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My partner has a depression

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Depression is hard on the person experiencing it. But for a partner or loved one of someone with depression, it is also very difficult. How can you best deal with the depressive symptoms of someone you care about? How do you help someone, while continuing to take good care of yourself? Read more about how to live with a depressed partner or loved one.

What can I do if my partner or loved one has depression?

Take care of yourself first, so you can take care of another person after that. This is a law that applies in all emergencies, and therefore also when your partner or loved one is going through depression. Always realize that the responsibility for how your partner or loved one is doing is not yours. Treating depression requires professional counseling in most cases. Offering support to your partner or loved one is possible, of course.

 

The following are helpful for a partner or loved one with depression:

 

  1. Patience and space
    With depression, you are less taxable and can handle less. It is nice if your partner or loved one feels that this space is there, and does not experience pressure to get better quickly or function at old strengths.
  2. Look for help
    Depression sometimes leads to passive behavior and feeling helpless. This makes the threshold for seeking help high. Offer help in seeking professional support. If necessary, join the conversation with the family doctor or practitioner. Give compliments when someone enters the help process and makes small steps.
  3. Talk
    Try to listen attentively to what is going on in someone. Try not to belittle the feelings someone is having, and don’t try to cheer someone up. Would someone rather take a walk or just sit at the table in silence for a while? Don’t push for conversation. Also make sure to have plenty of conversations about topics unrelated to the depression.
  4. Get informed about depression
    In this way you will better understand what is going on in someone. Do not give unsolicited advice – someone often already knows it all, and will experience the advice as a confrontation with what is not working (yet).
  5. Offer practical support
    Help your partner or loved one with tasks that are more difficult to accomplish during depression. Like keeping a rhythm in the day. Making a schedule. And keeping appointments.
  6. Be honest
    For example, always say it when you have concerns. Or if you approach a counselor independently.
  7. Don’t avoid the subject of suicide
    Is someone talking about suicide? Or do you suspect someone is thinking about it? Then don’t avoid this difficult subject, and talk about it. You can find tips on the 113 website.

 

What would you rather not say to a depressed person?

It is sometimes difficult to find the right words when you want very much to help someone who is depressed. At least the following are things you’d rather not say:

 

  • Don’t try to convince someone to just look at something from the positive side. The person who is depressed is really trying to do that, but is unable to at the moment. It is then frustrating to keep hearing this from someone.
  • Don’t constantly give new treatment tips, even if you mean well. You are not a counselor. In addition, chances are that a depressed person knows for themselves that exercise and healthy eating are good for recovery.
  • Do not tell a depressed person why he or she should not be depressed, such as by comparing him or her to others who have it worse because of illness or poverty. Being depressed is not a choice; it happens to you. Comparing yourself to others does not help you feel better; it does increase the risk of guilt.

 

A depressed partner or loved one: what about you?

When your partner – or someone else you care about – goes through depression, it is a big burden. First and foremost, of course, for that person themselves, but also for you. Therefore, it is important not only to take good care of your partner or loved one during such a depressive period, but also to take good care of yourself. You do this by recognizing the effect of the depression on your relationship and keeping a close eye on your own limits.

 

Depression of a partner or loved one affects the relationship you have together in several ways. You feel:

 

  • Lonely in the relationship
    Because suddenly you have to do and decide many things on your own. Someone going through depression often doesn’t have much room to do many other things. Thus, many tasks end up on your plate, and fun things like outings, nice conversations and possibly sex are lost.
  • Helpless
    Because your partner or loved one is entering a recovery process that takes time and often requires professional help. For this reason, feelings of guilt are common on both sides. After all, it is not easy to experience that someone is going through a difficult period, without your partner or loved one having a solution for it.

 

What do you need?

Only if you take good care of yourself are you able to take good care of another. This is already true under normal circumstances, and if you have a partner or loved one suffering from depression all the more so. So don’t forget to keep an eye on your own physical and mental health, and despite your extra caring responsibilities, continue to care for yourself as well. You do this by:

 

  • Keep living your own life: keep working, meeting with friends and investing time in your hobbies and sports.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Occasionally vent to family, friends and possibly a counselor: especially if they are people who have experience or are familiar with the effect of depression on the environment.
  • Keep an eye on your own boundaries and give yourself room to work on self-care.

 

Looking for help

Do you find it difficult to guard your boundaries in assisting a partner or loved one with depression? Is living with a partner or loved one with depression getting in the way of your daily functioning, and are you stuck trying to find a solution?
A psychologist can help.

Frequently asked questions

What does a depressed person look like?
It is not always easy to tell from another person if he or she is depressed. Some symptoms, or “red flags,” are:
  • Someone who is depressed suffers from gloom: the glass is often half-empty;
  • Fatigue, lethargy and not feeling like anything are also classic symptoms;
  • When someone is depressed, this person becomes more and more disconnected from the outside world. He or she makes fewer appointments and does few fun things anymore;
When to contact the family doctor if my loved one has depression?
It’s good that you want to stand up for your loved one, but don’t just call the doctor behind someone’s back. It is better if the person takes that step themselves. You can, however, suggest speaking to a family doctor or psychologist together, for example, to support your loved one. Don’t push anything, because the person may not be ready yet.
Does your loved one have suicidal thoughts? Check out 113’s website on what to do in case of suicidal thoughts.
publish-icon Published - 4 Jun 2024
Jacqueline has extensive experience in treating depression. She believes it is important that clients (re)discover their own value(s) so that a client can use them permanently. Jacqueline uses techniques from schema therapy, mindfulness, ACT, EMDR and CBT.
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GZ-Psychologist Jacqueline Tolhoek

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