Living with depression isn’t easy and supporting a spouse, partner or loved one who is living with depression comes with its own challenges. It can be upsetting to watch a loved one struggle and you likely want to do everything in your power to help them.
Here are some psychiatrist-backed tips on how to support your spouse or loved one who is living with depression.
Symptoms of depression (also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression) can range from mild to severe and will look different for everyone. Sometimes the symptoms of depression aren’t obvious to others as people with depression may mask or try and hide their symptoms. Here are some signs of depression to look out for:
If you think your spouse is showing any signs of depression or you think they may have another mental health condition, check in with them. It can be hard, but simply asking them how they’ve been feeling and telling them what you’ve observed can help start the conversation.
If your spouse or loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 988 suicide crisis hotline or seek professional help immediately.
Living with depression is challenging and so is supporting someone through it. Watching a loved one struggle and not knowing how to help them can be a painful experience. It’s important to remember that it’s not within your power to ‘fix’ or ‘cure’ your loved one’s depression (and that’s okay!). What you can do is encourage them to seek professional help and support them along the way. Here are some ways to do it.
Living with someone with depression can hurt. Especially if your spouse or loved one seems withdrawn, irritable or lacks the energy to help around the house or with kids or other family members. You may find yourself taking on extra chores or household duties. This can start to feel exhausting and may bring up confusing feelings such as resentment, anger, or guilt. While these feelings are entirely valid and expected, maintaining empathy will help you reconcile with them. Remember: depression is not a character flaw or a choice. It’s a mental health condition. Someone with depression is likely experiencing low self-esteem and intense feelings of worthlessness. Learning how depression affects a person’s brain and what it feels like to have depression can help you cope with your own challenges and support your loved one.
Here are a few resources to learn more about how depression works:
It’s easy for miscommunications to happen when your partner, spouse, or loved one is living with a mental health condition like depression. They may be less open or unable to articulate how they are feeling. And depending on the severity of your loved one’s depression, you may even start feeling less like a spouse and more like a caregiver. Try and remember that you are a team. Communicate and check in as much as possible, asking your partner how you can best support them.
How you refer to your partner’s depression can help you stick together as a team. Avoid using depression as an adjective. For example, instead of saying “my partner is depressed” “or my depressed spouse” you can say “my partner or spouse has depression.” Your loved one is not their condition and their condition is not a character flaw.
A person suffering from depression may feel reluctant to seek help. They may feel like they are not fixable, that depression will go away on its own, or that they don’t deserve help. It may take them some time to accept the fact that they need professional support. This can be frustrating but trust they will seek help when they are ready. In the meantime, you can provide them with educational resources, offer to research mental healthcare professionals, or even make them an appointment with a psychiatrist, therapist or primary care doctor, if they agree to it.
Some other reading you might find helpful: Mental Health First Aid: How to help someone in a crisis
Navigating the mental healthcare system can be overwhelming. If you or your loved one is suffering from depression, or if you think they might be, seeing a psychiatrist is a great first step. A psychiatrist will be able to evaluate symptoms, provide an appropriate diagnosis, and create a personalized treatment plan. Treatment may include talk therapy (like CBT), medication (such as antidepressants) or a combination of both.
Not sure where to start? Talkiatry makes finding a psychiatrist easy. We have over 300+ psychiatrists. All of them take insurance and provide virtual care. Take our assessment to see if Talkiatry is right for you.
Unless you’ve experienced depression yourself, it can be hard to fully understand what someone is going through. Fortunately, you don’t have to have lived with depression or fully understand what depression feels like, to be able to support someone going through it. Simply listening to your partner or spouse will help them feel understood and validated and can provide a tremendous sense of relief and comfort.
Try using active listening. In your own words, repeat what your spouse or partner said before offering your own perspective or judgment. This exercise can go both ways so that you both feel listened to and understood.
Dishes piling up in the sink, laundry on the floor: An untidy environment can be a source of stress even if you aren’t experiencing a mental health condition. People with depression may lack the energy to complete household chores or feel easily overwhelmed by tasks that, to you, seem manageable. This can be hard on both you and your partner or spouse suffering from depression. To keep stress in check, do your best to keep up with household chores and create a tidy and relaxing environment. You may need to lean on additional support like a family member or a cleaning service, or help break down chores into manageable tasks that your spouse feels confident they can take on.
You know the old refrain: You can’t pour from an empty cup. This is absolutely true when it comes to supporting a spouse or loved one who is experiencing a mental health condition. It’s natural to readily set aside your own needs in order to help out another, but remember that your own self-care is important too. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising, eating nutritious foods, and engaging in hobbies that help ease your stress. All of these practices can make a big difference in your own well-being.
Supporting someone through depression is a marathon, not a sprint. So check in with your own needs often and reach out for support if you need it. Whether that’s talking to a friend, finding a support group or seeking support from a mental health professional, like a therapist.
Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 60 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and more. Get started with a short online assessment.
The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.
Dr. Brenda Y. Camacho holds the position of Staff Psychiatrist at Talkiatry. She is board-certified in Adult Psychiatry. She has been practicing for over 25 years.
While having treated a wide range of adult patients, Dr. Camacho’s primary focus is treating adult outpatients with mood or psychotic disorders. Her practice focuses on medication management. Typically, she offers this in conjunction with supportive or insight-oriented therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. On occasion, Dr. Camacho will believe additional therapy is also needed and asks that you bring a therapist into your care team to provide the best outcome.
Dr. Camacho completed her undergraduate studies at Tufts University. She received her medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA and then continued with Temple for her residency in adult psychiatry. After completing training, Dr. Camacho worked at Cooper Hospital in Camden NJ as Associate Director of Consultation/Liaison Service and Psychiatry Residency Training and Co-Director of the Neuropsychiatry Clinic. She then began working exclusively in outpatient settings, joined NewPoint Behavioral Health Care, and served as Medical Director before and after their merge with Acenda Integrated Health.