Dealing with a loved one who is struggling with depression can be a maze of emotion. As someone who truly cares, you want to be there for your loved one and help them manage all of the issues that surround their depression. The problems that may arise can be complicated even further if you are dating someone with depression. Added to the worries about your partner are concerns about the relationship itself, especially if your significant other is sending you mixed messages or struggling to communicate their wants, needs, and feelings.
It’s important to remember that, as some who loves a person with depression, you are not alone. There are some things that you can and should do to help your partner, yourself, and the quality of the relationship.
Know the symptoms of depression.
Unfortunately, many people see depression as simple, generalized sadness. This mischaracterization often leads to advice about “getting happy” or “thinking positive thoughts.” For someone with clinical depression, this is less than helpful. Depression does include feelings of sadness, emptiness, or tearfulness. But it also can include anger, irritability, and frustration.
Those suffering from depression may experience changes in appetite or sleep habits. They may find it difficult to organize their thinking or speech and may have trouble making decisions or remembering things. They may lose interest in their normal activities, even ones they previously enjoyed. Depression may also lead to unexplained physical symptoms, including pain or headaches, overall restlessness or limited concentration when completing tasks. These issues are often severe enough to cause problems at work, school, in social activities, and within relationships, because the person with depression is generally miserable or irritable without really knowing why.
Talk to your loved one.
It’s never easy to discuss difficult topics, and this is especially true when the person may be less than receptive. It is difficult to tell your loved one that you believe their behavior is adversely affecting them and that they require assistance in coping with their feelings. But the symptoms your loved one is experiencing, including feelings of worthlessness or guilt, a fixation on past failures, frequent or recurrent suicidal thoughts, and overwhelming hopelessness, are something that must be managed by a professional, so it’s important to use some conversation starters to talk with your loved one about their depression.
Unfortunately, people suffering from depression may not recognize their depression. They may now know the symptoms of depression or have feelings of shame about it. Many people believe they can overcome their feelings with willpower alone. It’s important to help your partner understand that depression is a medical condition and, as such, requires help from a professional. Explain that it is not a personal flaw or weakness and that they can get better with through the intervention of a medical doctor or mental health care provider. Approach the conversation knowing your loved one may become defensive or angry, so try not to take their comments personally.
Help them research treatment options.
Because depression may make it difficult for your loved one to concentrate, organize their thinking, and make decisions, it may be useful for you to help guide them through the process of seeking treatment. Offer to help them prepare a list of questions to discuss in their initial appointment with a doctor or mental health care provider. Express your interest or willingness to help them navigate by setting up appointments, providing transportation or companionship to those appointments, or attending family therapy sessions. There are treatment options for depression, depending on the severity and longevity of the issue. While some people may find medication and therapy a useful tool, others may require long-term residential treatment to deal with underlying causes or comorbidity, like the presence of addiction issues that exist with the depression. Only a health care provider can determine what level of care is required for the greatest promise of long-term improvement and recovery.
Take care of yourself.
For many people looking to help a loved one cope with depression, self-care should be at the top of the to-do list. Maintain your health plan of wellness by eating right, getting plenty of rest, and engaging with others who understand and support you as a person. Stay involved in activities and hobbies you love, and maintain a low-stress environment as much as possible for you and your partner. You may want to ask friends and family to help when you find yourself becoming impatient or burned out, and find ways to refresh and renew yourself.
Know when its an emergency.
There may come a time when talking with your loved one is not enough. Stay alert to signs of suicide and know when to make a call for help. The symptoms of depression can worsen quickly, so be sure to observe your loved one regularly and look for signs that he/she is not improving. Supporting and loving your partner through depression means knowing your own limitations and being able and willing to take that next step if it is necessary.
Do you have any helpful tips for dealing with a loved one struggling with depression? Feel free to comment below.