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The Best Ways to Support a Partner Who Is Depressed

If you’re concerned about a loved one who is showing signs of depression, you’re not alone. You could be stumped as to how you can best assist your spouse and where to begin. When someone you care about is going through a tough time, it’s normal to feel upset, lonely, or puzzled while you watch.

You’re not the only one who wishes you could alleviate your partner’s suffering. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 17.3 million individuals over the age of 18 in the United States had depression in 2017. Many millions more people are affected by this when you include their family and close friends.

Depression, on the other hand, is treatable. Many people are able to totally recover thanks to the assistance of a medical practitioner. The assistance of a close friend or family member may be quite helpful at this time.

How to help a depressed partner

Even though you should seek the aid of a healthcare expert to prevent the negative side effects of untreated depression, there are a few things you may do to support your spouse with depression.

Find out more about depression

Understanding depression and how it affects people’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors may help you respond more effectively if someone you care about has symptoms of depression.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression may be diagnosed if your spouse has been experiencing symptoms for at least two weeks.

A variety of things, from a predisposition in one’s genes to a life catastrophe like a job loss or a death in the family, might trigger the disorder.

Depression is characterized by the following:

  • feeling depressed, worthless, or remorseful
  • decreasing enthusiasm for favorite pastimes or daily routines
  • alterations in body mass or calorie consumption
  • excessive or insufficient sleep
  • a problem with focus
  • intoxication or drug abuse
  • irrational outbreaks of rage
  • interest in sex has faded
  • discussing suicide or self-harm

It’s possible that these signs and symptoms be constant or that they come and go. In reality, not everyone has all of these symptoms or feels them at the same degree. Depression affects everyone in a unique way.

In addition, there are several kinds of depression. Persistent depression may be more difficult to identify since people are able to go out their daily routines while suffering from it. Life changes may be a direct cause of some mental health issues, such as postpartum depressive disorder.

You can better comprehend your spouse if you get familiar with the various forms of depression and the symptoms that accompany it.

Remember to remain calm and collected

At times, it may be difficult to love someone who suffers from depression. It’s vital to keep in mind that there’s more going on here than just a blues jam. Depression is a medical illness, not a state of mind.

When you’re depressed, you’re making a conscious effort to feel better, but it’s not because you’re not trying. It’s impossible for him or her to get over it, no matter how hard they try. In the same way that someone who has a broken limb is unable to put it back together at will, this is the same. They’d probably already done it if they could.

For example, if your spouse is struggling to keep up with household tasks, they aren’t being lazy or attempting to avoid responsibility. You and your spouse may have to be more careful about the duties you take on because of depression.

Depression may be likened to laboring with a bucket, and this analogy may be useful. Your spouse is currently holding a smaller bucket than usual. Even if it holds less water, it isn’t a “poor” bucket. It is just what is available at the moment. It may be better suited to lesser tasks, and it will require more refills.

Emotional capacity is symbolized by the bucket, as you would have imagined. Christine Miserandino popularized the Spoon Theory, a similar comparison. Whenever you hear someone with depression remark, “I don’t have the spoons,” this is what they are referencing.

Ask if you can help in any way

Massage your shoulders if you’re feeling down. There’s a chance you won’t, too. You should avoid making assumptions about what your spouse wants or needs at this time. Asking them may be the best course of action.

What are some of the possible questions?

  • What are your immediate plans? (and don’t worry if you don’t feel like doing anything right now.)
  • Today, how is your level of vigor?
  • Today, do you want to be by yourself or do you want to socialize with others?
  • When was the last time you engaged in any of these things and felt good about yourself?
  • What can I do to help you the most? Is there anything I can do for you right now?

While posing these questions, have an open mind and resist the temptation to try to change your partner’s mind.

Try to be a good listener

Depression can have an effect on cognitive abilities such as focus and judgment. Some people find it difficult to express their emotions verbally. Offer to be there and a listening ear if your loved one appears to want to chat.

It’s critical to reaffirm their feelings by repeating back to them what they’ve said. “I don’t see any purpose to get out of bed,” or anything similar, might be interpreted as “you’re seeking for a meaning in life.”

Consider asking them what they hope to gain from the chat if they bring up an issue but don’t seem sure how to resolve it right away. Is this a situation where I can lend a helping hand, or do you just need to vent? A lot of the time, people with depression just want someone who would listen, and not try to remedy their problem.

You may want to tell them that you love them and that you are here for them while they open up to you about their feelings.

Others who suffer from depression sometimes feel self-conscious about the “weight” they are placing on those around them. You may be relieved to find that you won’t be moving on.

Plan some time together in the great outdoors

We take for granted things like being able to leave the house while we’re suffering from depression. The presence of a supportive person might be beneficial.

With your companion, you may wish to plan a pleasant day in the great outdoors. Nature may help alleviate stress and boost mood by bringing people into direct contact with it. Feel-good brain chemicals can also be released through physical activity.

It might be as easy as going for a stroll or a short bike ride around the neighborhood. As an alternative, you might go for a swim, rollerblade, or take an outdoor yoga session if your spouse is up for it. You may also take a camping vacation, attend to an outdoor concert, or have a picnic in the park to relax and unwind.

They may not be in the mood for an activity at times. Keep in mind that this isn’t about you, so don’t take anything you hear or see personally. Be prepared to carry out part of your plans on your own or to adjust them to the situation at hand.

Ask if they need help with tasks

Set aside some time to figure out how you can work together to have both of your needs satisfied if you live with each other. It’s a good idea to check in with them to see if anything they normally handle is overwhelming at the moment.

As an example, perhaps they can trade in their monthly laundry service for online bill payments. They can also water the plants instead of doing the dishes. You may even volunteer to take on a little bit more work than normal for a few days if you’re feeling ambitious.

If you and your partner have access to it, you can see what tasks you can automate. Grocery delivery businesses, for example, may remove delivery fees if you purchase enough food to last a week. The grocery shop trip will be one less thing for you and your partner to have to worry about.

Even if you don’t share a residence, you might be able to help your spouse out around the house. You may also think of methods to keep an eye on them as you go about your daily activities. You may, for instance, make a few lunches for them so that they have something to eat during the week.

Make a strategy of action

Depression is not a straight line. Your spouse may have “good” days and “poor” days, as you may have noticed. Make a strategy for how you’ll respond to challenging situations, such as how you’ll both reschedule your workdays or communicate with one another.

Alternatively, you may wish to use a code word. You can use a code word to tell you when it’s time to take additional precautions if your partner has a hard time opening up to you. As a result, you’ll be reminded to be more patient with them and yourself, as well.

Make a point of encouraging them to seek outside assistance

Remember that you are not your partner’s therapist, no matter how much you want to help them. It’s critical to be aware of your own limitations and to know when and how to seek out expert assistance.

Gently approaching the subject is a smart option. You may try something like, “I think you’re doing a great job handling this; I know it’s not easy. Please tell me whether this is the best course of action for us. In order to provide us more tools to work with, what do you think working with a therapist?”

Consider bringing up the possibility of couples therapy if sadness is interfering with your relationship or your sexual life. Let your spouse know that if they want to go alone, you think it’s a terrific idea as well.

If your spouse isn’t ready to see a therapist, you might recommend a support group or a doctor’s appointment. Be careful to explain to your spouse why you’re doing this: you want them to be as healthy and happy as possible.

During their therapy, help them out

It’s a wonderful idea to rejoice if your spouse agrees to attend to therapy, support group, or treatment plan. As an example, you may say that you admire their courage. “I’m really proud of you for prioritizing your mental health,” or anything along those lines. A huge fuss has been made of it.”

To help them in the process, you might want to offer practical help. Consider driving them to therapy or staying in the waiting area while they attend a session. You could also arrange for a post-session “debrief” so they can tell you how the session went.

Make sure you’re aware of dosages and adverse effects if medication is involved. When it comes to their medicine, you may also urge them to seek professional help and stress the significance of consulting with a doctor before making any changes to their regimen.

Depression’s effect on interpersonal interactions

Depression might lead you and your spouse to face a few difficulties in your relationship. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can conquer them.

Here are a few areas where depression might have an effect on your relationship, and some things you can do to help make things better.

Problems with intimacy

People suffering from depression may become emotionally and physically shut off. This might lead to feelings of loneliness even while you’re with your lover.

Using loving gestures, such as modest symbols of affection, leaving little notes about the house, or sending a love letter through email, is a good method to avoid a loss of closeness.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to realize that this is not anything your spouse is doing to you. This is a mirror of the difficulties they are facing within. Let your spouse know that you’re aware of the differences.

Disputes in the flow of information

The ability to effectively communicate is essential. Your companion may appear distant or have difficulty paying attention during chats these days. It’s also possible that they’ll become angry or snap at you more easily over insignificant things. Communication can be difficult due to a variety of issues, including these.

Introduce yourself by saying that you only require a few minutes of their time, for example 5 minutes. This may help alleviate some of the stress.

You may also want to consider taking notes on exactly what you intend to say. Afterwards, take a break and come back to the conversation later if things get heated.

Blocks of romance

Putting on your nicest clothes to go out to dinner with your sweetheart might be difficult when you’re depressed.

If you’re looking for a low-key date, think about going to the movies around noon, going to the farmer’s market, or going to the bookshop. Everywhere you look, you’ll find a special moment.

A decrease in sexual desire

Depression can cause a decrease in sex drive, but antidepressant drugs can also cause it. There are other ways to keep physically connected if sex isn’t happening as frequently. Holding hands while walking or snuggling on the sofa are two examples of this.

Make sure your lover knows that you’re merely thrilled to have them in your life at the time if sex is involved. If antidepressants are to blame for your low libido, you may want to chat to a doctor about alternate treatments that may be available.

When your spouse suffers from depression, how can you take care of yourself?

When you care about someone who is depressed, it might have an impact on your own mood. That’s why it’s so critical to schedule time for self-care. To put it another way, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can put someone else’s on.

Self-care can be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • Consume as many whole, nutritious foods as possible.
  • Keep up with your favorite pastimes.
  • Stay in touch with your loved ones.
  • If you’re an introvert, it’s extremely important to have some alone time and manage your social weariness.
  • Keep a journal or open out to a trusted friend about your thoughts and feelings.
  • Taking a bath or getting a massage might help you unwind.
  • The recommended amount of sleep is between seven and nine hours every night.
  • Make it a point to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.

Practicing loving detachment is also a good idea. Do not mistake this behavior for an indictment of your character or the way you are conducting yourself in the relationship. Neither your partner nor the sadness is to blame.

The most essential thing to remember is to practice patience with oneself. Anger, guilt or any other feeling that comes to mind is perfectly normal and should not be ignored.

A therapist’s help is always there if you need it.

When it’s time to call in the experts

Symptoms of depression may get worse or more extreme in some circumstances. Consider consulting a medical professional in these situations. Only a mental health expert can assess the seriousness of a symptom and the extent to which it necessitates treatment.

Here are a few warning indicators you should be aware of:

  • fluctuating moods
  • usage of alcohol or drugs that is abnormally high
  • Self-harm and suicide are often searched for on the internet.
  • contemplating or planning to commit suicide
  • a sense of closure in the interactions
  • keeping loved ones at a distance by being persistent

Seek help if you or someone you know is contemplating self-harm or suicide.

What now?

If your spouse is showing signs of depression, you have every right to be worried. Your assistance may have a significant influence on your loved one, even if it doesn’t replace the assistance of a mental health expert.

An crucial first step is to make sure that your spouse understands that you care about them. Learn about depression, support them with particular chores, and pay attention to how they feel and what they desire when doing this.

Take care of yourself, and you’ll be better prepared to help others when the time comes. Consider yourself and your spouse to be part of a single unit. Depression is treatable and manageable, and you and your loved ones may look forward to a happier future.

Fernanda Avila

Fernanda Avila is a freelance writer who's passionate about providing accurate and helpful mental health content for readers. She believes sharing information can help raise awareness and improve society wellbeing.

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