It is estimated that more than 15 million American adults suffer from depression – in fact, it is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals aged 15 to 44. As common as depression and other forms of mental illness are, they are still woefully misunderstood. Many people mistakenly believe that mental illness is some kind of weakness, not an actual disease. The truth is that depression is a very real and a very serious illness. If your partner suffers from depression, there are certain things you should and should not do. Tips for Loving a Partner with Depression
Depression affects nearly 7% of the American population and while it can manifest at any age, it’s average age of onset is 32 – it is also worth noting that depression tends to affect women more often than men. Even though there are plenty of statistics and clinical findings out there about depression, it is a disease that affects each individual differently. This is one of the most important things you need to understand in order to love a partner with depression. His or her symptoms may not always fall neatly into a perfect little box, and you may not always understand what is happening. In times when things get rough, it is okay to ask questions – to reach out and ask your partner how you can help them. Even if they cannot tell you what would help, the act of simply being there can be helpful.
Here are some addition things you should or should not do if you have a partner who is suffering from depression:
• Remember that depression is not a choice and it is not a phase. Depression is a diagnosable (and treatable) condition – you cannot control whether or not you develop the condition and it cannot be conquered by sheer force of will.
• Don’t offer platitudes like “it will get better” or “you’ll feel better if you get out of the house”. While it may seem to you like these things are helpful, they are meaningless to someone suffering from depression because conquering the disease is not that simple.
• Offering support is better than offering solutions. When someone with depression reaches out and asks you for help, what they really need is your support, not your solutions. You cannot completely understand what that person is going through so it is okay to ask them what would be most helpful – just don’t make assumptions and offer solutions that you think will help.
• It’s okay to get frustrated. Just because your partner is suffering from depression doesn’t mean that you need to walk on eggshells around them, catering to their needs at all times. Someone with depression needs to feel love and support but it doesn’t have to be given at the expense of your own well-being. If you do get frustrated, it is better to have a conversation with your partner about a solution that works for the both of you than to hold your feelings inside and let them simmer into resentment.
• Remember that it is not about you. When you have a partner who is suffering from depression it is easy to believe that their sadness is somehow a reflection on you or on your relationship. One of the best things you can do is to remember that your partner may not always have a definitive reason for being sad – it is okay to ask but if they don’t have an answer, don’t push for one. If they need space, give it to them – if they need support, offer it.
In addition to utilizing some of the tips listed above, there is one very important thing you must also do for your partner – give them grace. Unless you have experienced depression or another form of mental illness yourself, you cannot completely understand what your partner is going through. As frustrating or difficult as it may be at times, the best thing you can do for your partner is to love them and to be patient with them. Be there in the times when they are down and offer your support, in whatever form it may be needed.