Dating someone with depression or anxiety can be taxing on both you and your partner. However, through self-education, communication, and taking care of your own mental health, you can have a healthy relationship with someone with depression while helping them get the support and treatment they need.
How to date someone with depression and anxiety
1* Plan for the Future Carefully
You should also be careful about planning for the future with your partner. It’s important to remember that the two of you could be dealing with their depression or anxiety for your entire time together.
This doesn’t mean you should end your relationship because your partner has been diagnosed with a mental health condition; rather, just that you should think about how that could impact your future as a couple, especially when it comes to major topics like moving in together, getting married, and having children.
If you’re serious about planning a long-term future together, you should talk about these things as openly as possible, even if it’s uncomfortable. If you and your partner are already serious, make sure you can continue to communicate as you get closer and take new steps in your relationship.
2* Make Sure You Know the Type of Depression They’re Dealing With
“There are various types of depression, so in order for someone to be supportive of their partner it’s important to understand the depression diagnosis and possible root causes. For example, bipolar disorder depression is very different from dysthymia or depression related to a loss. Understanding the diagnosis will also help in planning the right treatment.
3* Let Them Know You’re There for Them
“A person with depression feels the need to be heard and understood. So, try your best to be there for them, and let them know that they’ve got someone who’s there for them. Let them know they’re heard, seen, and understood. Let them know that their pain is also heard, seen, and understood. You can use phrases such as ‘I hear you. I’m here for you.
4* Discover What Your Partner Needs
Try to determine what your partner needs from you when they’re going through a depressive or anxious episode. It could be that they need a shoulder to cry on or some time alone, but they may also need a fun distraction or some encouragement to get their mind off of things.
Depending on how long you’ve known them, you may already have a good idea of the best way to help, but if you’ve recently started dating, this process will take time and patience on your part. If you’re considering a long term future and marriage, it’s important you are familiar with their needs regarding their mental health, and you need to have more than a cursory understanding of their diagnosis.
If you are familiar with how your partner receives love, that can be a good starting point in trying to figure out what they need from you when they’re going through a rough patch. Even if you think you know what to do, it’s always best to ask them how you can help out, as what they need may change.
5* Communicate, Listen & Understand
“It is important for you to open the lines of communication with your partner so that depression can be openly discussed between the two of you. They need to feel comfortable sharing how they are feeling and what they need and you need to feel comfortable expressing concern in a gentle manner if you notice that their depression is returning/worsening. Often, people close to someone with depression notice it coming before the individual does. Early intervention is key to not letting the depression spiral.
6* Be Empathetic
“‘I’m so glad you told me you were feeling down,’ or, ‘Thank you for sharing.’ Don’t minimize their feelings. Although often well-meaning, telling someone you’re dating that, ‘It’s not that big of a deal,’ or ‘It could be worse’ will leave them feeling like you don’t understand and may ultimately lead to them shutting you out.
7* Learn About Their Condition
First and foremost, take some time to learn about your partner’s mental health condition, the way you would a physical disease or chronic health issue. Both depression and anxiety are legitimate health disorders, but it can be difficult to understand how they affect your partner if you’re unfamiliar with how they work. Doing some research about these disorders, their symptoms, and their effects can make them less abstract and scary, as well as much easier to deal with in your relationship.
As you do research, be sure to talk with your partner about their personal experiences. Try not to assume that something will be true for them just because you read about it or because it is a common occurrence with others. Remember that your partner is the most knowledgeable resource when it comes to their own mental health.
8* Don’t Shame Them or Blame the Depression or anxiety
If your partner doesn’t want to go out for dinner or partake in an activity, avoid blaming it on their depression – or assigning depression as the reason behind their decisions – because that creates a shame loop. Help them feel encouraged to make decisions by not making those assignments. They will need to feel empowered to successfully slay their bouts of depression and not labeling their choices will help.
9* Tackle the Depression and anxiety as a Team
While we have certainly come a long way in reducing the stigma around mental illness, the reality is that there often still is stigma attached to any kind of psychological diagnosis. Because of this, it’s imperative that supportive partners adopt an attitude of compassion for and collaboration with their partners with depression. Being a team might look like aligning with the depressed partner’s therapeutic goals, taking care of practical barriers (i.e. arranging childcare so a parent can attend therapy), and learning what words/actions are helpful and encouraging.
10* Establish Self-Care Routines & Boundaries
Take care of yourself—eat healthy, get sleep, manage your stress, socialize with close friends, even see a therapist to help keep yourself on an even keel. That will help avoid adding your problems to the existing problem of depression in the system. This isn’t the same as you trying to fix your partner, it’s just keeping the environment from getting more dysfunctional due to your own emotional issues.
11* Provide Practical Help
Offer to drive them to appointments (therapy, medical doctor)…Along those lines if they are having trouble finding a therapist or psychiatrist you can offer to look for them and set up an initial appointment. Normally this would be coddling, but when someone is depressed their brain is literally not functioning normally. Their processing slows down and their higher cognitive functions are impaired. It can be harder to see options, make decisions or organize things.
How depression and anxiety can affect your relationship
1* Avoidance in relationships
On the other end of the spectrum, some individuals with generalized anxiety became overly independent and detached from their partner and their emotions. They may avoid negative emotions by not revealing their feelings, opening up, or being vulnerable. An individual who is avoidant of close relationships may be described as cold, emotionally unavailable, lacking empathy, or even stand-offish. This can create a lot of negative energy and distance in a romantic relationship, which often leaves the other partner feeling inadequate and unwanted.
2* Your Sex Life Suffers
Your intimate connection with your partner is very important to the success of your marriage.
Being intimate is what connects you, body, mind, and soul. Studies show that couples who have an active, healthy sex life release oxytocin in their bodies. This magical hormone is responsible for bonding, boosting trust, and reducing stress. Oxytocin also contributes to emotional intimacy between partners.
Unfortunately, research shows that depression (or taking antidepressants) can have a significant impact on a person’s relationships, quality of life, and mental health. It can also impact one’s sex life.
Depression has been proven to lower libido, decrease sexual excitement, delay or diminish the ability to orgasm, and create problems with erections.
When your sex life suffers, so does the rest of your relationship.
Couples may not be as close, loving, or trusting of one another. It may also leave one partner feeling unimportant and may tempt a person to stray from the marriage.
3* You’re tempted to act out.
Men, in particular, who are depressed are more likely to express their depression outwardly. If you’re a depressed man, you’re more likely to act out your depression through drinking alcohol, becoming aggressive, having affairs, or shutting out your loved ones and withdrawing. In addition, men have more somatic symptoms–backaches, headaches, and low sex drive. Men also have a more difficult time identifying their own depression, and are less likely to get help for it because they may not even recognize their behaviors indicate an underlying depression.
READ ALSO: SIGNS OF RELATIONSHIP ANXIETY
4* Your partner Feels Helpless
Your partner loves and care for you. He or she wants the best for you in every way. When you are feeling anxious or depressed, your partner will do anything to try and make you feel better.
However, depression is not like a common cold. Your partner cannot make you chicken soup and bank on your cold going away in a couple of days. Improving or maintaining your mental health is a lifelong journey. It needs constant attention.
Your mental health is your private journey. Sometimes, no matter what you do, your partner will not be able to cheer you up. This fact can make your partner feel frustrated, helpless, and upset throughout your relationship.
A sense of hopelessness is one of the central predictors of depression and suicidal thoughts. Feeling hopeless about your future together doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed. Instead, cognitive distortion that so often comes with depression may be manipulating your thoughts into believing the future looks hopeless and that things will never get better. While everyone feels overwhelmed about the future at times, this pervasive sense of hopelessness is a signal that depression is skewing your perception.
5* Unable to Communicate
Those living with depression or anxiety often experience feelings of loneliness, even when they have a supporting and loving spouse. Some might feel that their partner does not understand the magnitude of what they are going through and are unable to communicate about their mental health.
Communication is the backbone of a strong marriage.
Couples must be able to talk about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions in order to grow.
Through marriage therapy, you and your partner deepen your understanding of one another. You will learn different communication techniques and find one that works best for your circumstances.
It is hard to live with depression. It is emotionally and physically taxing and can leave you feeling helpless and sad. It is especially hard to live with anxiety if you are in a relationship. Your mental health affects more than only yourself when you are married or otherwise in a committed relationship.
Make your mental health a priority by seeking marriage or couple’s therapy.
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