Depression is much more than a bad mood. It’s a disorder that casts a shadow over a person’s thoughts, feelings, perceptions of the world, and their relationships with others.

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If you live with someone with depression, such as a romantic partner or a family member, you’ll encounter your own hurdles. These might include:

  • Feeling angry about the disorder
  • Perceiving the depressed person as ungrateful or too needy
  • Fear or anxiety in expressing your frustrations
  • Feeling your relationship needs are not met
  • Feeling frustrated by lack of participation in chores

Don’t be discouraged. Overcoming depression is possible and probably for many people, but it’s no simple task. So what can you do for your loved one?

Communicate – Take the time to communicate to your loved one. Reassure them that you understand that depression is a disorder and not a personal failing. Let them know you don’t think they are weak, and that you know they are not choosing to feel the way they do. If you’re having trouble reframing, imagine how you would react if your spouse had a broken leg. Healing takes time, and you can’t force it.

Involve them – Involve the person as much as you can in the decision-making process. So rather than saying, “You need to get out of the house and go outside today,” you could say, “I’d like to get outside today. Would you rather go for a walk in the park or go see a movie?” If they refuse, it’s important not to force them to do anything. Instead, provide genuine praise for the small successes and avoid sarcasm.

Avoid accusatory speech – Watch your words and try to use “I-statement” rather than accusatory “You-statements.” There’s a difference between “I value your mental health and want to see you accomplish your goals,” compared to “You never do anything for yourself.” Pushing someone’s buttons might feel good in the moment but it won’t solve anything. Chances are a depressed person is already struggling with feelings of guilt and self-criticism.

Practice self-care – Never ever forget to care of your mind, body, and other relationships when a loved one is struggling. Depressed people are often perceived as being self-centered, because all of their focus and energy is caught up in dealing with the disorder. Therefore you may need to turn to other friends and family members for support and encouragement. Counseling or a support group can be an incredibly helpful resource to learn more about depression but also to learn positive coping skills for yourself as well.

If you’re not where sure to start, remind yourself not to lose hope. The majority of people with depression will improve with treatment, but the process will take time, patience, setbacks, and love. Encourage your loved one to get help today and seek ways to support yourself as well.

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