Being in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression is frustrating and exasperating. If you’ve never struggled with depression, you may find yourself wondering why the person can’t just will the depression away by getting busy, thinking positively, and pushing harder.
Clinical depression has the following symptoms:
- sadness and a loss of pleasure in normally pleasurable activities,
- inability to concentrate,
- low self-worth,
- ruminating thoughts,
- excessive guilt,
- insomnia or hypersomnia and
- decreased appetite.
Recurrent thoughts of suicide may also occur. For some, it may just be feeling sad, dissatisfied, irritable, negative and down. There is a tendency to isolate and withdraw from activities and relationships.
Depressed people are in a deep hole. No matter how hard they try to pull themselves up to get out, they can’t. In fact, when every bit of energy is expended to pull themselves up to look over the edge, they slide back down.
Here are some things you can do to help:
Ask what you can do to help. It may be something practical like giving a lift to an appointment, cooking dinner, babysitting or running an errand.
It might be helping the person to find a doctor or therapist, making some calls, paying for a therapist or just listening. It might be offering to go out with the person or to take a walk with them. Whatever it is, be willing to help without giving a lecture and trying to fix.
Understand depressed people need hope and energy to motivate them to do what you can see they “should” do, but those two things aren’t there. The very nature of depression robs them of all the things they need to get better.
Depressed people may be irritable, cranky and even lash out at you. They aren’t easy to deal with. The best thing you can do is to detach by not taking what they do personally. Remind yourself it’s the depression talking and not the person. No matter how close you are to the person, step back and see the situation with an objective mind rather than your emotions and reactions.
This is harder to do when the person is your child, parent or spouse, but it’s necessary. The closer the person is to you and the more intertwined they are with your life, the more you’re directly affected by their depression and the harder it is to step back and be objective.
Both are usually necessary unless the depression is mild. Don’t tell them what they need to do to get better.
Encourage them to do the things that will help by letting them know you’re there for the long haul. Understand there’s no quick and easy fix and you’ll be patiently supportive. At the same time, don’t enable by covering up, lying or fixing the problems. This may only keep them depressed even longer by allowing them not to have to face the need to get help.
Depression is the most common mental disorder in the United States with 18.8 million individuals affected at any given time. Despite its widespread presence, depression is largely misunderstood because it’s hard to understand it if you don’t experience it. To learn more about the myths and facts related to depression click here.