Psych Central

Is my Partner in Depression?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am in a 2-years-long relationship with my boyfriend, who is my very dear friend and I think he needs help. We are both 23 years old, live in Serbia, and everything seemed just fine (we did not argue, we had great sexual life, we talked a lot etc.).

A few months ago he started acting very strange. A day, after we’ve spent a night together, he didn’t call me. I thought he was just busy, but when I didn’t hear for him till that night, I called him. I could not reach him through his cell phone (it was turned off), so I called him to his home phone and his mother told me he was out. This continued tomorrow and a day after tomorrow. Nobody saw him anywhere and he also stopped going to college lessons.

Four days after his disappearance I went to his home and found him there. He started crying telling me that he feels awful, that everything is too hard for him, that he can neither study, nor see me etc. We talked a lot, until he started feel better and he decided to try to be the old him. He really was the old him, but then it started happening again. He told me also that he is not good for anyone, that he can’t fulfill anyone’s expectations and so on. Again we talked and everything was fine for a few days.

This continued happening for about a month and I thought that he was finally making progress. He didn’t turn off his phone, he used to call me when he felt bad, he started going to lessons again, but he didn’t study a lot. However, I noticed that he was becoming more and more bittered. He never yelled, but he started to for every little thing. If I started to talk to him about how he feels, he started to yell.

So, I realized that he didn’t want to talk anymore and I stopped asking questions and we simply did what he wants, when he wants. This worked just fine until a month ago when he, suddenly, left me with no other explanation but: “I can’t be with you.”.

Since then, I’ve been seeing him twice or three times a week and for every thing he doesn’t want to do he says: “I can’t.”. He didn’t pass any exams, he stopped smiling, he stopped going out with friends he used to go out. He is now usually spending time with people who does not know all the things he stopped doing recently. He used to cry a lot and tell me that he doesn’t know why he felt that way etc. But now, he is just sitting in silence, he doesn’t want to talk about problems, only regular stuff and it seems like he built a wall. What might be wrong with him? I am sure he is not using drugs and that he is not a part of cult or something like that.

Thank you in advance.

A: I think your original question may be the answer. Your boyfriend’s behavior suggests depression. He is withdrawing from things he used to find satisfying. He is isolating himself. He is very self-involved and doesn’t seem to think he has the power or strength to change the way things are going.

If your college has a mental health center or an advising department, I suggest you talk to him about seeking some help. Many, many young people start to question whether they are in the right school or studying the right thing while they are in college. Many, many young people go through a period of confusion and even despair as they try to figure out what to do with their lives. Some conversations with either a therapist or with a school advisor might help him get back on track.

All you can do is be there for him. You can let him know that you are concerned and that you think he has the strength deep inside to face his problems and get some help. You can offer to go with him to his first appointment if he likes. If you are worried he might hurt himself, you could share your concern with his family so they can take a more active role in helping him. Ultimately, though, he is the one who has to accept that he can’t solve his problems on his own and that it is okay to look for some guidance and support.

I’m so very sorry that he is having such a hard time. Worrying about him must be taking a toll on you. If he refuses to accept any help, I suggest you seek some advice yourself. Taking responsibility for your boyfriend is too big of a task to do on your own.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Mar 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Is my Partner in Depression?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 16, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/03/15/is-my-partner-in-depression/

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