What do you do when your partner has depression?


Depression can also have a significant impact on those around the person who has it, especially their partners. — dpa

Depression not only sucks the joy out of life of those it impacts, but also those around them.

Being the partner of a depressed person requires outside help, a strategy and self-care, mental health experts say.

It can be very trying, and also painful to watch as the mood disorder robs their partner of their motivation, hope and zest for life.

"What's especially distressing for many partners is their powerlessness to ease the hardly bearable condition of a loved one," says Dr Andreas Hagemann, a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy, and medical director of three private clinics in Germany.

But there are strategies that can help you better cope with the situation.

Deal with the condition

Though you may prefer to push the depression to the back of your mind, it's better to meet it head on.

"Partners who are well-informed about the causes and effects of a mental health condition are typically better able to be effectively supportive," Dr Hagemann says.

It also diminishes your feeling of powerlessness.

It can be helpful, for instance, to read up on depression, or to attend a support group for family members of a depression sufferer.

Don't give well-meaning advice

Comments like "Pull yourself together!" or "Just get out of the house for a while!" are easily said, but unhelpful.

Quite the contrary: They often reinforce the person's guilt feelings, according to the German Depression Aid Foundation (SDD).

Words of encouragement are better, such as "I'm here for you", "Can I help you in any way?" or "It's not your fault".

Take good care of yourself

As having a depressed partner is stressful, it's important that you recharge your batteries now and then – after all, you'll be of no help to anyone if you're at the end of your strength.

To reinvigorate your body and mind, you need to regularly relax, says Dr Hagemann.

There are many ways to do this, including getting together with friends, taking a course in autogenic training (a relaxation technique), or cultivating your hobbies.

Taking good care of yourself also means knowing your limits and not overtaxing yourself, the SDD says.

Seek professional help

Depression is an illness and requires specialist treatment, either on an in-patient or out-patient basis.

Dr Hagemann recommends that the partner be involved in the patient's psychotherapy, e.g. by attending the sessions.

This helps them to understand the illness and reduce their feeling of helplessness. – dpa

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Depression , Mental Health


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