At last you found the perfect partner. The relationship started off amazing with lots of communication, long walks, talking on the phone for hours, date nights that turn into date mornings – all the hallmarks a happy connection.
A few months pass, and you've settled into the routine of having a steady partner when you notice their behavior is not as jovial as it once was. You start to think maybe they're no longer enamored with you, and you ask what is going on. Your partner expresses that they love you more today than yesterday – and it's not about you.
So you carry on with daily life, but still something nags at you that your partner isn't as happy as before. You start to notice they're becoming restless; not sleeping well; irritable; and they've lost interest in socializing with other couples and friends. What's going on?
It could be that your partner is experiencing depression. Here's what to know about warning signs of depression, as well as how you can be a source of support and encouragement as your partner recovers.
Signs of depression
Depression does not always appear obvious right off the bat. There can be subtle signs, which often get ignored.
If you're not sure your partner is experiencing depression, here are 11 signs to look out for:
- Lack of interest in socializing: Not making new plans, dropping out of prior social commitments
- Lower interest in sex: Unable to enjoy, or lack of interest altogether
- Tangible changes in appetite: Eating more, or less, than usual
- Mood swings: Drastic highs and profound lows
- Irritability: Snapping about things that didn't bother them before
- Chronic emptiness: Feelings of hopelessness and emptiness
- Guilt: Feelings of guilt
- Shorter attention span, or distracted: Lack of concentration or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed: Feeling like too much is going on, and it's impossible to handle it all
- Feelings of apathy: The "just don’t care" attitude
- Suicidal: Feelings so low that they think about, mention, or threaten, suicide
Steps to take if your partner is experiencing depression
Seeing your loved one suffer from depression is not easy – and can, oftentimes, make you feel helpless. While you can't singlehandedly help your partner get better, you can be there as a source of strength, positivity, and encouragement. Here's how to help.
Start a compassionate, open dialogue
The first step is to talk to your partner and let them know your concerns. Express to them what it is that you are seeing in their behavior that leads you to thinks they're feeling depressed.
Be open and honest as well as understanding – because they may not see their own symptoms as clearly as you do.
For many, there's a stigma regarding mental health – as well as a feeling of “that would never happen to me” or “I’m weak if I admit I'm depressed.” Remember that breaking through that stigma takes time, and change won't happen overnight.
Encourage your partner to look for help
Second step is to contact your partner's primary care provider or a psychiatrist and set up an appointment.
If your partner doesn't have a primary care provider, advise them to look on the back of their insurance card and call their insurance company for a referral.
You can even offer to create a list of providers for them to consider.
Learn about the different treatment options
There are different options for treating depression, including:
- Talk therapy: Most therapists are equipped to treat depression, but their approaches will differ – options range from popular types like psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapy, to mindfulness practices to music therapy. Again, you can offer to compile a list of therapists to consult with. If stigma is a barrier, look for a therapist that your partner can see online in the comfort and privacy of their own home.
- Medication: For some, medication helps alleviate the symptoms of depression. If the depression is caused by genetics or a chemical imbalance in the brain, then medication may be enough to help your loved one live symptom free.
- Medication and talk therapy: If your partner's depression is caused by a traumatic or life event then the combination of medication and talk therapy can assist your loved one in dealing with depression. Studies have found, for example, that using medication in conjunction with talk therapy actually has a greater success rate that medication alone .
How to support your partner through their depression
Here are 10 ways to emotionally or physically support someone who's experiencing symptoms of depression:
- Talk about how their depression makes you feel. Do not try to ignore or pretend that you are not affected or that the depression does not exist. Ignoring it isolates your loved one and actually can pull you two apart.
- Let your partner know that you are there. Remind them that your love remains strong – regardless of the depression.
- Offer to join your partner on their psychiatrist and therapy appointments. This can let them know that you are in this with them, and they don't have to do this alone.
- Offer to help with daily activities. Whether it's laundry, doing dishes, or cooking, take a bit off their plate so they can channel energy into getting better.
- Continue to try and socialize with your friends. This helps to build a support system, so you have others you can turn to.
- Listen to concerns your partner may have. Having an open mind (and ear!) is a great way to offer them your love and support.
- Educate yourself regarding their depression. Doing so can help you to understand how they must be feeling.
- Find a support group for your loved one. Offer to attend sessions as well.
- Find a support group for yourself. If there are no groups available in your area think about creating a peer support group with the help of a therapist, psychiatrist, hospital or a church.
- Take care of yourself. Self care is one of the most important things that a person can do to stay healthy and strong for those around you.
Your partner's depression does not have to end your relationship. With a great support group of family, friends, a psychiatrist and a therapist, you two can overcome depression together.