FREE MENTAL HEALTH ASSESSMENT. start here
Depression is a common mental illness that affects millions of American adults of all ages and backgrounds every year. Depression can affect how you think, feel and even act in your daily life. It can also affect relationships, making things like dating more difficult than they otherwise would be. Living with depression can be exhausting and hard — but so can dating someone with depression.
Seeing someone you love — especially your partner — struggle can be a tough thing to witness, and certain signs of depression may leave that person feeling more agitated, tired or less social than usual. You may even feel like you did something to cause your partner’s depression.
Understanding depression can help provide you with the tools you need to assist and support your partner. Below, we’ve shared information on depression and how to support your depressed partner and protect your emotional well-being.
Before getting advice on dating someone with depression, it’s good to know exactly what depression is.
Depression isn’t just periodically feeling sad or down, but rather a serious mental health disorder that affects someone’s everyday life. A depressive disorder is a persistently low or depressed mood along with other symptoms that lasts for two weeks or more.
Or someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder depression experiences both depressive episodes (periods of sadness) along with manic episodes (periods of a happy, elated mood with higher activity levels).
A person with depression may also have an anxiety diagnosis at the same time.
An anxiety disorder involves constant worry or fear that also interferes with everyday life and activities. People with depression can experience similar symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Dating someone with anxiety and depression can be very possible, as 60 percent of those with anxiety experience depression symptoms, as well.
Depression is tough. Being in a long-term relationship or even dating someone with depression is also tough. Fortunately, you can be in a healthy relationship with someone who has depression.
Dating and relationships are extremely personal. While we choose who we date, being in a romantic relationship with someone who has depression may not feel like a choice.
Learning how to understand and recognize some of the signs of depression can do wonders as you try to care for your partner, while also looking out for yourself and your relationship with them.
Some common symptoms of depression can include:
A constant feeling of sadness or emptiness
Irritability or frustration
Disinterest in typical activities or hobbies
Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
Unplanned weight changes
Thoughts of death or suicide
You can learn about more signs of depression in women in our guide.
Keep in mind that depressive symptoms can differ from person to person. There are also different types of depression. Some types — like walking depression or dysthymia— can make recognizing the symptoms difficult as they may not be as obvious.
Recognizing signs of depression might also be difficult if you’re in the early stages of dating or are still getting to know each other. We may hide what we think of as flaws or want to impress the other person.
The longer you’re in a relationship with someone, the more you get to know them and may be able to tell sooner if you’re dating someone with depression.
If your partner knows they have depression, you can learn about their type of depression and what symptoms they experience to help you better understand how to support them.
If you find yourself dating someone with depression and anxiety, keep reading about dating someone with depression advice such as ways to support your partner, have a healthy relationship and protect your emotional well-being.
Understanding that your partner’s depression has nothing to do with you and was not caused by you is important to know.
Depression is a complex mental illness with many possible causes, from genetics to stressful life events.
While environmental factors can play a role in depression, blaming yourself for their sad moods or anxious episodes will only make you feel worse.
Depression isn’t something your partner can just snap out of or recover quickly from. Managing and learning how to cope with depressive episodes takes time.
It’s also important to keep in mind that their depressive symptoms may come and go from time to time. They can also interfere with activities you do together as a couple or your sex life, as fatigue, loss of interest in activities or a decreased sex drive are all signs of depression.
However, at the same time, you shouldn’t just believe that your partner will always be depressed and that this is just the way things are. Try to practice patience and continue encouraging towards what helps their depression.
You are not a mental health professional who’s responsible for “fixing” your partner’s depression. If you’re dating someone with depression and anxiety, you can help them by helping them find resources and professionals that might help.
It should also be said that you can’t and shouldn’t push someone to get help if they’re not ready.
You can offer help by way of suggestion or recommendation (“Have you thought about talking to someone?”). You can also support your partner by reminding them that getting help is not a sign of weakness or something to be embarrassed about.
If they decide to get help for depression, your partner can talk to their primary care provider or contact a licensed mental health professional.
Your partner can also connect with a licensed psychiatry provider from home using our online psychiatry service.
Meeting with a licensed mental health provider can be beneficial to discuss symptoms and learn about treatment options.
One effective type of therapy for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that helps people identify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and learn productive and healthy ways to correct them.
Another effective therapy for depression is mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCT). This is a form of talk therapy that blends meditation and mindfulness alongside cognitive therapy.
You can be a supportive partner by encouraging your partner and reminding them that they won’t always feel the way they do.
You can also offer support by letting them talk about what they’re feeling and providing empathy. Even if you don’t know exactly what they’re dealing with, giving them a safe space to talk about their depression can provide support.
Dating someone with depression can certainly affect you as well. While you may not be going through the same depressed or low moods as they are, it’s still important to take care of yourself so that you don’t resent them or become depressed yourself. Taking care of yourself also lets you continue to show up and support them.
Continue taking part in activities or hobbies that bring you joy, talk to people in your life who care for and support you and maintain healthy habits.
Depression is tough to deal with and difficult to watch someone you care about struggle with. This mental condition affects work, daily activities and relationships too.
Dating someone with depression can feel overwhelming, but support — along with proper treatment — can help this situation feel less daunting for both of you.
It’s also important to remember that you are not responsible for your partner’s treatment or recovery, and that you can be supportive and encouraging while also taking care of yourself.
Some of the more fruitful ways to assist a partner with depression are helping them seek proper help, offering encouragement, being patient and making sure they understand that help is within reach whenever they want it.
If you suspect that your partner may be deterred from treatment by the effort it takes to schedule an in-person visit with a professional, online therapy may be just what the proverbial doctor ordered. They can start an online consultation that will help connect them with a mental healthcare provider.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
Start your mental wellness journey today.