Dating someone with depression can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the symptoms or behaviors associated with this very common mental health condition. When we say very common, we’re talking about 7% of US adults or around 17 million people.
With so many people suffering from this condition, there are some things to understand about seeking a committed relationship with someone who has depression.
- Empathy is the Doorway to Understanding
When you’re dating someone with depression and anxiety, it’s going to be a bit confusing at first; especially if you’re unfamiliar with either condition. Depression and anxiety both have their own unique symptoms, but there are several that can overlap.
While our first instinct is usually to sympathize with others, empathizing with the afflicted person is truly the best way to understand their condition better.
So, what’s the difference between the two? Think of it like this; sympathy tries to paint a silver lining on the rainclouds, with remarks along the lines of “it’ll get better” or “it could always be worse”. Sympathy is really just a polite way of saying, “I don’t understand your situation, but here are some platitudes to make it better.”
Empathy is a truly different approach to the situation. Where sympathy tries to paint a silver lining on the clouds from the outside, empathy puts you right in the clouds with the afflicted person, so you can experience what they’re going through first hand. This doesn’t mean becoming depressed yourself, but refers to the old saying “walk a mile in my shoes.”
To truly understand someone with depression, you have to imagine what it must be like to experience it. Picture yourself trying to go about your day with a constant, overbearing, pervasive feeling of despair and sadness surrounding you.
How much more difficult do you think your daily life would be if you experienced such a thing?
- Keep Yourself Up-to-Date
The research and medicinal practices surrounding depression and mental health are constantly evolving, and if you’re dating someone with the condition, it’s important to at least gain a basic understanding of what’s going on.
Research the symptoms and behaviors associated with the illness, so you’re not thrown off-guard when the first lash-out or depressive episode occurs.
By gaining a better understanding of mental illness, you’ll not only benefit yourself and your partner, but society at large.
With greater awareness and education on these complex and very real conditions, we can work to eliminate stigma and start addressing a serious problem in our world.
- Watch for Extreme Symptoms
One thing you’ll want to pay close attention to when dating someone with depression is extreme symptoms. These come in the form of self-harm, suicidal attempts, thoughts, or speech, or threats of such. If you notice any of these symptoms, or directly come in contact with self-harm or suicide attempts, it’s time to get ahold of a professional for help.
If violent outbursts occur, you may need to contact the police or paramedics to get the depressed individual help. It’s important, if not vital to that person’s well-being that you take every threat or attempt seriously.
There’s a misconception that suicidal folks don’t actually discuss suicide or even mention it, and this simply isn’t true. Someone who becomes obsessed with death in speech, artwork, media, etc., and continuously talks about dying or taking their life should be taken very seriously.
If your significant other is threatening suicide, do not leave them alone until you get help. Call loved ones, health professionals, or the suicide hotline. If you’re feeling truly stuck, you can call 9-1-1, and they’ll be taken to a hospital and put under suicide watch where they can’t harm themselves.
- Don’t Take Things Personally
As prideful humans, we tend to take things personally; perhaps more often than we should. In the case of depression, there are certain behaviors we may instinctively want to take personally, such as withdrawal from social circles and people, angry outbursts and lashing out, and more.
These symptoms are just that; a symptom of a mental health condition and nothing more.
Depression creates a sort of mental “fog” in a person’s mind, which can disable them from thinking clearly. Often, a depressive episode doesn’t allow the afflicted person to realize what they’re saying or doing, which can mean some pretty mean things being said or irreversible actions being perpetrated.
- Reach Out When It’s Too Much
Dealing with depression isn’t for everyone, as it can be very emotionally taxing at times. It’s ok to need a break or to take a step back from the situation and recover yourself.
Reaching out to loved ones, friends, and mental health professionals on your boyfriend or girlfriend’s behalf is not a betrayal. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You have to remember that without your own mental health intact, you can’t exactly help someone else with theirs.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask someone else to step in as a support figure for awhile.
You can reach out to a counselor on behalf of your significant other for tips on navigating the illness or to help them get scheduled with a professional to begin treatment. (you can’t make an appointment for them, but you can let a counselor know your concerns and the office will reach out)