These tips on how to deal with a depressed boyfriend are inspired by a reader’s comment. I also included several signs of depression in men, to help you determine if your boyfriend is actually dealing with depression – or if something else is bothering him.
How do you relate to a boyfriend who is depressed? How do you act, and what should you say? Unfortunately, there are no quick or easy solutions. Depression is a difficult mental health issue that is affecting your boyfriend’s emotional, intellectual, social, and physical health.
“I have every reason to believe my boyfriend suffers from depression – he has all the classic signs,” says Krystie on What to Do When Your Boyfriend Doesn’t Have Time for You. “For the first time three weeks ago, he said he thought he was depressed. 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 and other issues in his life, along with ADD, which his kids also have. I told him depression clouds, confuses and masks emotions, feelings, desires, wants and needs. I don’t know what else I can do. Do you have any thoughts on how to deal with a depressed boyfriend? Whatever you can offer would greatly be appreciated.”
Knowledge is power! One of the best things ways to support your boyfriend is to learn as much as you can about dealing with depression in men. Your boyfriend’s depressed feelings are changing his personality and ways of interacting with you, and he may not even be aware of how his actions are affecting you. You can’t change him, but you can find healthy ways to deal with your boyfriend’s depression.
Unmasking Male Depression: Recognizing the Root Cause to Many Problem Behaviors Such as Anger, Resentment, Abusiveness, Silence, Addictions, and Sexual Compulsiveness is a good place to start. I can’t give you all the information you need to know in one post about dealing with your boyfriend’s depression, but I’ll list a few resources for you to turn to.
Signs of Depression in Men
The tricky part of recognizing depression in men is that often doesn’t look like depression at all. Depressed boyfriends 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 dealing with depression, he won’t walk around crying or saying how glum, sad, and depressed he feels. 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. Dealing with a depressed boyfriend is especially challenging when it affects his personality or behavior towards you.
How do you help your boyfriend deal with depression? It depends how self-aware and open he is. If he’s willing to talk to you about his feelings, encourage him to see a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. You can help and support your boyfriend through depression by helping him get the help he needs. Sometimes antidepressant medication helps; other times talk therapy is most effective.
Finding the right treatment depends on your boyfriend’s depression, personality, lifestyle, and other health issues. All you can do is learn how to deal with a depressed boyfriend – you can’t actually make him happy with his life or fix his problems.
To learn more about what it feels like to experience depression, read Not Quite Sad or Lonely…What Depression Feels Like.
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Signs of depression in men 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 these symptoms of depression in your boyfriend before anyone else does, because you’re closest to him. You may even want to learn how to heal codependency in a relationship.
How to Support a Depressed Boyfriend
Dealing with a depressed boyfriend depends on his signs of depression and how he’s coping with the idea of being depressed. Because of the social stigma of mental and emotional health issues, your boyfriend may deny and avoid admitting that he’s depressed.
1. 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 your boyfriend deal with depression, be aware that there may be one or multiple causes. Don’t try to diagnose or treat his depression…just think about his lifestyle and way of handling life’s problems.
Learn how to deal with depression for YOUR sake, not your boyfriend’s. Don’t teach him about depressed feelings in men, or try to counsel him. Just educate yourself. Learn how to protect your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
2. Don’t try to cheer your depressed boyfriend up
Be honest with your boyfriend. Tell him you feel something isn’t quite right with him. Be specific; gently point out that he doesn’t seem to be interested in the things he used to, or it feels like he’s not putting any effort into your relationship. If you’ve already told him this once, don’t cover the same ground. He heard you, but he may not feel motivated or capable of doing anything about it.
Don’t try to cheer your boyfriend up. You can’t make him feel better, and he can’t think his way out of being depressed. Depression is more serious than simply “snapping out of it” or getting over something that happened in the past. One of the most important tips on how to help a depressed boyfriend is to be sensitive and flexible about how you treat him.
3. Be watchful, but respect his space
It can be a fine line: you want to help your boyfriend deal with depression, but you also need to give him space. Find the balance between being there for him, and allowing him to find his own way to health and wellness. Don’t nag him about calling a counselor or taking his medication. Do be there if he needs to talk. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help him through this season of his life, but don’t push your boyfriend to heal or deal with his depressed feelings.
Read How to Help Your Boyfriend When His Parent Dies if he’s recently suffered the loss of someone he loves.
4. Avoid being a crutch or “enabler”
An enabler is a girlfriend who covers for her boyfriend’s depression by lying for him, doing his work, or protecting him from the consequences of his actions.
If you live with your boyfriend, don’t take over all the household or family responsibilities. Protecting him from the realities of life may encourage him to stay in the depressed state longer, or make it unnecessary for your boyfriend to deal with his depression by getting help.
Learning how to deal with a depressed boyfriend involves knowing your boundaries as a girlfriend. You won’t support him by becoming his protector, caretaker, housekeeper, or personal assistant.
5. Stay connected to your own feelings and needs
Sometimes being in a relationship with a depressed boyfriend is simply too much to handle — for both you and your boyfriend. He may not be in the right heart or head space to have a girlfriend. It depends on your boyfriend’s type of depression, how long he’s been struggling with it, and how he’s dealing with it.
If you’re considering leaving your boyfriend, don’t succumb to feelings of guilt or shame. There won’t be an easy way to break up, even if your boyfriend acknowledges that he can’t be in a relationship right now. Be honest with him. Tell him you love him and care about him, but your relationship is too deeply affected by his depression to be healthy. Make a clean break, not a slow agonizing weaning off, which only fosters more guilt, emotional pain, and stress.
Are thinking about breaking up with your boyfriend? Read How to Break Up With Someone Who is Depressed.
Help Dealing With You Boyfriend’s Depression
Don’t struggle through this alone – find out if there are any depression support groups or counselors who specialize in depression in your community. Try to get in-person help for dealing with your boyfriend’s depression. Searching the internet and learning about signs of depression in men is good, but it’s important to get real life support.
In How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed: Living and Coping With Depression Fallout, Anne Sheffield explores depression from the perspective of those who are in relationships with people who are dealing with depression – spouses, parents, children, and lovers. She shares successful coping strategies of people who live with a clinical depressive or manic-depressive and often suffer in silence.
She also describes “depression fallout”, which is the emotional toll your boyfriend’s depressed feelings have on you. She offers tips on how to deal with depression fallout, as well as the stages: confusion, self-doubt, demoralization, anger, and finally, the desire to escape. You may find it helpful and relieving to discover that your feelings of self-blame, guilt, sadness, and resentment are a natural result of living or being in a relationship with a depressed boyfriend.
What to Do When Someone You Love is Depressed is Susan K. Golant’s helpful, practical, and compassionate guide to help loved ones deal with depression.
Not only does she describe how to keep your own spirits up (self-care) and simultaneously help your boyfriend deal with depression, she also describes the warning signs of serious illness.
In this book, you’ll learn how to maintain intimacy and communication in your relationship, the most successful forms of treatment, and how to choose a counselor or psychiatrist.
Depression is a serious emotional health issue, and it won’t be resolved quickly. The best way to help your boyfriend deal with depression is to get information and feel your way towards the best ways to support and love him.
How are you doing? Feel free to share your thoughts about dealing with a depressed boyfriend. I welcome all big and little comments, but I can’t give advice or feedback.
Call a depression helpline or distress line if you’re struggling with your own emotional response to your boyfriend’s depression. Take care of yourself, so you don’t run down emotionally, spiritually, or physically.
If your boyfriend seems more irritable and cranky than depressed, read How to Cope With a Moody Boyfriend.