How Do I Help My Depressed Partner?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From Australia: If possible, I would like some advice on what I can do to help my partner as he is depressed.
A little more detail: My partner, “P” has depression. He has grown up with it on and off for most of his life. Recently though, he has had it for the last 3 months. (Although he has only just told me about it)
. He over-thinks a lot of situations, this often makes him really stressed and prohibits him from study/assignments (which in turn makes him even more stressed out!)
. Puts a lot of pressure on himself to succeed in his study. He is very passionate about what he is learning, although he is never satisfied with his creations/assignments. In turn, this puts more stress on himself.
. He has told me that he often feels guilty or lazy when he is not studying/finds it hard to have fun or feel happy when he is not working on assignments.
. It has got to the point where he doesn’t feel happy about anything he does, be it in his free time or study. He is having a really hard time getting motivated to do anything.
. When he is with me all his stress and worries seem to ‘fade away’ as he has recently told me. He says that being with me is like being in “Lala land”, his worries are dulled when with me and he is able to be happy during the time we are together (It’s now at the point where he only feels happy when with me). He is self conscious about being clingy, and both he and I know that this behavior is not healthy.
. He has kept the fact the he only feels happy when around me a secret until only this week…

This is my first time posting on any type of forum on the internet… I’m not too sure if I’ve explained myself, but any advice would be greatly appreciated! I am really concerned about him and would like to help in any way.

Thank you for your time.

A: I’m so glad you and your boyfriend both understand that it isn’t healthy for him to be happy only while with you. Whether he means to or not, he is making you responsible for his well-being. This is dangerous for both of you. You can certainly be sympathetic. You can certainly do your best to remind him what it’s like to have some fun. But you can’t fix the essential problem. For that, he needs to see a professional. There is something going on about school and studying that is overwhelming his abilities to cope. It may be rooted in past history with family or school or his expectations for himself. His self-esteem is too wrapped up in his academic achievement, and it is immobilizing him.

Most colleges have some kind of mental health or counseling services. He could start there. If it would be helpful, you could go with him to his first session to give the counselor your perspective. But then he needs to follow through on his own. Medication might help lessen the depression, but it won’t eliminate the cause. To really get on top of his depression, he has to be willing to take himself seriously enough to do some serious talk therapy as well.

Whether or not your relationship continues, he needs to do this for himself. Life, being alive, will present him with many challenges. Knowing how to cope and feel worthwhile even when things are hard is what helps people come through problems and disasters with their confidence — and their relationships — intact.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 May 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). How Do I Help My Depressed Partner?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/05/06/how-do-i-help-my-depressed-partner/