Being In A Relationship With Someone Who Has Depression And Anxiety: How To Support Your Partner
By: Patricia Oelze
Updated July 28, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown
Nobody has a perfect relationship. Because nobody is perfect. We know it is impossible to get along with someone all the time and never have a disagreement, so we are not going to be happy all the time. However, if your partner has a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, you will have more than your fair share of troubles. Life can be stressful enough when trying to get along with your partner when they are tired or had a bad day, but what if your partner is depressed or anxious all the time? Or even just some of the time. How do you know the difference between your loved one being in a bad mood to someone who has depression or anxiety? First, you need to know the signs and symptoms of these common disorders.
What Is Depression?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), depression is a serious mood disorder that causes symptoms with how a person thinks, feels, and handles daily activities like working, eating, sleeping, and relationships. The symptoms have to last for at least two weeks for depression to be diagnosed. Otherwise, it may just be that your partner was sad about something or going through a phase. Some of the symptoms include:
- Chronic sadness or feeling empty
- Various pains, aches, and digestive problems
- Appetite loss or eating more than usual
- Insomnia or not being able to stay asleep
- Sleeping more than usual
- Trouble remembering things
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Inability to make decisions
- Severe fatigue and lack of energy
- No motivation to do anything
- Lack of interest in hobbies and activities you usually enjoyed
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Thoughts of suicide
Types Of Depression
Another thing to note is that there are different types of depression. While they are all similar in some ways and can share the same or similar symptoms, they each have a significant difference in diagnosis, persistence, or severity. For example, the seasonal affective disorder typically affects people in the winter months, and postpartum depression affects new mothers. Here are the different types of depression:
- Major Depressive Disorder is characterized as having five or more symptoms of depression that last longer than two weeks. These have to impact your day-to-day activities and cause you to be sad or down most days.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder is the same as major depression but lasts for more than two years.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder is a period of severe or major depression that only happens during the fall and winter. This is thought to be because of the lack of sunlight and shorter days, but experts are not certain of the exact cause.
- Postpartum Depression can be a very serious condition that affects new moms due to a hormonal imbalance or difficult pregnancy. Feelings of not being a good parent, being overwhelmed, feeling alone, and thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby are symptoms common to this dangerous disorder.
- Premenstrual Disorder, also known as PMS, is typically caused by a hormonal imbalance that happens right before or at the beginning of your monthly period. It can cause mood swings, fatigue, irritability, and trouble concentrating.
- Bipolar Depression, also known as manic depression, causes moods to go up and down. For a certain amount of time, you will be overly energetic, not sleep, and may make bad decisions or act impulsively. At other times, you will be extremely depressed and not even want to get out of bed for days at a time.
What About Anxiety?
Anxiety is something we all experience sometime in our lives, but when anxiety is a constant companion or if your anxiety is disrupting your daily activities, this is not normal anxiety; it may be a mental health disorder related to anxiety. Anxiety is characterized as fear or worries about certain things or situations that hurt your emotions and behaviors. Disorders related to anxiety are the number one most common mental illness and affect over 264 million people every year. Similar to depression, there are also different types of disorders related to anxiety. Some of these include:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a constant worry about something such as a fear of getting sick, or a need to count things or do things in a certain order. For example, someone with OCD may have to turn a light on and off three times before entering or leaving a room or may have to organize food by different colors or shapes before eating. In other words, they are obsessions.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a severe disorder that is caused by a trauma that happened in your life such as war, a major car accident, natural disaster like tornado or earthquake, or a stressor like losing someone you love or getting divorced. The symptoms are similar to other disorders related to anxiety but also include flashbacks, isolation, and night terrors.
- Social Anxiety Disorder is an unnatural fear of humiliation or embarrassment in a social situation such as talking to people you do not know or going to a party. However, it can get so bad that it causes you to stop talking to friends and family as well as strangers.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder is an excessive and uncontrollable constant worry about everything and thinking the worst of every situation. It is the fear of something bad happening no matter what you do so that you are afraid of doing just about everything.
- Specific Phobias are when you have an extreme and constant fear of a certain situation or object like fear of heights, spiders, or snakes, or being afraid to speak in front of others. Some people will go out of their way to avoid some situations that may even cause them danger.
Don't Be An Enabler Or A Pusher
While it is okay to be sympathetic and understanding when your loved ones are hurting, when it comes to anxiety and depression, you do not want to be overly sympathetic or enabling. For example, if your spouse or partner is depressed and will not get out of bed for days, letting them stay home and do nothing while you wait on them is not good for them. Or for your relationship. However, it is also not good for you to try to force them into situations that cause them anxiety or depression. If your partner has a social anxiety, it is not a good idea to keep inviting a bunch of people over when you know it makes them uncomfortable.
The best thing you can do for your partner if they have an anxiety or depressive disorder is to support them in getting help. Without pushing them to see a therapist or counselor, talking to them about how them getting treatment can improve their life. Let them know that you are there for them and will even do counseling or therapy with them if they want you to. In fact, it is a good idea for you to do some couples counseling if one of you have a mental health disorder. Because it is hard enough to get along with someone all the time without having the pressure of an anxiety or depression getting in the way.
Do Not Blame Them
No matter what, make sure your partner knows that you care about them and that you are not blaming them for anything. For example, you should never tell them that if they do not get the help that you are going to leave them or that their mental illness is wrecking your marriage or relationship. It is an illness just like cancer or heart disease and is not something that your partner chose. They are not doing it on purpose, and they are certainly feeling worse than you are about the situation. They may just be scared or in denial.
Talk to your loved one about how they feel and listen to what they have to say. Do not try to analyze them or tell them what is wrong with them. You are not their therapist-you are their partner. They must know you will be there for them no matter what and that you can handle what comes next. Whether it is therapy, medication, or even hospitalization (in severe cases), your loved one needs to know that you will not leave them when things get tough.
However, if your partner is not willing to get help, and you are unable to deal with them or their illness, you can seek help for yourself. You do not need to have a mental illness to talk to a therapist or counselor. In fact, if you are struggling with your partner's mental illness or just having relationship troubles in general, it is fine for you to talk to someone about it. Therapists are there for everyone, not just for those with mental illness. And your partner may see that you are talking to a therapist and may eventually decide to join you. Try online couples therapy while they are home and let them see that it is nothing to be afraid of and that you want to help.
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