A relationship with a depressed person is not the easiest of situations. Ideally an emotionally healthy partner is the best bet for a truly fulfilling relationship . However if your partner develops depression over time or you are already into a relationship and this partner means more to you than anything else, here are some ways to cope with a partner who suffers from depression.
Depression is an affliction and like other such conditions, it needs prompt and correct diagnosis as well as treatment for a full cure. However many times depression is just a stage most of us pass through; these usually range from a couple of days to perhaps a few weeks and eventually the person is able to emerge from its shadows. On the other hand, there may be some people who are chronically afflicted by depression or are less equipped than others to cope with a major loss like bereavement, divorce or unemployment. Learn as much as you can about the affliction in general and your partner’s condition in particular. For instance there is situational depression and then there is clinical depression. The former is brought about specific circumstances like a job loss or a divorce. Though Situational depression involves some of the same symptoms of clinical depression, they're of shorter duration and lower intensity. On the other hand clinical depression's symptoms are more pronounced and last far longer. The absence of pleasure in the activities a person once enjoyed is greater; problems like malaise, anger, or weight loss are more noticeable. Knowing about depression will help you understand better what your partner is going through and how you can best support him/her.
Find out about medications
Yet another advantage of being informed is that you would know how to help your partner with his/her medications. While some milder forms of depression can be cured with time and constant support, seriously and chronically depressed persons usually need medication to manage their condition. If this is true about your partner too, find out what drugs have been prescribed to control his/her depression - learn about their uses and its side effects. The latter may have a bearing on your love life since some anti-depressants are known to result in a loss in libido. Knowing about your partner’s medication will not only help you avoid misunderstandings but help them get better sooner.
If your partner is chronically depressive, it may also help to be informed about the signs which indicate need for hospitalization. If he/she is already seeing a doctor, then the physician would make that recommendation. But you can also look out for other clues that in-patient help is needed to stabilize your partner: when he/she repeatedly cancels or doesn't show up for outpatient/counseling appointments or refuses help; when he/she sinks into a more nonfunctional state; or if he/she experiences severe weight loss or sudden gain. Most importantly watch out for suicidal thoughts as when he/she says things like "I wish I wasn't around," or " You and the kids would be better off without me – at least you would have the insurance" – statements like these should ring a clear warning bell that immediate intervention is necessary.
In most cases though, things may not reach to such an extreme. Even then the unpredictability and inscrutability of their moods may make it extremely difficult to live with them. One moment they may be fine – loving and laughing with you and soon enough they may sink into depths of depression. At such times you may feel helpless and unable to understand what is going on. The best thing you can do here is to remain aware of what gets him/her down and what helps to bring a smile to their faces. It is not possible to completely isolate yourselves from all external stimuli but knowing and anticipating the situations that trigger your partner’s depressive episodes can go a long way in easing the situation.
Assure your partner of your love and support
The depressed person is fighting his/her own demons and can use all the help they get, especially from the one they love. So let your partner know that he/she can depend upon your emotional support whenever they need it. Also get your partner to talk about what makes them happy, sad, anxious or hopeful of the future. Sometimes people simply get down when they cannot find anyone to share their thoughts and feelings. So encourage your love interest to talk to you and let them know that you are open to anything that they have to say. Communicate love and acceptance in whatever way you possibly can. This could include a loving touch or hug, or gentle encouragement through a card or meaningful gift. Also try to get them out of a rut. One of the major symptoms of depression is loss of interest in any happy or positive event and an unwillingness to even carry on with the basic routine of everyday living. They may not want to stir out of bed all day or get up from the couch. In such situations, invite your partner to come along for a walk with you in the neighborhood park or do something fun like bowling or watching a concert. Sometimes you might meet with refusal from your partner or only half-hearted consent from them, but don’t let that prevent you from trying again since when they come out of their depressive phase, they will definitely thank you for your support and effort.
Even keeping to a regular routine can seem difficult to those struggling with depression and in such circumstances, they may balk at the prospect of working out. However endorphins released during physical exercise are known to work as a natural mood-lifter. So gently encourage your partner to go for a walk with you after dinner as many nights as he or she is willing, or to work out at a gym or do whatever activity he enjoys most when he/she feels up to it.
Avoid enabling their depressive behavior
Sometimes a person suffering from depression can be led to inexcusable behavior or decisions. At such times, let them know that you will not make excuses for them or their depression. While you don't want the person to feel badly, you also do not want to enable the depressive behavior. When they give you an excuse for something, tell them that you think that their being depressed is perhaps more the reason for why they are behaving the way that they are. Some times when you point out the truth like this, they see their behavior for what it is and make a genuine effort to change.
Seek help for yourself too
Being in a relationship with a depressed person is an extremely stressful situation. On one hand you may have to face rejection and negativity again and again from your partner and on the other there is no one to offer you support, understanding or even an occasional pampering. At such times, you may feel like bursting into tears and heading for a breakdown yourself. Understand that you are allowed to vent your feelings now and then. However refrain from attacking your depressed partner as this will not only increase their anxiety about their condition but is actually unfair since you are in this relationship out of your own free will.
Instead try and cultivate a network of understanding friends and family who can offer you the support every human being needs. Alternatively join support groups made up of partners of depressed persons where you can meet and share your experiences with those in a similar situation. If need be, seek counseling for yourself too since this will not only help you to cope with the stresses of your relationship but offer ways to build your relationship too.