I have read a lot of advice regarding the treatment of a boyfriend suffering from covert depression. Unfortunately, none of this advice appears to pertain to my specific situation. Seeking help from a professional third-party or suggesting antidepressents is not an option for me.
My boyfriend (age 22) of seven months, whom I’m very much in love with, is depressed. This stems from a variety of issues, prodiminately, I’m assuming, his relationship with his parents, past and present. Both his parents are extreme over-workers. His mother is a clinical psychologist and tends to give him the patient treatment. His love for her seems to be simple familial duty, I don’t think he actually likes her as a person. On the other hand, he seems to greatly admire his father.
Sadly, he bears the brunt of some psychologically damaging behaviour. For example, recently he pulled up the carpet in the house that he lives in alone, but which is owned and attached to his parents’ house, to investigate a leak. He ran into his father while in his parents’ house to fetch more towels. His father demanded to know what he was doing and when he discovered that his son had pulled up the carpet, his diatribe went something along the lines of “Why would you pull up the carpet! We let you live here for free and you take it for granted and freeload! You’re selfish! You should have just asked me if you needed help!” etc.
My boyfriend is notoriously independent and didn’t want to go to his father for help. He felt blamed for something he could not control (a leak) and it’s episodes of this nature that make him want to move, not just to another house, but to another city.
On the other hand, I don’t think it’s just because of his parents that he feels that his house is not a home. He tells me he never wants to go home because it feels like “just a place where he stores his stuff” and not an actual living sactuary.
He is prone to fatigue, desire for isolation, sexual indifference and mood swings. He completely adverse to any type of professional help or medication. He is very intelligent, proud and independent to the point that he feels any assistence of this type would be useless as he feels he can deal with the problem on his own.
He does not often seek my counsel, preffering to be alone although sometimes he will confide in me, though nothing I say seems to make any difference and, often, merely irks him.
My question is, how do I deal with his depression because sometimes I wonder whether it’s his depression that causes him to be distant or whether it’s a distinterest in me. Sometimes it’s hard to bear the brunt of his illness. What can I do for him and what can he do for himself?
A: I’m not sure if your boyfriend is depressed or stuck in adolescence, or both. He’s 22 but he’s living in his parents’ house. He wants to be independent but he accepts a free place to live. Sorry. The two don’t go together. If he doesn’t like the situation, he should do something more than complain about it. His father certainly could have addressed him more respectfully but the fact is that his father owns the property, not your boyfriend. Your boyfriend had no business pulling up carpet (or using their towels) without asking for advice about what to do. It would be the same if he had any other landlord.
The father’s diatribe suggests impatience with the situation from his end. It seems to me that your boyfriend and his parents have some work to do to clarify what he is expected to do and when and how he plans to move out and become a fully independent adult. By being so helpful, his parents may be inadvertently making it too easy for him to stay stuck. Your boyfriend may be scared to be truly on his own. Rather than face his own fear, he blames his parents for wanting only what he wants — for him to be independent.
Meanwhile, what are you getting out of all this? Your boyfriend certainly doesn’t sound like a good bet for a mature longterm relationship, at least not yet. However charming he may be in private moments, he has a lot of growing up to do. Be careful about supporting him in his complaints about his parents. Focus instead on what he plans to do about his situation. If he is truly clinically depressed (see the symptoms in our mental health library), he needs to get over his aversion to his mother’s profession and take care of himself. If he is depressed, he would benefit from seeing a counselor and maybe taking some medicine. Part of being an adult is doing what you need to do — even if your mother might not approve.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Jan 2008
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Depressed boyfriend won’t seek help.. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/01/06/depressed-boyfriend-wont-seek-help/