Dating Someone With Depression: 7 Tips To Help Your Relationship Succeed
By Abigail Boyd
Updated November 25, 2019
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
When you're dating someone with depression, it can be difficult to witness them struggle with its overpowering symptoms. If you've never experienced depression yourself, you may be frustrated and confused watching the person you care about lose their motivation, say negative things about him or herself, and pull away from loved ones. If you've dealt with depression in the past, it can be painful to see a person you care deeply for struggling underneath the condition's weight, knowing what it feels like.
Depression is one of the most widespread mental health conditions in the world-affecting an estimated 16.2 million adults every year in the US. Depression can cause many symptoms throughout the mind and body, some of which can be hard to comprehend from the outside. Everyone has moments where they feel sad, overwhelmed, anxious, or exhausted. Most of the time, however, we're able to bounce back. Depression is a serious mental illness that no one can just snap out of.
It takes determination, persistence, and effort-which, ironically, can be hard to come by during a depressive episode-to get better. In the vast majority of cases, it also takes the help of a therapist and even antidepressant medication to recover fully. Additionally, depression can reoccur in the future.
To help you get a better understanding of what your partner is going through, here are some symptoms commonly experienced with depression:
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Lack of motivation
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Persistent sadness or emotional numbness
- Urge to isolate and withdraw from others
- Guilt and self-blame
- Loss of self-confidence
- Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
- Loss of appetite or drastic increase in appetite
- Lack of energy slowed movements
- In some cases, suicidal thoughts
Successful, fulfilling relationships take work and commitment, and depression can add extra layers of difficulty. Depression can make a person act, think, and feel differently than they usually do. This can make dating with depression uniquely hard.
That's not to say that a relationship will fail if one or both partners are struggling with depression. If both partners love each other and are committed to making the relationship succeed, then there's a good chance that the bond can weather the storm and emerge stronger than ever.
The following tips can help you support the person you're dating when they're dealing with depression, as well as ensure you're looking out for your own mental and emotional health.
Tip 1: Offer Your Support
As much as you may want to, you can't erase your partner's depression. What will benefit your partner the most is knowing you're there for them. Positive interactions in a relationship can help reduce the severity of depression. Don't adopt an attitude of trying to "fix" them, as this can contribute to feelings of worthlessness or imply that they are somehow fundamentally broken. It can also spiral into unhealthy codependent behavior.
Remember, it's not your job to solve your loved one's problems. It is ultimately their responsibility to cope with and manage their depression. Encourage your loved one to seek appropriate treatment, to not be discouraged if the first try doesn't immediately fix their depression, and to investigate medications, if they're open to exploring their options.
Support them by listening to them and letting them know you love them despite their depression. Let them know you'll be by their side as they go through the challenging process of getting better. Recognize and praise their efforts since depression can sap motivation and make it incredibly hard to make progress.
Tip 2: Learn About Depression
Depression is a real, common medical condition with a wide range of symptoms that can sometimes be misunderstood. As listed above, depression can have many effects on someone's behavior, tainting their thinking with negativity, causing them to isolate and avoid social interactions, and stealing enjoyment and fulfillment from the activities and hobbies they once loved.
Take time to read about the condition, what causes it, and what research-backed treatments are available. This will give you a deeper understanding of what your loved one is struggling with and how you can help and support them. Encourage your partner to do the same, as self-education on the condition is an important part of recovery.
If your partner has not been formally diagnosed, encourage them to seek out a professional diagnosis, which can open up many types of specialized treatment.
Tip 3: Know You're Not To Blame
It's not your fault your partner is depressed. Depression can have many causes, most of which are genetic, hormonal, or environmental. If your partner seems irritable or lashes out at you, it's normal to question yourself. You may worry that you're doing or saying the wrong thing or making their symptoms worse.
However, you are never responsible for your partner's depression. Even if you occasionally disagree or argue, that is not the catalyst for your partner's depression. It's not your fault, so work on challenging thoughts of guilt or inadequacy. It can be hard when your partner pulls away due to depression but try to find reassurance in the knowledge that you did nothing wrong, and it doesn't mean they care about you any less.
Tip 4: Take Care Of Yourself
When a flight attendant is explaining the emergency protocols before an airplane takes off, they will tell you that if the oxygen masks deploy, put one on yourself before you put one on your child or anyone else. If you can't breathe, you can't help anyone else. You may have heard this metaphor before, as it's ideal for explaining the importance of caring for yourself so you can attend to others.
When you're dating someone with depression, you may tend to put all of your focus on that person. You may lose track of your own needs and wants and brush them aside. However, it's crucial to take care of yourself first. Make sure you're eating well, getting enough sleep, and keeping up with your responsibilities. Have a support system that you can lean on, if possible. If not, consider seeking out a support group. If you feel like you would benefit from therapy, don't hesitate to look into finding a counselor to speak with to help keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Tip 5: Practice Effective Communication
Let the person that you're with know that you're there for them and that they can talk to you without judgment or unsolicited advice. Often, being there to listen to them can be one of the best ways you can help someone struggling with depression. Also, be sure to communicate your own needs in a non-confrontational way. Try to be positive and keep the focus on your feelings and needs, not blaming or criticizing the other person.
It can be tricky to achieve balance in communication when you're dating someone with depression. A relationship therapist can coach you on ways to communicate more effectively with your loved one.
Tip 6: Understand How Depression Affects Intimacy
Depression commonly leads to a loss of interest in sex and intimacy. Lowered self-esteem can make a person feel self-conscious and pull away. To complicate matters, many depression medications (particularly SSRIs) can decrease a person's interest in sex. This can have a strong negative impact on the relationship. As with the previous tip, it's important here to keep the lines of communication open and discuss your expectations and needs with one another. By working together, you can find ways for each of your needs to be met and lower your overall level of frustration within the relationship.
Tip 7: Depression Is Not An Excuse
While it's important to give your partner a certain amount of leeway when they're struggling with depression, mental illness is never an excuse to abuse someone or put them down. If your partner belittles you, calls you names, insults you or otherwise treats you poorly, recognize that this is not okay. If this becomes an ongoing pattern, it may be in your best interest to end the relationship.
Not every relationship can survive when one or both partners are affected by mental illness. That's okay. If you feel that the relationship is causing your mental health to decline, if your partner is refusing to seek treatment after an extended period despite acknowledging the problem, or you feel like the negatives outweigh the positives, it may be time to say goodbye. While this can be an incredibly hard decision, it's often the best one for both parties.
Seeking Professional Help
Relationships are complicated and take work to sustain, even in the best of circumstances. Always remember: while it's not your partner's fault that they have depression, it's their responsibility to seek treatment. You can't force them to get help. You can only show them that you care and support them while still looking out for yourself.
Depression can make sustaining a relationship a challenge, and while it can be well worth it in the long run, it's important to seek support if you feel that you need it. Regain.us is here for you if you're seeking a therapist or relationship counseling to weather the storm of depression. We'll connect you with a qualified therapist no matter what your schedule to get the support you need. You're not alone-reach out and click here to get started.