What to Do and Say if Your Partner Has Depression
People with depression experience profound sadness and apathy. Support from their loved ones is a key for recovery. However, it's important to know what to do and say to show your support correctly.
Many times, when you try to help your partner who has depression, you can – with the best intentions – say or do things that, in reality, don’t help your loved one. In fact, they can produce exactly the opposite effect. Because of this, in this article we’ll give you some advice about what to do and say if your partner is depressed.
Depression is an emotional disorder. It’s characterized by a feeling of constant apathy and sadness that can cause you to lose interest in practically everything. For this reason, it’s very important to provide support, patience, and understanding to your loved ones.
Depression can vary from temporary to chronic, or from light to serious. However, some symptoms are:
- Feelings of sadness, or emptiness
- Wanting to cry
- Loss of interest in most things that you used to find interesting
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Lack of appetite, or the opposite
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Irritability or outbursts
Since it’s a disorder, the best thing to do is to ask a specialist for advice as soon as possible, in order to avoid complications. In severe cases, a specialist might prescribe medicine to treat it.
Whatever the case, if your partner has depression, you might not know what to do, what to say, or what to ask.
We recommend you read: Major Depression: 6 Symptoms that You Need to Know
What to say and what not to say
Surely, with the best intentions and moved by a need to make your partner feel better, you’ve thought about saying, or have said things like this:
- “You just have to use willpower”
- “You need to do something, do your part”
- “Get out more and clear your head”
- “Think about everything you have, there’s no reason for you to feel like this”
However, we highly discourage you from saying these things to a person with depression. This type of speech simplifies and trivializes a condition that isn’t simple or trivial. It’s like you asking them to make an effort that they can’t make, or to trivialize something that makes them suffer every day.
People with depression already torment themselves, blaming themselves for all the things they can’t do. Additionally, in many cases they don’t understand why they feel that way. Therefore, it’s important to remind them.
So, what you can say to your partner if they suffer from depression are positive words of encouragement like:
- “What can I do for you?”
- “I’m here for you”
- “You’re not alone”
- “It’s not your fault”
- “This will pass. I’ll be by your side”
- “I love you”
That way, your support will be unconditional, without involuntary reproaches about their situation, and without making them feel guilty.
You should read: Mental Tools to Help Deal with Depression
What should I do if my partner has depression?
There are many things you can do to support your partner. We’ll give a few examples below:
Try to understand them
You should understand that depression isn’t an emotional state they chose. They might not even understand why they feel that way. It’s not their fault.
Depression is a disorder that can last a long time. For this reason, you shouldn’t lose hope either. Arm yourself with patience and understanding and keep offering your support and love for however long the recovery process lasts.
Don’t force them to do things
Like we said before, a person with depression already feels guilty for not being able to do many things. Because of this, trying to force the person, for example, to leave or do new things, can actually be highly counterproductive.
Pay attention to suicidal tendencies
Although it’s an extreme situation, some people with depression have thoughts of suicide. For this reason, you should pay attention to the signs:
- Talk of suicide (“I don’t want to live”, “I’d be better off dead”, “I want to kill myself”)
- Acquiring methods of suicide
- Making a will, organizing their belongings to give them away, etc.
- Saying goodbye to loved ones
However, there can be other signs, and often they aren’t obvious. Whatever the situation, these types of thoughts mean the person needs to see a specialist right away.
Offer your support
Like we mentioned before, your support should be unconditional, without forcing them in any way. Don’t make your partner feel that they aren’t able to get over it, or that they’re worthless. In many cases, you don’t even have to say anything, you just need to be there. Make them feel like they aren’t alone.
On the other hand, it’s also important to promote treatment. You could recommend that your partner starts therapy to treat their condition. However, you should keep in mind that whether to start therapy or not has to be their own decision.