Dating Someone With Depression. Tips for Dating & Red Flags
If you are dating someone with depression, suddenly you might find yourself alone in this relationship — a far lonelier place than actually being alone. The person you love might be gone, and you have no idea who is this listless, melancholy person in front of you. If you are in a relationship with someone who has depression, you are likely struggling with a mix of emotions and lots of questions. How will the symptoms and treatment impact your relationship? What can you do to help them through hard times? While every person’s experience with depression is unique, here are a few things you can do to help your loved one and yourself. You are not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, 10 percent of the population of the United States, at any given time, exhibits symptoms of depression. Of that 10 percent, a staggering 50 percent do not seek any type of treatment to alleviate those depressive symptoms.
Depression builds walls around people and between people. When someone you love has been dragged inside those walls, there can be a distance between you both that feels relentless. You miss them, but they’re right there beside you, except that they’re kind of not. Not in the way you both want to be anyway.
Symptoms of depression
Depression is not a cookie-cutter disorder. For each individual, the symptomatology may be different. Some may want to sleep their days and nights away, others cannot sleep because combined with their depression is anxiety, and instead of peacefully drifting to sleep they cannot shut their brain down. These thoughts are typically self-blaming thoughts. They may also include thoughts of dread connected to worst-case scenario outcomes of events or relationships in your life where you imagine failing.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Lack of energy
- Lack of interest in things that typically interest you
- The inability to sleep or excessive sleep
- The loss of appetite or excessive appetite
- Crying spells
- Aches and pains, most commonly headaches
- Thoughts of self-harm
Depression sucks the life out of life. That’s how it feels. It also looks like a withdrawal. It feels that way too. It’s a withdrawal from everything that is enriching and life-giving. When depression bites, everything becomes hard. Life starts to hurt. Those who are bitten stop looking forward to things. They stop engaging and they stop enjoying things, even the things they used to love. They can feel hard to reach, and sometimes they can be angry or appear as though they don’t care. That isn’t because they want to withdraw from you or push you away, they don’t, although it can feel that way.
Dating Someone With Depression: What You Should Know
Dating someone with depression can be tough. It is difficult to see someone you care about struggle and not be able to help them. If your loved one has depression, he or she may feel hopeless or show signs of social withdrawal, which can leave you feeling like you did something wrong when you did not. Understanding depression can help you communicate with your partner when their depression manifests. By learning and practicing new relational skills, you can foster connection and closeness with your partner, even when they are struggling with depression. You can learn how to support your partner and how to be supported.
Although, it might be time to be concerned about your relationship. You can definitely be in a healthy relationship with someone who has a mental illness but keep an eye out for when things get unhealthy. If any of the “red flags” come up, don’t ignore them. Violence or abuse of any capacity should not be tolerated, regardless of mental illness status. Your safety is important, and that comes first.
A great way to support your loved one is to learn everything you need to know about depression, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Ask your partner’s doctor for some reputable sources that provide the facts about depression, or do a quick search yourself on the Internet. You can start with the following reputable sources:
Get Support and Treatment
The impact of untreated depression extends to all the people closest to the person with depression. It is accurate to state that in one way or another most of us have been impacted by depression. Treatment is vitally important to a person’s recovery from depression. You can help your loved ones by helping them keep up with taking their medication and remembering appointments. You can also help them by reassuring them that asking for help is not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of.
When someone you care about is depressed, it’s OK for you to feel frustrated, angry, and upset. It is very important, however, that you don’t allow these feelings to fester and grow. Therapists, counselors, and support groups are not only for people with depression. Seeking professional help for yourself can help you feel supported, vent your frustrations, and make you more aware of your own emotional needs. Therapy can also provide answers to any questions you have about coping with the depression of a loved one. Even if you don’t go the mental health professional route, it’s important to lean on your support network during this difficult time.
Be There for Them
More than anything else, those with depression just want you to care. Seeing you make an effort to understand them will mean the world to them. One of the most important things you can do for someone who is depressed is simply to be there for them and verbalize your support. Hold them close or just listen while they share their feelings. Offer to help them with making appointments or doing some of the daily chores that they are struggling to keep up with. Let them know that you are there for them in whatever way they need while they make their recovery.
Don’t Take It Personally
Depression can make people behave in ways that they normally wouldn’t when they are feeling well. They may become angry, irritable, or withdrawn. They may not be interested in going out or doing things with you like they used to. Your spouse or significant other may lose interest in sex. When your loved one starts arguments that may seem to be out of nowhere, or blown out of proportion, understand that these things are not personal, and they don’t mean that your partner no longer cares for or about you. They are symptoms of the illness that requires treatment.
Don’t Leave Them Along
When your loved one is depressed, they may often say one thing but mean another. Distancing, or self-isolating is a common symptom of depression. Distancing is a self-destructing path, where the person pushes others away for one of many reasons.
This can be because they are afraid to hurt those around them, they are afraid of being hurt by others, they feel they aren’t good enough for others, they are embarrassed about their mental state, or any number of other reasons.
When your partner says they want to be left alone, chances are they don’t. This is often times a cry for help.
Be there for them. Assure them that it’s okay to not be okay, but that you will be there with them through it, to help them pull through. Don’t try to make them talk if they don’t want to. Don’t ask questions, because chances are they won’t want to answer them. Bring them food, put on a movie, and just be there.
One of the worst parts about depression — is that it robs hopes. Hope that they will actually feel better. Hope that the darkness will lift. Hope that the emptiness will fill up and they’ll feel motivated and excited. Hope that it won’t be like this forever. Hope that they’ll get through it.
Many people with depression aren’t able to articulate that they feel hopeless. Because doing so requires putting “words to an experience that just feels as real and encompassing as the air they breathe.”
Offer them hope by reminding them of their reasons to keep living, whatever they may be. Perhaps it’s their children, a beloved pet who needs them, or their faith. These reasons, which will be unique to the individual, can help them hold on a bit longer until the pain subsides.
They’re not lazy, they’re depressed
One of the common misconceptions of depressed people is that they are lazy. This comes from the fact that they can often be messy and unproductive when they are in depressive stages. In fact, this is a direct symptom of depression. It is not that they are lazy, it is that they are exhausted, both mentally and physically. Depression takes a toll on the mind, often leaving it’s victims too drained to do the things they would normally do in life, making it hard to even get out of bed.
Calling them lazy for not cleaning or completing tasks will only worsen their depression and feeling of self-worth. Instead, try encouraging them or even offering to help them with these tasks and complete them alongside them.
Is It OK to Break Up?
Deciding whether or not to end a relationship is a hard decision, and it can be even more difficult when worrying that your ex may sink into a deeper depression post-breakup. Mental illness alone is no excuse to break up with someone. Lots of people with mental health conditions are able to enjoy long-lasting, fulfilling, happy relationships. Just because someone is depressed, doesn’t mean you should write them off. A condition in and of itself is not a reason to break up with somebody.
Although, it might be time to be concerned about your relationship, when mental illness symptoms are getting in the way of your day-to-day life, or your safety is being compromised. You can definitely be in a healthy relationship with someone who has a mental illness but keep an eye out for when things get unhealthy. Some of the tell-tale signs that your relationship is unhealthy:
- Violence (verbal, physical, or sexual)
- Inability to control emotions
- Lack of remorse or empathy for people or animals
- Narcissistic behaviors
If any of these red flags come up, don’t ignore them. Violence or abuse of any capacity should not be tolerated, regardless of mental illness status. Your safety is important, and that comes first.
In general, having a mental illness is not an excuse to treat someone poorly, with disrespect, or lack of empathy. People with mental illnesses are certainly able to treat others with respect and love, just as people without a mental illness may treat you poorly. If you do decide to end your relationship, be conscious of how your words may affect your partner and be sensitive to the issues they are struggling with.
Overland IOP in Los Angeles California
For people struggling with depression, it’s important to have compassion and to take action to overcome this state, including seeking professional help. Remember that the negative thoughts you are experiencing are likely being driven by depression, not by a person. Depression can lead to the ultimate negative outcome of death, so please consider calling National Hotline if your significant other is experiencing thoughts of self-harm. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
There are many types of treatment that have proven to be effective for depression, but two are the most effective: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is “problem-focused” and “action-oriented” meaning it is used to treat specific problems related to depression and the therapist’s role is to assist the patients in finding and practicing effective strategies to address the identified goals and decrease symptoms of the disorder and limit adverse outcomes.
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), can have a positive effect on preventing relapse in recovered depressed patients. It teaches how to deal with increasing stress in a way that separates them from the impact. It teaches people with recurrent depression skills meditation and breathing exercises. It reduces their chances of having another depressive episode. Mindfulness practices don’t change our feelings or thoughts, but they do change our relationship to our feelings and thoughts. This enables a person who has a tendency toward depression to not get swept up in the thoughts and feelings that contribute to his or her depression. It also helps to regulate and tolerate emotion.
Please don’t ignore it, it is not necessary to live with depression. There is treatment and the depression can be treated. It is a mind/body issue and should be treated with the same self-compassion and treatment-seeking with which we would treat any major illness. Contact us today via phone, live chat, or contact form submission. We work 24/7.
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Published: May 18, 2021
Last Updated: October 31, 2023
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