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Depression in a Relationship: How to Know if Your Partner Is Struggling

In this article, we will talk about the signs of depression in a relationship.

You and your partner probably spend a lot of time together.

This is why there’s a good chance you’ll notice if they have depression.

However, it can still be difficult to notice the earliest warning signs.

Depression is not uncommon, unfortunately.

The statistics are pretty shocking: in 2019, an estimated 19.4 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.8% of all U.S. adults.

As licensed mental health provider Paige Harnish explains,

“Many people miss signs and symptoms of depression in a partner and accommodate the belief that the partner is no longer interested in them. Depression can worsen and conflict can escalate when the symptoms of depression are missed, and the person experiencing depression is put on the spot to do more to show they care while battling their own personal hardships.”

This is why it’s essential to learn about depression and know how to recognize its most common symptoms.

Here are a few signs your partner has depression and how you can help them, according to some therapists who have been interviewed for this article.

Depression in a Relationship – Sign #1: Your Partner Seems Irritable

According to licensed therapist Lisa Schneider, irritability means someone feels frustrated with people, places and things, and it’s an indication your partner may be depressed if they typically do not exhibit this behavior.

“It can erode trust and communication in a relationship,” says Schneider.

As licensed mental health counselor Gina Marie Guarino explains, “People who are suffering from depression can struggle to control their emotions, which can cause you to feel like you have to walk on eggshells to not set off your partner.”

Also, as Guarino adds, “When misunderstood, irritability due to anger can cause difficulty with communication, which creates a rift between you and your partner. It can cause resentment to build because your partner may feel so consumed by their depression that they do not realize how their behavior is impacting you or the relationship.”

How to help your partner:

As Schneider explains, “To help, calmly and non-confrontationally notice the behavior and gently draw your partner’s attention to it. It is ideal to do this during a calmer moment as opposed to during a time of irritability. This can bring more self-awareness and open the door to recognition of depression.”

Depression in a Relationship – Sign #2: Your Partner Struggles to Focus and Concentrate

Someone who is experiencing depression may find it difficult to focus and concentrate.

This mainly happens because depression makes a person lose interest in almost anything, even the things that they used to enjoy.

Obviously, this can affect a relationship, because, as licensed therapist Cameron Murphey explains, if someone loses interest in the things and activities they used to enjoy and is finding it hard to focus and concentrate, they probably won’t listen well to their partner, leaving them feeling unheard.

How to help your partner:

As Murphey says, “You can help your partner by letting them know that you see they’re struggling. Give them love and affection without demanding that they feel differently. Ask them if there are ways that you can help them at this time. Encourage them to get the help they need, whether it’s to resume taking an antidepressant or seeking out therapy.”

Also, as therapist Boris Mackey mentions, “You should not try to fix your partner. You may feel helpless, however, there are ways you can offer support, i.e., learn more about depression as an illness and help your partner with tasks they may find difficult.”

Depression in a Relationship – Sign #3: Your Partner Seems Withdrawn

A depressed partner, as licensed therapist Aurelie Lucette explains, may spend more time alone than they used to. “Your partner may ignore phone calls from friends, say no to date nights, and overall withdraw from social interactions.”

“They might not feel like participating in sports or hobbies, no matter how
they used to love them. They’re not the partner you used to know. Maybe they’re not as present or seem distracted when you’re together. Even their most basic routines look different,” says Lucette.

All these things can make you feel more disconnected to your partner, both physical and emotionally.

How to help your partner:

“Show empathy. And don’t tell them to get over it or that they shouldn’t be depressed. These words can feel very invalidating,” says Lucette.

Sign #4: Isolation

This goes hand in hand with the previous point.

As licensed therapist Josh Hudson explains,

“One of the symptoms that can occur in your life when your partner has depression is isolation. Your partner seems to spend a lot of time by himself, not wanting to interact with you on a daily basis and losing interest in their social life. More often he or she stays at home during the weekend and prefers staying in and ordering takeout rather than going out.”

This can negatively impact a relationship in the long term.

As Hudson adds, “For a short period of time, one can deal with this behavior, but eventually, even the most supportive partner could get restless, bored, and irritated by the behavior of their partner. This could result in an increase in bickering and fighting and in some cases even a break-up.”

How to help your partner:

“In situations like this, you can stay close, so that your partner knows you are there even if you are not interacting. Face-to-face interactions might be difficult for your partner, so texting and leaving notes might be a good way to stay connected. And when interacting, in a supportive way show them that you are going to be with them through this difficult time and ask them if they want to talk to a professional,” says Hudson.

Depression in a Relationship: Final Thoughts

To summarize, these are some of the most common signs of depression in a relationship:

  • Irritability;
  • Difficulty to focus and concentrate;
  • Aloofness;
  • Isolation.

Remember that the best way to support your depressed partner is learning about depression, respect your partner’s space, show empathy, and encourage them to get the help they need.

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