How to Discuss Your Depression with Your Partner

It is common knowledge that depression is a serious mental condition that can permeate all aspects of a person's life. When someone is dealing with depression, it can be hard to maintain a healthy intimate relationship. It can also be extremely difficult for the person's partner, especially if they are unsure of how to best offer support.

Key takeaways:
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    Depression is a major mental health condition worldwide, affecting millions of people and having a significant impact on their daily lives, including their relationships.
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    Discussing your depression with your partner can be a positive thing to do, as it allows for open and honest communication, which can help to build a stronger and more supportive relationship.
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    Expressing how you feel is a sign of strength, not weakness.
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    Listen to your partner's perspective with sensitivity and empathy.
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    Work together: find ways to support each other, manage your depression together, and consider seeking professional help together.

In this article, we will examine the best way for a person with depression to communicate how they are feeling with their partner in order to stop the symptoms of depression from becoming a destructive force in a relationship.

The World Health Organization estimates that 264 million people worldwide, of all ages, suffer from depression. Although the incidence of depression varies from country to country, it is believed to affect 4.4% of the global population.

Depression – causes and symptoms

Depression is caused by a complex mix of social, psychological, and biological factors that interact with each other. Those who have had negative life experiences (such as unemployment, the loss of a loved one, or traumatic experiences) are more prone to developing depression.

Some common symptoms of depression include:

  • Continuous feelings of sadness and despair;
  • Diminished interest in things you used to enjoy;
  • Difficulty focusing and making decisions;
  • Loss of appetite and disruptive sleep patterns;
  • Persistent fatigue;
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt;
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide;
  • Inability to enjoy people's company leading to social isolation.

Depression can vary in severity and duration, and it can manifest in different ways. Some people may develop mild symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms that significantly affect daily life. Some people may have episodes of depression that come and go, while others may have chronic depression that lasts for months or years.

Depression in a relationship

Depression is a significant barrier to sustaining a successful relationship. Living with depression makes almost every part of a person's life much harder than it should be. In some cases, depression leads to isolation, drug abuse, or extramarital affairs, which will have a destructive impact on the relationship. Depression causes more than emotional and behavioral problems; it can also impair cognitive reasoning. When depressed, it is difficult to make decisions, solve problems, and perceive things in a positive way which can be confusing for partners.

Being able to discuss your depression with your partner — and having them act as your support when you’re struggling — will be beneficial to the relationship in the long term.

The impact on a relationship

Research has shown that when one partner in a relationship has depression, it can have a significant impact on the relationship. Studies have found that couples in which one partner has depression can experience the following:

  • Reduced relationship satisfaction and increased relationship conflict;
  • Increased stress and tension;
  • Reduced levels of communication and intimacy;
  • Higher risk of separation or divorce.

However, studies also show that if a partner with depression gets help, the relationship can improve. Treatment can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. When a partner with depression receives treatment, there is a reduction in depression symptoms and an improvement in relationship function.

Depressive moods are hard to tolerate

People with mild to moderate depression can often function quite well in society. They can still go to work or school, take care of their children, and fulfill other responsibilities. However, their "down moods" of joylessness, disconnection, and apathy can make them especially challenging to live with. A couple may not always recognize that the bitter comments and criticisms are depression speaking.

Why should you tell your partner?

Talking to a partner about your depression can be daunting, as you are exposing your deepest vulnerabilities. However, allowing yourself to be vulnerable can increase trust and a sense of connection, which are vital ingredients for a successful relationship. There are several reasons why it may be beneficial to tell your partner about your depression:

  • By sharing your experience with your partner, they can gain a better understanding of what you're going through and provide you with more effective support;
  • Being open and honest about your feelings can lead to a deeper level of intimacy and trust in your relationship;
  • When your partner has a better understanding of your struggles, they can be more empathetic and understanding of your needs;
  • By working together, you and your partner can identify and implement effective strategies to help you manage your depression;
  • Depression can make you feel isolated and alone, talking to your partner about it can help you feel less alone and more connected;
  • It helps to make the relationship more transparent and honest;
  • It will make the relationship more resilient and healthy.

How to talk about depression with your partner

  • Choose the right time and place. Talking about it before you’re ready can be overwhelming, so make sure you feel the trust is there and remind yourself you are doing something positive by sharing. Choose a time when you are both in a calm and comfortable environment and when you are both free to have an open and honest conversation;
  • Be honest and direct. Clearly express how you're feeling and what you need from your partner. During your discussion, inform them about your symptoms. Describe the thoughts, sensations, and emotions that you experience, as well as the behaviors that might be affecting them, such as a lack of enthusiasm, wanting to stay in bed all day, isolating yourself from friends and family, and a lack of interest in intimacy;
  • Listen to your partner's perspective. Be open to hearing their thoughts and feelings, and as much as possible, try to be sensitive and empathize with how it must be for them. Try to be non-defensive. Remember, there is no one to blame for this situation, and you are both doing the best you can;
  • Be specific about what you need. Instead of generalizing or being vague, be clear about what you need from your partner to feel supported. For instance, let them know the triggers that make your anxiety or depression worse. Are there coping strategies that your partner can learn to help you when you are very down?
  • Find a solution together. Work together to find ways to support each other and manage your depression;
  • Remind them that you love and appreciate them.

In summary, discussing your depression with your partner can help them understand and support you better; it can lead to a deeper level of intimacy and trust; it can reduce feelings of isolation; and it can help you both seek out professional help if needed. It will also improve the relationship and make it more resilient and healthy.

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