How Depression Hurts Relationships
What do you do when depression hurts your relationship? Due to the complexity of depression and the many different forms it takes, this is not an easy problem to solve. All relationships require a certain level of commitment, openness and understanding, but this is especially true when one or more partners are depressed. If you have depression, it may feel like the odds are stacked against you ever maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. However, if you are both prepared to work through these challenges of depression affecting your relationship, there’s no reason to fear. Here's what to do when depression hurts your relationship.
What to Do When Depression Hurts Your Relationship
Depression doesn’t always spell doom for a relationship. Sure, it can be challenging for one or both partners to experience depression, but this isn’t always the case. Some couples claim that experiencing a mental illness actually brought them closer together.
Psychologists and researchers state that maintaining a healthy and loving relationship can help fortify both you and your partner against the effects of depression. However, before you can act to save your relationship, you need to know what you're fighting. Therefore, the key to maintaining a relationship despite depression is to understand the illness.
“Depression is often referred to as the ‘Black Dog.’ Just like a real dog, it needs to be embraced and understood, taught new tricks, and ultimately brought to heel.” – World Health Organization.
How Depression Can Hurt Your Relationship
Depression can make it difficult to maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships. There are all kinds of reasons why romantic relationships suffer in light of depression, but the main issue tends to boil down to a lack of communication from one partner and an absence of understanding from the other.
If you love someone who has depression, you shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed for not understanding exactly what they’re going through. People who are depressed often find it hard to explain how they are feeling. They may feel locked in their own heads and like there is “no point” trying to make others understand. They might also feel so overwhelmed by their physical and emotional symptoms that they don’t have the energy to communicate properly, even if it will make them feel better to talk.
How to Protect Your Relationship from Depression
If you have a partner who is depressed, there is plenty you can do to support them and protect your relationship:
Don’t try to fix it: It is not your job to diagnose your partner or tell them how to treat their depression, however much you might want to fix them. Your role is to provide support and encouragement, not to provide an answer.
- Don’t make them feel weak: Depression has a way of sinking its teeth in and robbing people of positive thoughts, especially about themselves. Tell your partner how strong they are and congratulate them on their small achievements.
- Don’t give unsolicited advice: By telling your partner to work out more or change their diet, you may think you are being helpful, but it can often come across like you think they are doing something wrong. Depression is an illness, so leave the advice to the professionals.
- Be thoughtful and kind: When someone has depression, you can never be too thoughtful or kind. Compassion is limitless, and someone with depression needs as much as you can give.
- Know when not to talk: Often, your partner may not have the energy to speak. Sometimes they might just want you to curl up with them and watch a movie. Other times, they may need you to listen while they try to communicate their feelings. You don't always need to know what to say.
- Help them simplify their life: Stress, lack of sleep and emotional conflict can all make depression worse. If you want to do something practical to help your partner, try to make life as simple as possible for them by taking on the lion’s share of the housework, getting their clothes ready for them each morning, cooking them healthy meals or helping them to create (and stick to) a daily routine.
- Encourage them to seek professional advice: Ultimately, there is only so much you can do to help someone who’s depressed. While your words and actions can make a huge difference, you cannot treat their depression. Encourage your partner to see a counselor (either as a couple or on a one-to-one basis) and to visit their doctor for advice about treatment.
For relationships to survive (and perhaps even thrive) in the wake of depression, couples need to present a united front. However, as the partner of someone who is depressed, you must also realize that you alone do not have the power to rescue your loved one or make them better. There will be times when your partner’s illness feels like too much to handle, so be sure to prioritize your own needs as well as theirs.
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Smith, E. (2022, January 3). How Depression Hurts Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/how-depression-hurts-relationships