How to Help a Partner With Depression
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Depression affects not only the person who struggles with it but it impacts the people who love them, too. Learn more about how to support a partner with depression.
Life can feel like a constant battle when you are living with depression, but when your partner has depression things can be just as challenging. 6.7 percent of the American population ages 18 and older, or 16.2 million people, have experienced at least one episode of major depression in the last year. That means there are also at least 16.2 million other people learning to navigate life with a loved one who lives with the mental illness.
Oftentimes the person with depression receives more support than their loved one does. It makes sense, really; they have the mental illness that needs addressing. However, if your partner has depression you often need your own assistance.
Do you have a depressed partner? How best can you support them while also making sure to take care of yourself? Continue reading to learn more about depression, what it’s like to live with it, and what you can do to help your loved one with depression.
What Causes Depression?
If your partner has depression, this may very well likely be your number one question. You might point to outside circumstances, stressors like financial instability or a difficult work environment. Perhaps the kids are acting difficult or there has been some tension in the relationship. Maybe you even go as far as blaming yourself for the way your partner feels.
The most important thing to remember as you learn to live with a depressed partner is that it is not your fault. Whatever the various factors may be, there is much more at play than any one situation. Depression stems from a number of different variables.
Is there a single cause of depression? Current research indicates that the answer is a resounding no. The “cause” of depression is often chalked up to a chemical imbalance in the brain but it is deeper than that. Scientists cannot point to one single source for the apparent glitch in their brain’s ability to function “normally.”
There are multiple chemicals, or neurotransmitters, that influence mood, energy levels, and other characteristic symptoms of depression. Dopamine and serotonin are two of the biggest culprits at play, but norepinephrine, glutamate, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and more also have a role.
Blaming yourself will only make their mental illness more difficult to handle. Instead, you can take positive steps towards seeking help for yourself while your partner receives their own treatment and care.
How Can I Support My Partner with Depression?
The single most important thing you can do to support your depressed partner is to make sure to attend to your own self-care. If you are not in a positive or stable mental state yourself, you will have a difficult time providing love and support for your partner.
Take the time to check in with yourself throughout the day. Are you providing love and support for yourself in addition to your partner? Have you attended to your own basic needs? Make sure you are looking out for yourself as well as your loved one.
Additionally, setting healthy boundaries helps you maintain a positive frame of mind and also encourages your partner to develop their own methods of self-care. When you tend to every need and bend at every request, you may end up resenting your loved one. Rather than providing care from a loving place, you might find yourself offering begrudging assistance at best.
It may seem counterintuitive but establishing and maintaining some healthy boundaries will do more in the long run to help both you and your partner with depression. Taking small breaks from providing care to take care of yourself enables you to more willingly offer help.
Where Can I Find Support for Helping a Depressed Partner?
While your partner likely attends counseling or therapy to help them manage their depression symptoms, you may find it beneficial to find your own therapist. Depression can place a heavy strain on a relationship and you need support as well.
Working with a counselor or therapist allows you to talk through the more difficult aspects of having a partner with depression. You may carry some guilt or shame due to a false belief that there is something you can do to “fix” your partner’s depression. Your therapist will challenge these ideas and instead help you see things from a different perspective.
They can also help you create and stick to the healthy boundaries mentioned above. Having an outside look at the situation will help you better understand where your partner is coming from and also help you maintain your own well-being while helping them.
If you have a partner with depression who has not sought help, helping them find the treatment they need can be the first step. By working together with them through the process, they will feel less alone in having to manage and live with their symptoms.
Hawaii Island Recovery offers numerous programs to help individuals with mental illness, addiction or alcoholism, and dual diagnosis. Call our admissions staff at 877-721-3556 to speak with someone who can walk you through the options available to your loved one. Neither of you has to struggle with the impact of depression alone; help is just one call away.