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My Girlfriend, Boyfriend has Depression: Is It Me or Their Problem?

If your girlfriend or boyfriend has depression, you may wonder if something you’ve done has caused it. But is it even your problem to deal with? Find out on HealthyPlace.

So, your boyfriend or girlfriend has depression, and you're wondering if you're to blame. Perhaps you have these concerns because you want to make your depressed partner feel better, or maybe your partner is blaming you, and you're not sure how to respond. If you have never experienced depression first-hand, it's easy to get swept up in the myths and misconceptions about depression and relationships. It's also understandable to want to help if your girlfriend or boyfriend has depression. However, there are some facts about depression that you must understand before you turn the problem inward.

Three Things to Consider When Your Girlfriend, Boyfriend Has Depression

If your girlfriend or boyfriend has depression, it is natural to want to find the cause of their suffering so that you can help them feel better. You may also want to point the finger away from yourself to alleviate a guilty conscience. Before you start playing the blame game, however, here are some facts about depression worth considering:

1. Depression and sadness are different

In this article, we are talking about clinical depression (aka major depression) that has been diagnosed by a doctor. Clinical depression is not the same as sadness or grief. It is also not the same as an episode of depression, such as a period of low mood following a traumatic event or relationship breakup.

Although these episodes (also known as "situational depression") may have some of the same symptoms of clinical depression (difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, feeling hopeless, and loss of interest and enjoyment in activities, for example), the depression usually lifts with time. Clinical depression does not improve without some form of treatment. Depression treatment, such as therapy or antidepressant medication, may be ongoing.

2. Depression is no one’s fault

Although lifestyle factors can certainly contribute to a person's mental health, no one person or circumstance is solely to blame for depression. According to medical professionals, depression is caused by a complex set of factors. These include:

  • Genetics and biology
  • Brain chemistry
  • Disturbances to circadian rhythms
  • Female sex hormones
  • Poor nutrition
  • Physical health problems (such as thyroid disorders, Atkinson's and liver disease)
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Grief and loss
  • Stress and trauma

Of course, situational depression can arise from a troubled relationship or breakup. This is the kind of depression that gets better over time, however, and it's unlikely to be your fault alone. Both parties are responsible for the outcome of a relationship in most cases – unless one partner is physically, sexually or emotionally abusive.

3. Unhappy relationships can trigger depression

Although mental illness cannot be traced to one cause alone, relationships do contribute to depression. Studies show that, for 89% of adults, relationships are crucial to wellbeing and emotional health. Evidence also suggests that people in unhappy relationships are three times as likely to experience depression as those who aren’t.

Loving and supportive relationships are vital to our mental health, but challenges are inevitable. If your girlfriend or boyfriend is depressed and you think your relationship is a factor, try to encourage openness and communication, and don't blame one another. Many couples struggle to communicate when one partner has depression, but counseling (either as a couple or one-to-one) can be hugely beneficial.

My Girlfriend, Boyfriend Has Depression: Is It My Problem?

If you want to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner, then yes – their depression is your problem. That doesn't mean you have to understand their illness, but it does mean that you have a responsibility to support them and do everything you can to help without sacrificing your own needs.

If you recognize that the relationship is making you both unhappy, you may want to break up with your partner. Remember – you are totally within your rights to want to end the relationship, even if your boyfriend or girlfriend has depression. If you're worried about your partner's ability to cope in this scenario, you should contact friends and family members who can help. If your partner is suicidal, you should call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or contact your local emergency services.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, April 26). My Girlfriend, Boyfriend has Depression: Is It Me or Their Problem?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/my-girlfriend-boyfriend-has-depression-is-it-me-or-their-problem

Last Updated: May 17, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD