Navigating Depression And Relationships
By Toni Hoy
Updated June 14, 2019
There's nothing like a bad mood to put a downer on a relationship. When relationships go sour, it leaves both parties feeling sad and anxious. Emotions have an impact on depression and relationships and vice versa. When one person in a relationship is struggling with their mood, it can be difficult to understand if the mood is the problem or if the problems are related to issues in the relationship.
A depressed mood can keep friends and lovers at a distance. When symptoms of depression are severe, they can leave loved ones feeling helpless and afraid. The challenge is to sort out what things are contributing to relationship issues. Then, they can work together to treat depression and rebuild the relationship. Treating depression nearly always requires professional help. The non-affected partner plays an important role in supporting their partner as they recover from depression. Whether you're dealing with a friendship or a love relationship, there's help for how to deal with depression in a relationship.
Is It My Mood Or My Relationship?
Depression can affect someone at any age or season of life. If you haven't had depression before, you may not recognize it as a mental health disorder right away. Instead, you may attribute your mood to problems in the relationship. How can you tell which problem it is?
First, be aware. What are others are you saying? Have they noticed a negative attitude? Do you hear words like "Debbie-Downer" and "buzzkill"? Are friends and family avoiding you because you're not enjoyable to be around? Often, others can see a change in you before you can detect them in yourself.
It's fairly easy to determine whether relationship issues pertain to your mood or something else. Depression carries specific symptoms. By reviewing them, you can either seek professional help to confirm a diagnosis of depression or rule out depression as a cause for our altered mood and get to work on your relationship.
Here are some symptoms of depression to consider:
- Sadness, hopelessness, bouts of tears
- Wanting to eat substantially more or substantially less
- Not being able to sleep or wanting to sleep all the time
- Not enjoying activities they used to
- Restlessness or fatigue
- Severe anxiety
- Irritability or agitation
If the symptoms listed are chronic and ongoing and last for more than a few weeks, you could be dealing with depression. Depression can affect relationships in specific ways.
Depression can place a strain on relationships. It causes them to behave in ways that stress their partner and other relationships. For married partners, it can make them feel like their marriages are deteriorating. People living with depression are more likely to blame their partners when things go wrong. Instead of reaching out and talking things through, they may shut down emotionally. This type of response usually sets off a reaction in their partner, which causes them to feel distressed and emotionally overwhelmed.
It's common for anxiety and anger to accompany depression. People suffering from depression may have angry outbursts and blame everyone but themselves. They sometimes withdraw socially out of fear from not feeling in control. No matter how hard they try, they just can't seem to find the joy in life. These interactions create a worsening repetitive cycle where the relationship is on edge, and it increases anxiety for both partners. Increased anxiety increases even more stress on the relationship, and the cycle continues.
Your partner's mood has a profound effect on your mood. If you normally have a sunny and bright outlook on life and your partner is constantly depressed, it brings both of you down. The result is a pity party where only the two of you are invited.
How To Deal With Depression In A Relationship
The best way to deal with depression in any relationship is to learn more about it. A major depressive disorder is characterized by a minimum two-week period where a person feels depressed and experiences loss of interest or pleasure. Depression isn't constant. I have depressed feelings, ebb, and flow.
People who live with depression can have some good days and then drop into depression suddenly, without warning, and for no reason. Steep changes in mood are confusing and frustrating to friends and family of people living with depression.
I Think My Friend Is Depressed: How Can I Help?
You might think of depression as the "no-casserole" disorder. When someone is ill or suffers a loss, friends and family often bring food to help them feel better. There is a stigma related to all types of mental health disorders. Friends and family of those who live with mental health challenges don't always respond in the same way as when their loved ones are dealing with a physical or medical issue.
There are many things that you can do to help a friend who is feeling depressed, and it doesn't take much effort. First, be there. Take them a casserole, or their favorite drink and just enjoy it with them. You don't have to talk much, if at all. Your presence is enough. If your friend is receptive, ask open-ended questions, be an active listener, and be empathetic.
Touch them, hold their hand, and give hugs. Offer gentle encouragement. Express your concern and share the symptoms that you've noticed. Encourage your friend to seek professional help. Offer to help find it and offer to support them through the first appointment. Offer to call BetterHelp and ask for a consultation for depression.
I Think My Boyfriend Is Depressed: What Should I Do?
In many ways, respond to your boyfriend much the same as you would a good friend going through the same thing.
Since you probably spend more time with your boyfriend than other friends, take advantage of the opportunity to encourage them in ways that can make a difference on the road to recovery.
Focus on eating healthy meals. Make good food choices and eat many small, healthy meals each day. Find a way to exercise together. Take walks, ride bicycles, go to the gym, or do some type of activity you can enjoy together.
Accompany your boyfriend to therapy appointments and wait in the waiting room for support.
Keep things low stress at home. Try to keep a routine for work, meals, exercise, and other things.
Try to encourage low-key social activities. Your boyfriend may not feel up to big events for a while but make small plans to get out of the house and grab some coffee, go to a movie, or run an errand.
Be positive. Sometimes it's contagious. Point out your boyfriend's strengths and help him see progress but be sure to be genuine.
Set small goals. Break big things down into small tasks and focus on accomplishing them a little at a time. Start with things like taking a shower and eating healthy. Practice patience and understanding until your boyfriend makes progress in his treatment plan. With the right treatment, things will get better eventually.
Have I Fallen Out Of Love Or Am I Depressed?
When two people fall in love, they feel like the other person is their whole world. Feelings can fade over time, and love can change or dissipate.
Remember that depression has specific symptoms that are chronic and last for more than a few weeks. Depression and relationships with the one you love can impact your intimacy negatively enough to cause the other partner to become ambivalent and fall out of love.
If depression doesn't seem to fit the situation, you have to take a candid look at the relationship. People do fall out of love. Over time, one or both partners can become ambivalent towards each other. They may not necessarily dislike one another or anything specific about them. It just may be that love, and romantic feelings have diminished to the point that one or both partners either want someone new or they just want to move on.
For spouses that constantly fight and are always angry. Usually, they're angry at the behavior, not the person. They haven't fallen out of love. They just need professional help in learning how to communicate better and compromise.
Depression and relationship issues are both treatable. When mental health challenges intersect with relationships, both issues can be treated at the same time. Both have good outlooks with the right treatment.
Heed The Warning Signs Of Suicide
The risk of suicide commonly accompanies depression. Whether your loved one is a family member or a friend, it's important to know the warning signs associated with suicide and be prepared to act on them.
Be aware of the following red flags of potential suicide:
- Talking about suicide
- Having a plan to carry out suicide
- Getting the means to carry out the plan-buying a gun, etc.
- Extreme mood swings
- Preoccupation with death
- Feeling hopeless
- Saying goodbye
- Giving things away
- Getting final affairs in order
- Engaging in risky behavior, substance abuse, reckless driving
If you believe someone is having feelings about hurting themselves or someone else, seek the advice of a mental health professional immediately. If you can't reach someone, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Relationships can be complicated. Even under the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to have the assurance that a relationship is healthy. Adding depression to a relationship complicates things further. Counselors and therapists are specially trained to help couples and friends navigate the stresses on relationships when depression is a factor. Seeking help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved one.