Depression is a common mental health condition, affecting about 17.3 million American adults per year, equivalent to 7.1 percent of the adult population. These are the statistics for major depression, so even more Americans are affected when considering other diagnoses, such as persistent depressive disorder or seasonal affective disorder.
Unfortunately, depression can be a debilitating illness. A person who struggles with depression may feel hopeless or pessimistic, and they may lose interest in previous activities. If your partner has depression, you may notice that they have little energy, spend more time in bed, or seem irritable and distracted most of the time. This can understandably make it difficult to connect with your partner, but being supportive can make a positive difference.
The Effects of Depression on Relationships
When one partner in a relationship is suffering from a mood disorder like depression, they may not seem like themselves. They may let self-care fall by the wayside, and they may not enjoy engaging in your usual activities together. This can be draining and have a negative effect on the relationship. The chances are that your partner with depression doesn’t want to bring you down, but the side effects of their mental health condition make it difficult for them to function as well as they did before depression set in.
All of this can harm the relationship if you and your partner are unsure of how to cope. According to research, it is not surprising that men who suffer from depression tend to report lower levels of satisfaction with their relationships. Another study found that men who live with depression have a negative influence on their female partners’ relationship satisfaction.
How Partners Can Help
If you are the spouse or significant other of someone who lives with depression, know that there are ways you can help your partner and reduce the negative impact of depression on the health of your relationship. The latest research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows that there is a higher level of relationship satisfaction when a person with depression has a responsive partner. This means that if you are supportive of your spouse or significant other who has depression, the depression may be less harmful to your partnership.
So what, specifically, can you do to help? According to the results of the University of Massachusetts study, the following behaviors can make your partner feel supported and lessen the impact of depression:
- Taking time to listen to them when they talk
- Truly focusing attention on your partner instead of simply “reacting” when they talk
- Becoming aware of your partner’s needs
- Trying to understand what your partner is expressing to you when talking
There are additional ways you can be supportive of your partner. For example, you can communicate to them that the two of you are in this together, and you will be there for them as they cope with their depression. Another way for you to manage is to avoid taking your partner’s behavior personally. If they seem like they never want to spend time together or are not interested in usual activities, don’t take it as a sign that they are upset with you. Instead, understand that it is a side effect of depression. Understanding that it is not your fault can help you to be more supportive of your partner.
Finally, you might suggest that your partner seek professional intervention from a doctor or therapist to help them cope with symptoms. Remind them that a mental health condition like depression is a legitimate medical concern, and it is worthy of treatment, just like any health problem. You might even offer to attend therapy alongside them to learn ways to support them and manage symptoms of depression.
How to Cope if You’re the One With Depression
It’s no surprise that depression can make relationships tough, so if you’re the partner with depression, you’re probably wondering what you can do to keep your relationship intact. If your partner tries to help you with your depression, keep in mind that they care about you and are probably doing the best they can, even if they are not perfect or do not always know what to say or how to help. Try to cut them some slack; even if they become upset with you or do not always react positively to you, they are probably just struggling to make sense of the effect that depression has had on your life.
Another important step to take is to seek outside help, especially if your depression is so severe that you find you just aren’t enjoying your usual activities with your significant other and have trouble functioning daily. Therapy can help you change your thoughts and learn healthy ways of coping with depression. In contrast, medication for depression may help correct any chemical imbalances in the brain that affect your mood. Many people benefit from a combination of medication and therapy, but the best course of treatment will be different for everyone.
If you find that your depression is resistant to treatment, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an alternative that may help you get relief from depression symptoms. In fact, the research shows that several forms of TMS are effective for those who suffer from ongoing depression that doesn’t respond to other treatments. Pulse TMS provides this non-invasive form of treatment, which involves placing magnetic coils over the forehead and generating small pulses through the coils. Treatment sessions last just 18 minutes a day and can be scheduled to accommodate your needs. Contact us today to learn more.