Depression - the partner's guide
Depression is common in Britain with about 1 in 10 people suffering from it in their lives. It can put a strain on relationships. Often depression is misunderstood and partners can often struggle to know how to help. This can this can lead to well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful support. Perhaps you are struggling to support a partner or a friend with depression and are unsure what you can do.
What is depression?
Depression is more than feeling sad or down. Most of us will have experienced life’s ups and downs, when we may feel disappointment when something temporarily affects our mood. Usually, we know what is troubling us and we make changes and over a period of a few days, we feel better. Occasionally someone will feel down, unable to function. Even getting out of bed may require a herculean effort. Yet, they cannot explain what is affecting their mood and the feeling persists over a period of weeks.
Depression affects how we think and how we feel and many have physical symptoms such as sleep disruption, a change in eating habits or even aches and pains in their body. The severity of depression can vary tremendously. You may want to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.
What can I do to help my partner?
Accept that your partner will have bad days
Recovery from depression is not a straight line, some days your partner will wake and feel hopeless and there will be no reason for it. It calls for compassion and understanding, not judgement or pushing them to get with the program
Recognise that it is the illness you are fighting not your partner
The illness is the enemy here. We often forget depression is a hidden illness. Some of the things that may be happening like rejection, a lack of communication or the lack of a sex-drive, seem to attack the very roots of your relationship. Yet, your partner is not talking about being unhappy with you notice that their mood that is making them feel this way, a mood set by the illness.
Help your partner to get treatment
Your support is helpful but it’s not the cure. It can be hard to look after yourself when you are depressed. Recognising the symptoms, going to the doctor and discussing them can seem like a mountain to climb. By being supportive and helping your partner to develop an action plan you can help to make a difference.
Look after yourself
Looking after anyone who is ill is a draining process, so it is important that you look after yourself. Have people that you can talk to about your feelings and remember to take time for yourself to take care of yourself and your own mental health.
With depression common in the UK, many partners are trying to provide support. These basic steps can make a difference.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author, living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice, he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.