Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions affecting adults in America today. The chances are high that someone you know and love is struggling with this disorder. If you’re living with someone who has depression, particularly a romantic partner, you may feel at a loss for what you can do to help. The pressure to say all the right things to make it all “better” can be overwhelming.

Still, depression can’t be cured with uplifting words. However, the good news is that there is a lot you can do to help your partner in this struggle. The key is communication, empathy, and understanding. We’ll outline some specifics to help your partner and your relationship thrive.

What Is Depression?

Depression can occur after a major life event, but it doesn’t always. Because it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, there may not necessarily be a “reason” for it. As a clinical disorder, depression involves a minimum of two straight weeks of feeling deep sadness or hopelessness. It can also include a loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy. Someone with depression can experience good days and bad. Partners need to understand that depression has an inevitable “ebb and flow.”

Additional signs of depression could include

  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Increased anxiety or anger
  • Pervasive feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Your partner may experience some or all of these symptoms, and all are typical. Depression symptoms can also change with time.

How Can I Be There for My Partner?

Thankfully, there are many ways that you can support your partner that has depression. You may want to start by suggesting treatment. This suggestion may include seeing a therapist, considering taking medication, making lifestyle changes, or a combination of these. It’s crucial to find a treatment plan that works, but the most critical part of treatment, first and foremost, is showing up. Commend your partner for recognizing that they need help—often, this is the hardest step.

Additionally, you may want to consider the following statements to show your support:

  • “Tell me how I can help.”
  • “I’m always here for you.”
  • “We’ll make it through this together.”
  • “You and our relationship are extremely important to me.”

Often, words are not needed. Your partner may prefer sitting together in silence, watching a favorite movie, going on a walk, or enjoying a favorite meal.

How Can I Encourage Treatment?

While depression treatment is very effective, some people are unfortunately affected by its stigma. They may feel that seeing a therapist or taking medication is a sign of weakness or indicative of their lack of strength. Both are entirely untrue.

You can encourage your partner to seek treatment by gently and compassionately mentioning the changes in behavior you’ve noticed and expressing concern for their mental well-being. Offer to make the appointments or even accompany them during appointments, if they want. Make it clear that you are in it together no matter what the treatment may entail. Depression is not just their issue alone.

How Can I Create a Supportive Home Environment?

Lifestyle changes, especially home life, are critical for treating depression symptoms. You can create an environment of support by making it easier for your depressed partner to make choices. Consider the following:

  • Focus on healthy eating by encouraging your partner to help with cooking.
  • Exercise together daily as a couple’s activity, such as a bike ride or walks through the neighborhood.
  • Create a routine to help your partner feel in control, such as regular meals and sleep times.
  • Make time for enjoyable activities together to combat social withdrawal, such as a date night. Rent a movie to watch at home or go out to a favorite restaurant.
  • Give positive reinforcement when improvement is shown or goals are accomplished. Avoid non-constructive criticism as much as possible.

How Can I Encourage Small Goals?

Depression has a way of making everything feel overwhelming or impossible. Your partner may believe that it’s impossible to get better or that there’s no point in trying. Even simple tasks, such as getting out of bed, getting dressed, or practicing basic hygiene, can take a lot of energy.

One way to be supportive is to encourage small goals. Break down larger tasks into smaller ones. Too exhausted to clean the whole house? Start with just a single room or one job in one room, such as making the bed. Additional goals could include getting out of pajamas and putting on a favorite shirt, taking a shower, eating a healthy meal, engaging in ten minutes of exercise, or getting outside for a few minutes a day. Accomplishing these goals should improve with both time and treatment.

What Are Some Warning Signs to Watch Out For?

Unfortunately, when someone has depression, it’s essential to know the signs of suicide. The risk for self-harm goes up when someone has clinical depression. Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Talking about suicide or lack of hope in the future
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Giving belongings away
  • Rapid personality changes
  • Engaging in self-destructive or otherwise risky behaviors
  • Obvious changes in daily routine

Keep in mind that displaying one or a few of these behaviors doesn’t mean your partner is planning to commit suicide. This point is where ongoing communication is vital. Keep the dialogue open and check in regularly. Be sure to rely on your support network of family or close friends if you feel overwhelmed.

Having a partner with depression can feel overwhelming at times. You want to say and do the right things to help them feel better and may feel bad when you can’t. Crownview Co-Occurring Institute understands this struggle and offers support for those with depression and the people who love them. Our compassionate, knowledgeable, and licensed staff are trained in the latest innovative therapies to help people manage clinical depression symptoms. We may also recommend medication or lifestyle changes for healthier habits and happier moods. It’s not uncommon for us to receive calls from people on behalf of their partners. If your partner does make this important call themselves, be sure to commend them for making that step. To learn more, call us today at 760.433.4357. Asking for help can be scary and difficult. You can also reach out to us online through our website. 

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