interest in sex and feel less physically attracted to you. It is important for your own mental health that you understand that this is not to do with you but is related to their depression.

This does not mean that your partner does not love you. Being in a relationship can be very good for people dealing with depression. They can be encouraging, liberating, and even empowering.

Treatment options

At GIA Miami, we understand that reasons for depression are unique and tailor our recovery program to your needs.

We offer a range of treatment options including:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for depression
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Psychiatric services
  • Functional medicine

If your partner is ready to get support and you would like to find out more about the treatment we provide you can visit our website or call us on 833 713 0828.

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