There has been an increase in the number of cases with people suffering from depression. It is a difficult condition attributed to many things and for a person suffering from depression just getting through the day can be a daunting task
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. More women are affected by depression than men. (World Health Organization, 2018)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is also an important risk factor for suicide, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year.
A lot has been written about coping mechanisms to depression but little attention has been given to spouses, relatives and caregivers of those suffering from depression. So how do you handle being in a relationship with someone suffering from depression?
Being in a relationship with someone who is suffering from depression can be very challenging. The condition changes the dynamic of the relationship a great deal. There are, however, a few key things that partners of those depressed should keep in mind.
Depression is tricky. There are a variety of symptoms and they can look different for everyone. There can even be different symptoms of depression in women than there are in men. Often the person suffering doesn’t even realize that they are depressed. They may know there is something wrong but not be able to explain what it is.
Frequently people will mistake sadness for depression. The two are very different because people confuse the two they can often neglect getting help until things are really bad or seek treatment.
Sadness is a common emotion that we have all felt at one point or another. It is usually in reaction to something. We are sad when something happens like the passing of a loved one or a break-up, dismissal from work among others. We feel this way for a period of time and eventually begin to adjust as our emotions balance out again.
Although it can be, depression doesn’t have to be triggered by a particular event. It is a state of abnormal and overwhelming sadness that can occur when everything is just fine. This is one of the reasons it is so often overlooked and so confusing. If nothing seems wrong it can be very hard for someone to admit to feeling so sad.
Even though depression can have a big effect on your relationship, self-diagnosing, or diagnosis by a partner, is not a good idea. There are, however, some common indicators that you should make note of.
These are things that should push you to have a conversation with your partner/friend/relative about speaking with a professional. Some of the key indicators of potential depression are Lack of interest in things normally enjoyed, changes in sleep, lack of emotion or extreme emotion, avoidance of social interaction, feeling worthless, talking about death, suicide, or how people would be better off without them.
These are just a few, but they are significant. If you notice these behaviours in your partner or anyone you love, encourage them to seek the help of a professional counsellor for diagnosis and treatment.
If your friend/relative/partner has been diagnosed with depression it can be hard to know how to talk to them and what to do. Do you stay sombre and try to continually empathize with their feelings, or do you try to keep everything light and upbeat? Which will approach will help or make things worse?
The truth is that there is no perfect approach. Each person, relationship, and circumstance is different. What does tend to be true for all is that you can’t push too hard? How and what a person suffering from depression chooses to talk about and reveal, and with whom, will vary and often they don’t want to talk much because they don’t know how to explain their feelings.
They, however, love you for a reason (just as you love them), so doing your best to maintain what was normal while things were good is the right strategy. Trying to be overly positive and falsely cheerful won’t help. But then neither will tip-toeing around them and try to hide your own happiness. Just because your partner/friend/relative is depressed does not mean you need to be.
The best approach, in general, is to be supportive and encouraging. Eventually, they may want to talk about how they feel, although it may not make sense to you, being there to listen and offer your love will help. You will also need to be open and alright with the possibility they may not choose to talk to you.
Communicating is one thing, but how do you maintain the love in your relationship with someone who is depressed? Loving a depressed partner can be really difficult and keeping that love alive requires patience.
Depression affects a number of things in a person. Their outlook on life, their sex drive, the way they interact with you and approach your relationship can all change. These changes can mean that the relationship you started is no longer the one you have at the moment, and that can be very painful.
It’s even possible that you will experience the total absence of emotional and sexual intimacy. This, unfortunately for some, can cause such problems that the partner of the depressed spouse may consider leaving.
Figuring out how you, as a partner, will deal with these changes is a very personal decision. But it doesn’t have to be a decision that ends things.
Remember that depression isn’t a choice. Your partner’s condition isn’t something they want and chances are they would do nearly anything to feel happy and have the relationship you once shared back. This works to your advantage.
Encourage seeking help. This help can be for both of you. You will most likely have to be the one pushing for the help and this is okay. Your commitment to your love and relationship and the desire for things to get better will be positive in your partner’s recovery even if it doesn’t feel that way initially.
If your partner is seeing a counsellor consider going with them. Depression is treatable and the treatment can be more successful more quickly with your understanding and support. And understanding what your partner/friend/relative is going through can help you put things in perspective for them and for yourself.
As you are going through this try not to give up on the emotional and physical you want. It may take a slower or different approach, but these things are important for you, for them, and for your relationship. Small gestures like holding hands, sitting close and gentle touching can help to reinforce your connection to one another while the bigger intimacy pieces are missing.
Just because you are in a relationship with someone suffering from depression does not mean your life needs to be put on hold. Enjoying your normal activities and hobbies are important components of your own happiness. Your emotional well-being is important when it comes to helping your partner/friend/relative.
Scheduling time with friends or just taking some time to do things that are just for you can help. These things can give you an outlet for your own emotions and help give you perspective. You may even consider talking to a counsellor on your own. These are also opportunities to model for your partner what they can and need to do to change their state.
Living in a relationship with someone who is suffering from depression can be very challenging. Without the right help and support, both you and your partner can end up in a bad place that will make keeping your relationship alive even more difficult.
If you suspect your partner/friend/relative may be depressed don’t wait for things to hit rock bottom before getting help. The sooner things are addressed the sooner you are both feeling happy again. And don’t try to handle being in a relationship with someone with depression all on your own.
Use your support system and the people in your life who love you. Remember, recovery is very possible, for your partner and your relationship.
People who have Mental illness (Depression) are not violent and depression is real. Some people have lost our loved ones, friends, relatives because of depression so let us not speak from the side of ignorance, lets first understand the cause.
Mental disorders/illness/Depression doesn’t discriminate whether you are young or old, you can be depressed
Be aware – know that we have depressed people around if you identify one, seek information and help from the counsellors or best friends.
Speak up! don’t suffer in silence, lets us all begin this journey to heal the world. Sensitize the community, tell them what causes depression and Mental illness.
And lastly, for someone living from depression is advised to talk to a person they trust and its the first step towards treatment and recovery.
Talk about DEPRESSION and help someone in your community.