How do you help a boyfriend who is depressed? How do you act, and what should you say? These tips are for girlfriends who aren’t sure how to cope with depression in their relationships.
If you think (or know) your boyfriend is depressed, read Is He Depressed or What? What to Do When the Man You Love Is Irritable, Moody, and Withdrawn. It’ll help you recognize his symptoms, and help him to get the help he needs to manage his depressed feelings. The book will also show you how to take care of yourself and not get lost in his depression.
Here’s what Krystie says about her depressed boyfriend: “I have every reason to believe my boyfriend suffers from depression – he has all the classic signs. For the first time three weeks ago, he said he thought he was depressed. Do you have any thoughts on how to deal with a depressed boyfriend? He is a very supportive, kind and loving boyfriend, but recently that has changed and he can be rather cold and hurtful. I try to understand that this is just the depression talking, because I know the person that he otherwise is. His depression has put a real strain on our relationship and it hurts me. I told him that I felt his depression was the core of our issues. I told him depression clouds, confuses and masks emotions, feelings, desires, wants and needs. I don’t know what else I can do.”
Recognizing Male Depression
Is your boyfriend’s depression hurting your relationship?
The tricky part of recognizing male depression is that often doesn’t look like depression at all. Depressed guys often mask their depression with workaholism or substance abuse. Sometimes they withdraw from their girlfriends, wives, and other loved ones – or they lash out in aggressive ways.
If your boyfriend is depressed, he won’t necessarily walk around crying or being glum and sad. Rather, he may show signs of extreme fatigue, listlessness, social isolation, weight gain or loss, changes in sleeping patterns, or feelings of being overwhelmed. He may abuse drugs or alcohol, or take his feelings out on you.
Getting help for depression can be as complicated as seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist, or as simple as getting the right information about depression. Sometimes medication helps; other times talk therapy is most effective. It depends on your boyfriend’s depression, personality, lifestyle, and other health issues.
Signs of Depression include
- Inability to concentrate.
- Unexplained changes in behavior.
- Loss of interest in sex or physical intimacy.
- Withdrawal or detachment, in communication or otherwise.
- Irrational thoughts, phobias, or emotional issues becoming increasingly evident.
“These signs of depression differ by personality and by gender,” says depression expert Rich Naran. “The most intimate person – the partner of a depressed person – will perceive the subtle changes before a co-worker or a neighbor does. In fact, partners will see changes that others don’t grasp.”
You may recognize depression in your boyfriend before anyone else does, because you’re closest to him.
When Your Boyfriend is Depressed
Helping a depressed boyfriend depends on how the depression shows up, and how your boyfriend is coping with the idea of being depressed. Because of the social stigma of mental illness, denial and retreat are common when it comes to men and depressed feelings. Depression affects all relationships.
Learn all you can about depression
Depression can be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain or a hormonal imbalance – it’s not necessarily caused by a difficult life or recent tragedy. Depression can be caused by less sunshine or a lack of certain nutrients. To help with your boyfriend’s depression, think about what the possible cause could be. You don’t need to diagnose or treat him — just think about his lifestyle and way of handling life’s problems.
Read How to Help Someone With Depression for more tips on helping depressed boyfriends.
Never treat your depressed boyfriend like a sick child
Let him know that you perceive something is wrong, but don’t demean your boyfriend by “trying to cheer them up.” In fact, never use the words “cheer up” in any fashion. You can’t raise his self-esteem or make him feel better — depression is more serious than simply “snapping out of it.”
Be watchful, but respect his space
Your depressed boyfriend has an illness that needs to be treated if it goes on too long. But, he has to be ready to get help before he can be helped. If you think he’s ready to think about accepting and overcoming his depression, read Natural Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It offers a few tips for treating depression that aren’t as scary or threatening as medication or counseling.
Avoid being a crutch or “enabler”
If your boyfriend is depressed, don’t take over all the responsibilities or create a situation that allows him to stay depressed and not get help. You need to find the balance between giving space, and encouraging your boyfriend to get depression help. Don’t turn into his mommy, caretaker, housekeeper, or personal assistant.
If you’re considering leaving your depressed boyfriend, accept that there is no easy way to separate. Make a clean break, not a slow agonizing weaning off, which only fosters more guilt, emotional pain, and stress. The breakup has to be clean, or it will mess up both your lives even more.
If you feel guilty about your boyfriend’s depression, get counseling or a support group. Don’t struggle through this alone – find out if there are any depression support groups in your community. Getting online help when your boyfriend is depressed is good, but it’s important to get in-person support.
What do you think – can you help your depressed boyfriend cope? I welcome your comments below. I can’t give advice, but it may help you to share your experience.