Dating Someone With Depression

Dating Someone With Depression

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

Dating Someone with Depression

Relationships can be difficult even at the best of times, but when dating someone with depression the difficulties can seem overwhelming. It is natural to want to help a loved one, but when they are suffering from depression it can be difficult. The depression can almost become a third person in the relationship, thwarting attempts to help and pushing people apart.

Everyone goes through periods of sadness in their lives. Whether grieving a loss or coming to terms with a disappointment or set-back, everyone will have times in their life, both long and short, when their mood is low. Depression, however, is different. A psychological illness that causes a persistent low mood with no obvious explanation, it will not respond to the same comforting and sympathy that work when the low mood is in reaction to something. This makes it particularly painful for both partners; the partner with depression adds the anguish of hurting their partner to the depression they already suffer, while their loved one feels useless and unable to help.

But a relationship is not doomed because one partner has depression.

Here are our tips for dating someone with depression, starting by understanding depression, thinking about you, thinking about your partner and then thinking about your relationship.

Understanding Depression

While much is still unknown about depression the more you can understand about it the better you will be able to look after your partner and yourself.

Learn about depression

There are lots of online resources to help you understand depression1https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression, not all will be relevant, and you should not expect to find something that will unlock a magical cure, but the more you understand the better equipped you are to help. By learning more about depression generally you will get a deeper understanding of your partner’s situation. You might also be able to find the stories of other people in a similar situation or, if there is a family history of depression, learn from other important people in your loved one’s life about how they helped or were helped in difficult times.

Learn what isn’t depression

This is not just about separating an understandable — and passing — low mood but also recognizing that even for someone with depression it is not all they are.

The depression may not be constant and consistent, and not all behaviors will be related to it. You should avoid saying or thinking that every behavior ‘is just the depression talking’, even when it’s an expression of unhappiness.

Thinking About You

Just as important, perhaps more important, as looking after your partner is looking after yourself. You can’t help anyone if you are suffering yourself.

Depression is not your fault

Seeing a loved one suffer is painful, but it’s important to remember they are not suffering because of you. It might be tempting to think that, somehow, your behaviour has caused the depression, but that is not how depression works.

Accept, and fulfil, your own needs

The temptation will be to selflessly look after your partner, but don’t neglect yourself; and never feel guilty about looking after yourself. You cannot turn off your feelings, so you should be open about that. And both of you should acknowledge that sometimes you will need to take time for yourself.

Helping Your Partner With Depression

When dating someone with depression you will, naturally, want to help your partner. However, it’s important to help practically and remember that helping doesn’t always mean doing something, sometimes it’s just being there.

Accept, and go with, their feelings

There will be times when your life does not go the way you hoped because of depression. From changes to your daily routines to missing events you’d long anticipated, depression can get in the way. But acceptance should be active. If they aren’t feeling up to that big night out you had planned you will have to understand they probably won’t have a reason, and you’ll have to be flexible to find something that they can do.

Don’t try to cure them, try to support them

As much as you want to help, you will not be able to cure their depression. You can, however, play a part by helping them live with their depression. This might just be by understanding their situation, but as you both learn about their illness you will find ways to help more practically. This could be by helping them implement the coping strategies they have developed or navigating around life crisis triggers may cause an episode.

Working on Your Relationship

Although only one of you will have depression, it will affect your whole relationship, so just as it’s important to look after your individual needs you should also protect the whole relationship.

Keep the relationship balanced

It can be easy, unless you are careful, to let the relationship revolve around the depression. But this is not sustainable in the long term, relationships should be balanced and provide emotional nourishment for both partners, not just manage a condition.

Look for opportunities to maintain the relationship, to highlight that it’s a relationship between two people and not a relationship with depression. Depression can affect normal parts of a relationship, for example reducing libido and affecting your sex life, but acknowledgement and sensitivity can help ensure the emotional relationship does not suffer.

Recover as a couple

Recognize that you can both play a part in recovering from depression. Whatever course of treatment they are taking — lifestyle changes, medication, depression rehab, therapy or a combination — you can play a role by understanding and supporting them. Let them know you are there for them, and work with them to find out how you can best support them.

Communication when Dating Someone with Depression

Finally, remember that communication is important in any relationship, and even more important when dating someone with depression. It is a theme that runs throughout our tips.

When communicating with your partner it’s important to do so with openly and honestly, with sympathy and empathy. You should share how you are both feeling and avoid hiding feelings, even if you think you are protecting them, otherwise you risk those feelings creating resentment. And while you will naturally sympathize with your partner, try to empathize too, so you can understand that their depression will trigger a complex range of emotions, not just sadness.

Dating someone with depression can challenge any relationship but working together you can overcome it and maintain a strong relationship.

Dating Someone With Depression: Sheetal Bahn talks Love and Depression

References: Dating Someone with Depression

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  2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 1994 []
  3. World Health Organization. The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders. Clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 1992 []
  4. Quitkin FM., McGrath PJ., Steward JW. A reappraisal of atypical depression. Am J Psychiatry. 2003;160:798–800. [PubMed] []
  5. Hamilton M. A rating scale for depression. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1960;23:56–61. [PMC free article] [PubMed] []
  6. Maier W., Philipp M. Improving the assessment of severity of depressive states: a reduction of the Hamilton Depression Scale. Pharmacopsychiatry. 1985;18:114–115. []
  7. Lewis AJ. Melancholia: a clinical survey of depressive states. J Ment Sci. 1934;80:277–378. []
  8. Buysse DJ., Frank E., Lowe KK., Cherry CR., Kupfer DJ. Electroencephalographs sleep correlates of episode and vulnerability to recurrence in depression. Biol Psychiatry. 1997;41:406–418. [PubMed] []
  9. Fava M., McCall WV., Krystal. A., et al. Eszopiclone co-administered with fluoxetine in patients with insomnia coexisting with major depressive disorder. Biol Psychiatry. 2006;59:1052–1060. [PubMed] []
  10. Sheline Yl., Gado MH., Kraemer HC. Untreated depression and hippocampal volume loss. Am J Psychiatry. 2003;160:1516–1518. [PubMed] []
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Dating Someone With Depression
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Dating Someone With Depression
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When dating someone with depression look for opportunities to maintain the relationship, to highlight that it’s a relationship between two people and not a relationship with depression. Depression can affect normal parts of a relationship, for example reducing libido and affecting your sex life, but acknowledgement and sensitivity can help ensure the emotional relationship does not suffer.
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