Depression is defined as “a mood disorder that can affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating, or working,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And, while you may hear the phrase “Wow, I’m so depressed” a lot, it’s critical to understand what diagnosed depression looks like, especially if you’re dating someone who has it.
But, before we get into everything you should know about dating a depressed partner, it’s important to note that everyone’s depression symptoms may look and feel different than what’s described in this article. Please contact a licensed therapist who can better help your individual needs or visit websites like NAMI and NIMH, which offer treatment options and various resources. The suggestions below may not be helpful for everyone suffering from depression.
What does it look like to be depressed?
Depression can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It is preferable to think of a mental disorder as an internal feeling rather than visible outside. However, according to licensed therapist Jason Phillips, “depression is a state of mind and feeling that can leave you feeling alone and empty inside.”
“Signs and symptoms vary from person to person, but in general, they include low energy, a bad mood, isolation, too much sleep, not enough sleep, isolation, and poor eating habits.” As you might expect, these symptoms can significantly impact your relationships, particularly romantic ones.
To begin, depression can cause a partner to withdraw from intimacy and distance themselves from their partner. This may appear to be the partner’s sudden disinterest in you, but it is simply a symptom of their depression. According to Phillips, this demonstrates that “the person who is depressed has emotions to work through.”
This could take the form of canceling plans five minutes before, canceling social engagements, encouraging their partner to attend friends’ and family members’ birthday parties without them, and so on. But, according to licensed psychotherapist Markesha Miller, Ph.D., depression can have a significant impact on a person’s sex drive because there is a direct correlation between libido and depression.
As a result, your partner may struggle to find the energy or desire to engage in anything in the bedroom. According to Dr. Miller, depression can also manifest itself by limiting the quality of time spent together. To mask their feelings, depressed people often withdraw or immerse themselves in work or another hobby.
Finally, because of the mental disorder, communication between two partners may suffer. “Depression can make you more irritable, sensitive, impatient, and misunderstood,” Dr. Miller says. What can you expect if you date someone who is depressed?
To be clear:
Many people who suffer from depression have very healthy and happy relationships. It all starts with determining what your partner may or may not require. “It is reasonable to expect unique challenges as well as highs and lows if you are dating someone with depression,” says Dr. Miller. Everyone has bad days, and a partner should understand this.
For example, if your partner is having a bad day or struggles with depression by staying in bed or refusing to go out, understand that “things do not always go as planned.”
Be adaptable and patient. It’s also critical to keep an eye on your own emotions. Respect your partner’s need for space or time alone and give them what they require. When your partner needs space, it’s usually for their reasons rather than for the sake of your relationship. It may be beneficial for you, as a partner, to consult with a licensed therapist to work through these feelings as well.
Finally, keep in mind that your partner’s emotions can change quickly.
“Don’t blame your partner for mood swings. Depression is both physiological and psychological,” Phillips explains. How can you help a partner who is depressed? It is critical to know and understand your partner, just as it is in any other relationship. “Find out what they need when they have depressive episodes,” Phillips advises.
Do they want you to take them in your arms? Do they want you to give them some breathing room? Do they want you to accompany them on a walk? To better understand how to assist them in these difficult times, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to conduct your research.
“The more you learn about depression, the better you will understand what your partner is going through and how you can support them,” Dr. Miller says. The National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness are excellent places to begin.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. As previously stated, make time for things you enjoy, such as working out, cooking, reading, yoga, meditating, going to therapy, and so on. It would help if you didn’t take on the burden of your partner’s emotions.
Finally, don’t take anything personally. Recognize that you cannot “save” or “fix” your partner. “It is natural for you, as their partner, to want to assist them in finding relief from the weight of their distress. However, you will not be able to cure their depression or make them feel better completely, and attempting to do so will leave you both exhausted and frustrated, “Dr. Miller says
What you can do: Be understanding, kind, compassionate, and supportive of your loved one at all times. If you want to know what you can do to help your partner, here are some suggestions from psychiatrist Leela R. Magavi, MD, medical director of Community Psychiatry:
- Ask your partner if they’d like to go for a walk to get some fresh air with you.
- Bring them food or plan a date night in which you cook something together.
- Make a playlist of your favorite songs and send it to them.
- Write them a letter expressing all of your admiration for them.
- Ask them about their resources and if they’ve ever been interested in speaking with someone professionally.
- Remind your partner that they are not alone in their feelings and that you are there for them.