10 Ways to Show Love to Someone With Depression


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Note: I have struggled with clinical depression since I was a child. It has been a constant companion I have learned to manage and while I am better now than I have ever been, every so often I feel it returning. I describe it to my husband as a “demon eating my brain.” I have compiled this list from personal experiences that have been helpful to me. It is not intended to replace medical attention which can help many people who suffer from this illness.

Do You Love Someone With Depression?

If you have a partner or are close to someone who struggles with depression, you may not always know how to show them you love them. One day they may seem fine, and the next they are sad, distant and may push you away. It is important that you know that as a person who is close to them and trusted by them, you can help your friend or partner have shorter, less severe bouts of depression. Mental illness is as real as physical illness (it is physical actually, read more about that here) and your partner needs you as much as they would need to be cared for if they had the flu.

Your relationship may seem one-sided during these times, but by helping your partner through a very difficult and painful affliction, you are strengthening your relationship and their mental health in the long term.

1. Help them keep clutter at bay.

When a person begins spiraling into depression, they may feel like they are slowing down while the world around them speeds up. The mail may end up in stacks, dishes can pile up in the sink, laundry may go undone as the depressed person begins to feel more and more overwhelmed by their daily routine and unable to keep up. By giving your partner some extra help sorting mail, washing dishes or using paper plates and keeping chaos in check in general, you’ll be giving them (and yourself) the gift of a calm  environment. (I’m a fan of the minimalist movement because of this, you can read more about that here.)

2. Fix them a healthy meal.

Your partner may do one of two things when they are in a depressed state. They may eat very little, or they may overeat. In either case, they may find that driving through a fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza online is just easier than fixing a meal. Eating like this, or neglecting to eat will only degrade your partner’s health, causing her to go deeper into her depression. Help your loved one keep her body healthy, and her mind will follow. This is a great article that talks about the “Brain Diet” which can help the symptoms of depression, and this article talks about how our modern diet could contribute to the recent rise in depression. Here is a recipe for a trail mix that is quick to make and has mood-boosting properties.

3.Get them outside.

 The benefits of getting outside for a depressed person are huge. And it is possibly the last thing on earth your partner will want to do. Take them to be somewhere in nature. Pack a picnic and lie in the sun, take a leisurely hike (exercise is an effective mood booster!) or plant a garden. Being barefoot in the dirt, or “earthing” helps ground the body and reverse the effects of living in a world of emf’s, and digging in soil can actually act as an antidepressant, as a strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of seratonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. Sunshine increases Vitamin D production which can help alleviate depression. My friend Elizabeth wrote an excellent post about Vitamin D and its link to depression here.  For more information about other sources of Vitamin D, this is a great post.

4. Ask them to help you understand what they’re feeling.

If your partner is able to articulate what they are going through, it will help them and you better understand what you are dealing with, and may give insight into a plan of action for helping your partner. Also, feeling alone is common for a depressed person and anything that combats that feeling will help alleviate the severity and length of the depression.

5. Encourage them to focus on self-care.

Depressed people often stop taking care of themselves. Showering, getting haircuts, going to the doctor or dentist, it’s all just too hard, and they don’t deserve to be well taken care of anyway in their minds. This can snowball quickly into greater feelings of worthlessness since “Now I’m such a mess, no one could ever love me”. Help your loved one by being proactive. Tell them “I’m going to do the dishes, why don’t you go enjoy a bubble bath?” can give them the permission they won’t give themselves to do something normal, healthy and self-loving.

6. Hug them.

Studies show that a sincere hug that lasts longer than 20 seconds can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and elevate the mood of the giver and receiver. Depressed people often don’t want to be touched, but a sincere hug with no expectation of anything further can give your partner a lift.

7. Laugh with them.

Telling a silly joke, watching a comedy or seeing a stand up comedian will encourage your partner to laugh in spite of herself. Laughing releases endorphins and studies show can actually counteract symptoms of depression and anxiety.

8. Reassure them that you can handle their feelings.

Your partner may be feeling worthless, angry and even guilty while they are depressed. They may be afraid that they will end up alone because no one will put up with their episodes forever. Reassure them that you are in the relationship for the long haul and they won’t scare you away because they have an illness.

9. Challenge their destructive thoughts.

A depressed person’s mind can be a never-ending loop of painful, destructive thoughts. “I’m unlovable, I’m a failure, I’m ugly, I’m stupid”. Challenge these untruths with the truth. “You’re not unlovable, I love you. You aren’t a failure, here are all the things you’ve accomplished.”

10.Remind them why you love them.

Look at pictures of happy times you’ve had together. Tell them your favorite things about them. Reminisce about your relationship and all the positive things that have happened, and remind your partner that you love them and they will get through this.

I wrote a follow up post with 10 more ways to help someone with depression HERE

My friend Julie who blogs at Real Fit Mama has a great post about more things you can do to help with depression. Go have a look here! She also wrote a post about finding true happiness here.

This list is in no way exhaustive. I’d love for this to start a conversation, please leave the ways you have found to love someone with depression in the comments.

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10 Ways to Love Someone With Depression

For more insight into blossoming during the difficult seasons we experience in life, you may be interested in my friend Ariana’s book “Pruned

Click here for more information.

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About Kelley

Hi! I'm Kelley. Real foodie and crunchy mom to a teenager and a toddler. My husband and I live in Southern California.

Comments

  1. Why is it just Females Only mentioned in the examples? Men go through it too, ya know. :/

    • Because I am speaking from my experience and I’m female.

      • Colin Harris says:

        Respectfully to you, Chris, I. Quickly glanced over these. I unfortunately have a long history with depression. I am male and unfortunately I shun talk of feelings, I don’t think much of therapists…other than my dogs…BUT having said all that, I think these are really good suggestions. I am not sure if it is the space that I am in exactly at this moment but I also like the ‘chatter’ in the comments. Kelley, you are doing a good thing encouraging a venue for this …thank you. Bless you all and all those that support and or hurt with us.

        • Dogs make wonderful therapists! I’m very happy people are having this discussion. I think it’s important and someone could read something that makes a difference in their life!

  2. I love this. A lot of these things are things I use with other people but never think to encourage others to do for me when I’m struggling. I will certainly be sharing this, a lot.

  3. This list is fantastic! I’ve been married for 7.5 years and our first couple of years were incredibly difficult. My husband didn’t understand what was wrong (he had dealt with situational depression and thought I should just be able to get over it if I wanted it enough) and didn’t know how to deal with me. I thought I was trying to be manipulative. We made it through fortunately. I am much better than I was and can communicate a lot better about it which helps. He has, over time, become so much more supportive, understanding, and really come a long way in helping me get through episodes. It was not easy for us to get where we are but I’m so grateful that he has been so willing to listen and make such efforts to learn and grow with me and offer what I need during difficult times. I find taking to him about how I feel when I’m doing well and can think more rationally and clearly has done a lot to help him understand better what is going on and respond better. He now really understands how truly physical it is vs just being a mental thing that you can just banish with positive, can do thinking. We still have our struggles but nothing like we did before.

  4. When my Dad was suffering from depression, I used to bring in one of our rabbits for him to stroke. Animals are really good at making you feel better ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. This is great! I struggled a lot with depression and all these things are perfect.
    I find that something really important to add to 5 is to try and alleviate any guilt that may coming from allowing someone to help. Half the time my fiance tried to help me out with chores and stuff while I was still struggling with severe depression I felt guilty about letting him do it, as if I was shirking my responsibilities even though he assured me that he wanted to help me.
    Ah, this is fantastic!

  6. I have a 17 years old daughter that has struggled with depression for about 5 years now. In your words I thought you were talking about her. These struggles are her struggles. The eatting, not wanting to be outside, no hugging, not wanting to talk about anythiny and the list goes on. There are days that are great and days where continual prayer helps me get through trying to understand her and not take things personal. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Sounds awesome to have someone who cares enough about you to do these things. What if you don’t have a partner, because “you have to love yourself before someone else can love you”? No family or friends who care enough, because you’ve alienated them by doing all things that they do not understand and “you just have to try harder to be happy”?

    All these items brought tears to my eyes. I’ll never have them, but I wish them for everybody who’s going through the same thing.

  8. Jennifer Butler Basile says:

    Great tips! You can tell you wrote this as someone who’s been there. It’s also evident that you wrote this when you were in a better place, which is a good thing. All of these are easy, measurable steps to take to get to that good place. Thank you for sharing such an important and user-friendly list.

  9. This is a great list. I would also add – understand that their behavior isn’t about you, so don’t take it personally. #4 is so so important and a big step. I find this is sometimes the most challenging step for someone with depression. If they open up to you about what’s going on in their head, it’s an action of trust on their part; be patient and willing to forgive if they have a bad moment or reaction. This will enhance their feeling of security, in turn, letting them know that there is a safe place of love to reach out to.

    • Great list!
      I’ve been married to my husband who has depression for almost 24 years now. Each day is different, but we deal with each as they come. I do pretty much everything on your list and have for a long time. Although he will never be “cured”, over the years he has learned to recognize when he’s having a dark time and can now let me know (although I already know before he tells me, but it’s good he can) and he knows it will pass. All the work has been well worth it and he grows and learns constantly. He sees himself as a valuable person now and is a great example to our girls. Especially to our youngest who has inherited her dad’s depression.

  10. Encourage don’t do or you’ll end up doing everything and the person with depression will feel more and more useless. Yes help them but encourage them to take the lead amd clean/cook/get to appointments themselves.

    Don’t tell them “you need to change your mindset” or “things will get better if you can just think positively”. These statements are not true and just add to the pressure and amxiety. Instead, suggest and encourage to think in terms of “helpful” and “unhelpful”. When they have a not good thought encourage them tp ask “is this helpful”?. If the answer is no then move on from that thought rather than struggle to replace it with a “positive” thought.

    Trying understand, showing interest, asking questions an not being generally dismissive is fantastic and shows sympathy but don’t ever pretend to know how bad it is especially if you’ve never experienced this diseas. Everones personal hell is different so it is enraging to hear “oh I know exactly how you feel. Infact ive had to deal with depression in my life as my mothers cousins girlfriend has it and it’s been a really hard thing for me to deal with but if I can get throught it so can you!”

    Most of all just them know how much you love them and that you will always love them.

  11. Having friends just come over to check on me, or spending time together ‘doing nothing’, even reading in a neighboring room is enormously helpful for me. Many friends back away when you have an illness, often just because they don’t know what to do or say. For me, living in an society that is obsessed with privacy and tends to break off into small, closed family units leaves a lot of room for depression to charge in and take over.

    Undemanding social interactions can help. Where I live, you have to make plans in advance to see someone, after arranging it on the phone, and there are several locked doors to get through to achieve contact. If depressed, I’ll just end up canceling. I am not sure how to fix this, but having the feeling that you can be helpful to someone in a small way is enormously comforting/uplifting. From wanting to come over and use my laundry machine, to asking my opinion or advice on something important, I get 1) good company, and 2) the reminder that people not only love me despite the depression, but I am valued for my company and what I can contribute even when I feel like crap. So, I would advise asking the depressed person for something small, that involves spending time together. Don’t stay away for fear of doing the wrong thing, or because it is unpleasant being around someone with depression. There is *always* something you can do. The notion of handing someone off entirely to the mental health professionals, so that the only people in their lives are doctors, is a despicable aspect of North American society.

  12. I have struggled with depression for 30+ years, since my teen years, and I have never come across anything like this article. I will definitely be sharing it with my husband. Thank you!

  13. I found this really helpful because I’ve been going through severe depression states, anxiety and panic attacks. My boyfriend has actually helped me so far. A lot of these things are things that he does already and I do feel better a lot of the time. I just got out of a really bad depressed state. Living in southern Texas it’s been nothing but dark and gloomy until just recently and I find that the gloomy weather also has an effect on my depression which is why this past state was really bad because I have never been in dark, gloomy, rainy weather for so long before. Thank you for this post, it has helped me and I will be sure to show my boyfriend.

  14. Thank you for this article, reminding me I need to do a bit of self care. Seeing as I isolated myself with depression I’m 15+ years single, and at 37 I can’t find that special someone .

  15. Thank you. I will give this to my partner. Hopefully he will stop criticising and begin to help. xx

  16. Living in Ireland where the standard response to depression is ‘would you ever just cop-on!’. I’ve even been to charity events, raising money for suicide prevention, where the lead spokesperson, talking in the most derogatory manner behind the scenes to people who have escaped suicide and were to speak on their experiences, that it wasn’t their event, it was his! Their stories which they had spent a lot of time composing, and practicing, that were to be a cathartic experience, would take to much time.
    Aside from that experience, I’ve notice that although there are many different kinds of depression in Ireland there is a lot of cases of depression through a feeling of being disenfranchised from society. People who have a job and a family but depression means they can’t enjoy either. Their time is occupied living from paycheck to paycheck and the financial stress has sucked the enjoyment from their life. They are constantly focused on the next crisis to overcome as they have such narrow leeway with which to outmaneuver. It is so sad to see them trying to deal with their emotions and all that life has to throw at them and often see on bad days how overwhelmed they are, not even wanting to get out of bed. Then to hear some Ahat tell them sure aren’t they grand, at least they have a job! It makes me want to cry to think all that person really needs is some praise on how hard they’re working to juggle so much, get a hug and be reminded they are a human being and not a robot!

  17. I have been living with depression for years (sometimes it’s more subtle than others) and truthfully it’s always held me back in some way shape or form. I never really had any interest in dating or whatnot, but one thing I noticed is that no matter what it is, no matter the situation is, it is always your fault (or mine) and that’s really the worst pazrt

  18. My god reading all this was like looking in a mirror i have not fight anymore i put a faulse smile on for people that are still around me which is not many people anymore i have list my wife from it i have list my gf because of it and lots of mates aswell the only people i have around is my mum and dad and my son who is 16 and starting to understand whats wrong with dad iam now ment to be going to mind to meet other people but i have just not got it in me anymore i just feel like its comming ti the end so that i dont have to feel like this anymore i just dont want to hurt others by taking my life

    • You don’t have to feel that way all the time Mark. Please seek out help from medical professionals. There are things that work. It’s different for everyone, but I came out of a very dark place after years of therapy, medication and some pretty extreme lifestyle changes. Give yourself permission to start getting better. Your whole life can change in a moment, you just have to hang around long enough for that to happen. I don’t know if you’re in the U.S., but our National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Sending you love and light.

  19. I'd rather not say says:

    I live with a depressed husband for 16 years, and a depressed child now too, and I while I wanted to find some solutions here, I find this article exhausting. There is never a time that I don’t do all the housework, and I still can’t keep the clutter at bay. There is never a time that I don’t make all the meals and I can’t find the energy to make them all healthy. There is never a time that I don’t ask them to go outside and breathe the air, only to have the suggestion rejected. There is never a time that I don’t drop everything, my career, my hobbies, my friends, to attend to their needs. It is never, never enough to keep the depression at bay. I stay because I recognize that depression is an illness and not my husband’s fault. But I’m so tired that I want to cry all the time. But I don’t have the time to cry, because I have to keep doing all the things you’ve listed above.

    I realize now that I what I suppose I actually need is an article that is 10 ways to keep finding the energy to support others. My apologies for railing.

    • This article isn’t intended as a cure for depression. You need to understand that you don’t have that power or responsibility. If the people in your life are contributing nothing and their illness is constant instead of in episodes, it will not get better without medical intervention. You sound like you need someone to do these things for you! I’m sorry you are so tired. Much love to you.

      • The only way I got feeling any better was getting off of pysch drugs. Psych drugs all but ruined my life. Left me sick and Weak. Now I finally feel free and my spirit has grown so much. Two years off and I am learning to sleep on my own and I am learning to sit with my feelings. It is a lie that drugs have to be a part of healing. Do not be fooled into believing this.

        • I am glad that you have found an answer that works for you! My experience was very different and I do think that medication can be helpful in many cases. I am no longer taking medication, but it was a useful bridge between where I was and where I am now. I believe we all need to find what works for us individually!

    • Yes, yes, yes… Those were my thoughts exactly! I too support someone with depression as well as having kids prone to depression and it can be EXHAUSTING carrying others when you barely have enough energy to get through or own exhausting life. I think I have become prone to depression too in recent years but I wonder if it was there before or just a consequence of feeling trapped and brought down and exhausted by loved ones for so long. While I agree there are some excellent suggestions in this article I would NEVER make a partner feel inadequate for not being supportive enough or feeling as though they have to leave. They may be doing all they are personally capable of already and simply can’t take on any more housework or emotional confusion. It takes an incredibly strong person to be a supportive partner and remain positive and upbeat when all the signals around them are dragging them down into the quicksand, and not everyone is going to be that strong. So have compassion please. While depressed people deserve to be loved, their partners and carers deserve to be loved too.

    • I just had to express empathy for the caregiver spouse. In a weird way, I’ve been both the caregiver and now the “patient”: When I was younger, I was the SOLE caregiver for my mother with Alzheimer’s-I took care of EVERYTHING at home and for her, as well as working a 40-hr job…I don’t know how I survived! (Actually, in a way maybe I didn’t, because that was the beginning of what has become a lifelong battle with anxiety and depression.) But I understand how overwhelming it can be for the caregiver. NOW I guess the shoe’s on the other foot because I’m the one who’s the “patient”. All the ideas presented here are great, but I agree with the wife: She can’t do it ALL forever or she’ll end up being a patient herself! In order to keep your own sanity, it is imperative to try to keep up that social outlet of friends and hobbies, but the patients also need to accept outside help. (This is a GIGANTIC hurdle for the depressed person to get over, because it means opening up to someone else.) The BEST thing that ever happened to me a few years ago was when I ended up spending two weeks in inpatient treatment (after a suicide attempt)…Because my husband and I BOTH finally received training and education on my depression. There was an AWESOME family education class for loved ones of the patient to learn about the different conditions from professionals, along with tips to help (and what not to say/do-The negativities mentioned here). During my stay, patients also had to make a list of OTHER support people that we could ask for help from…This was called our “SAFETY PLAN”…That list has been a lifesaver for me, literally! This all also helped my husband, because as a patient I was taught it is necessary to open up and ask others for help (this can be practical things as well, like asking someone to go to the pharmacy and get your prescriptions). We have also been learning…slowly…how to talk more openly to each other about our feelings in all this, including HIS feelings being the caregiver.

  20. Tobias Beatty says:

    This sounds like really good information/advice. Some of this I have done and other parts are less helpful due to her agoraphobia. She’s not so much agoraphobic now as just disinclined to be around a lot of people. Her decompression time is being absolutely alone and quiet while mine is going out and having drinks with the guys or hitting a bar/club. This works out pretty well as I get my time out and she gets her decompress time alone. It’s worked for 12+ years now.
    For the longest time (and still occasionally) she kept on and on about how I wasn’t gonna put up with her shit forever. Yet here we still are, thriving. Don’t misunderstand, I have a string of my own issues. ADHD, OCD, intermittent explosive disorder, ODD, and tourettes (mild). I get crazy scattered and impulsive and get irritable quickly but we both have patience with each other. We joke that we are the only ones who could put up with each other’s insanity. She grounds me and I kick her in the ass to get things done when it’s needed, all the while maintaining mutual respect. Occasionally we argue, but very seldom. Lots of hugs and kisses throughout our days/evenings together.
    When she has a rough day and wants to lie down I don’t guilt her or push her to get out of the house because it only makes it worse. She needs her space sometimes and when she does, I give it. If she’s been in bed half the day I’ll rope her out of bed with breakfast (downstairs, come and get it!) and coffee and whatever else is needed for that occasion. It’s a fine line. A balance between giving the right push and pushing too hard or not enough. I do everything I can for her and she does the same for me. I tell her frequently how amazing she is and how much she’s done for me and her daughter (my son lives with his mom) and how she’s gone above and beyond. She asks very little for herself and gives to us completely and I constantly fight to make sure SHE has extras and gets what she wants when she DOES ask for something.
    It can get very frustrating and exhausting at times but it’s totally worth it. Neither of us are perfect and we’re on opposite ends of the spectrum but I couldn’t ask for anything more. I love reading these articles because sometimes I’ll see something I didn’t think of or learn a new trick from a tip someone posted.
    Anyone with mental illness, be it major or minor, requires extra work. A lot of people nowadays get so wrapped up in their own life that they just don’t have the time or patience to deal with us mental goofballs. Sure it can be draining. Sure it can be frustrating. But it’s worth it. Nobody is perfect and I’ll take the struggles of my fiance over any “normal” chick any day of the week. Why? Because we know what’s going on and we’re aware of how we treat each other. We don’t get shitty because someone couldn’t get their nails or hair done. We don’t argue over petty shit because we know that it’s petty and we know that because we have bigger issues to contend with. We appreciate the little things because we’re more aware.

    Anyway, thanks for the article. Stay flawed, my friends. You’re better that way. =D

    • It sounds like you two really understand each other. That’s wonderful. Yes, it can be totally worth it to put the effort into loving a flawed person! They tend to be pretty amazing!

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