How to Help a Boyfriend or Girlfriend with Depression
So, you want to know how to help a boyfriend or girlfriend with depression? Mental illness is complicated, but there is plenty you can do to show your support. The first step, however, is realizing that you are only one person. You’re not a superhero, and it’s not your job to fix your partner or cure their illness. Depression is a clinical condition that must be treated by doctors and mental health professionals, and it’s not up to you to provide the answer. Once you realize this, you free yourself up to become a vital part of your boyfriend or girlfriend’s mental health support system without sacrificing your own needs in the process.
How to Help a Boyfriend with Depression
If you want to help a boyfriend with depression, it’s important to know that men and boys often find it difficult to talk about their emotions for fear of appearing vulnerable or "unmanly." Thankfully, the culture surrounding this stigma is slowly changing, but people of the male gender still face pressures that are difficult for girls and women to understand. As a result, you may find it hard to get your boyfriend to open up about his depression, which can feel frustrating if you know he needs help. On the other hand, you may be the only person your boyfriend feels he can open up to if he struggles to talk to his friends or family about his illness. Or maybe he doesn't want help for the depression. This can put an enormous amount of pressure on any relationship – particularly when you're young.
It’s also important to know that the weight of your boyfriend’s depression is too much for you to carry by yourself. The best thing you can do to help him and protect your relationship is to encourage him to develop a support system. This might mean involving his parents in his mental health struggles or reaching out to a counselor at his school or workplace. It can be frustrating to deal with his depression, but you don't have to do it alone.
Other things you can do to help a boyfriend with depression include:
- Don’t take his depression personally: Your boyfriend’s depression is an illness – it’s not about you, even if he may get frustrated with you at times. Mental illness causes people to behave differently toward the people they love, but it’s important not to take this personally. Just remember that it’s never okay for a boyfriend to be verbally or physically abusive, depression or not.
- Encourage him to see friends: Your partner needs support from lots of different people, not just you. Even if his friends have no idea what he's going through, spending time with them will help him feel more "normal."
- Spend time with his family: Try to encourage your boyfriend to confide in his family about his depression and spend time with them together as much as you can to promote unity against the illness. If this isn't possible, gather your community of friends or people from support groups to carry you both through the challenges of depression in your relationship.
- Don’t get sucked in: When someone we love is depressed, it's easy to get sucked into the mental illness, but it's important to remain on the outside as much as possible. Continue your own life as much as you can, and your partner will see that the world is still spinning despite his depression.
How to Help Your Girlfriend with Depression
If you want to know how to help your girlfriend with depression, you need to understand the unique challenges she is facing. Girls and women experience many different hormonal shifts at certain points in their lives that can increase risk factors for depression. Some women also experience premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, which causes extreme mood changes around the time of their period. Despite this, depression in women doesn’t always come down to hormones or even genetics. Clinical depression is a recognized medical condition that affects 10-15% of women in the U.S. every year, but the exact cause is often unknown.
Here are some key points on how to deal with a depressed girlfriend:
- Don’t make it about you: If your girlfriend develops depression while you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to think that you’re somehow to blame or that you must have done something to cause it. Asking her why she's unhappy will only make her feel guilty and misunderstood, as depression can have no apparent cause.
- Listen: You don’t always need to provide an answer. Sometimes, just showing that you’re prepared to listen is enough to lessen those feelings of isolation that depression brings. If you don't know what to say, offer your girlfriend a hug and tell her that you're there, that you're trying to understand and that you'll support and accept her through this illness.
- Don’t minimize her experience: Don’t tell her it’s all in her head. You may mean to make her feel better, but this will only minimize her experience and make her feel less understood.
- Know that it’s not always about depression: Sometimes, your girlfriend may feel upset with you or be in a bad mood after a stressful day. People with depression experience regular moods like anyone else, so try to treat each feeling she expresses as a separate issue rather than chalking it all down to depression.
Smith, E. (2019, March 8). How to Help a Boyfriend or Girlfriend with Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/how-to-help-a-boyfriend-or-girlfriend-with-depression