Teens Who Get Mental Health Help Less Likely to Suffer Depression Later

-Janice Wood

Young people with mental health problems who have contact with mental health services are significantly less likely to suffer from clinical depression later in their adolescence, according to new research.

The study, published in Lancet Psychiatry, found that 14-year-olds who had contact with mental health services had a greater decrease in depressive symptoms than those with similar difficulties, but who had no contact, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.

By the age of 17, the odds of reporting clinical depression were more than seven times higher in individuals without contact than in those who did access mental health services, the study found.

Researchers from the university’s Department of Psychiatry recruited 1,238 14-year-olds and their primary caregivers from secondary schools in Cambridgeshire, and followed them up at the age of 17. Their mental state and behavior was assessed by trained researchers, while the teenagers self-reported their depressive symptoms.

Of the participants, 126 (11 percent) had a current mental illness at the start of the study. Only 48 (38 percent) had contact with mental health services in the year prior to being recruited for the study.

The researchers discovered that contact with mental health services appeared to be of such value that, after three years, the levels of depressive symptoms of those teens were similar to those of 996 unaffected individuals.

“Mental illness can be a terrible burden on individuals, but our study shows clearly that if we intervene at an early stage, we can see potentially dramatic improvements in adolescents’ symptoms of depression and reduce the risk that they go on to develop severe depressive illness,” said Dr. Sharon Neufeld, first author of the study and a research associate at the university.

The study is believed to be the first in adolescents to support the role of contact with mental health services in improving mental health by late adolescence. Previous studies have reported that mental health service use has provided little or no benefit to adolescents, but the Cambridge researchers argue that this may be because the design of those studies did not consider whether service users had a mental disorder or not.

The approach taken on this new study enabled it to compare as closely as possible teens with mental health disorders who received treatment and those who did not.

The researchers add the study highlights the need to improve access to mental health services for children and adolescents. Figures published in 2015 show that National Health Service spending on children’s mental health services in the UK has fallen by 5.4 percent since 2010, despite an increase in demand. This has led to an increase in referrals and waiting times and an increase in severe cases that require longer stays in inpatient facilities, the researchers noted.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced measures to improve mental health support at every stage of a person’s life, with an emphasis on early intervention for children and young people.

“The emphasis going forward should be on early detection and intervention to help mentally-ill teens in schools, where there is now an evidence base for psychosocial intervention,” said Professor Ian Goodyer, who led the study. “We need to ensure, however, that there is a clear pathway for training and supervision of school-based psychological workers and strong connections to NHS child and adolescent mental health services for those teens who will need additional help.

“As always, the devil is in the detail,” he continued. “The funding of services and how the effectiveness of intervention is monitored will be critical if we are to reduce mental illness risks over the adolescent years. With the right measures and school-based community infrastructure, I believe this can be achieved.”

Top 5 Most Common Myths about Taking Antidepressants

Don’t be ashamed to get the help you need — however you need it.

As a person who has depression, is on medications, and is in therapy (I swear, I’m sane!), I’ve had many people comment on my use of antidepressants, or spout myths around me about medications for depression that simply aren’t true.

To put it simply: I’m tired of hearing it and feeling awkward having to correct them or inform them concerning their mistakes. (But hey, you live and you learn, I guess?)

10 Agonizing Truths Depressed People Never Talk About

Anyway, from both experience and research, I just wanted to debunk a few of the most common myths that I regularly hear about antidepressants and depression:

1. Antidepressants Make You Happy

Nope. As amazing as it would be to have a happiness pill, that is not a thing. Otherwise it would be in MUCH higher demand, right?

But no, that is not a reality. When a person has clinical depression, they have an overall low feeling that causes constant distress. All an antidepressant does is lessen those constant negative thoughts and feelings so a person can actually make it through a day feeling relatively normal (whatever that means).

2. They’re the Easy Way Out

First off, there isn’t really an “out” of clinical depression. If you have it, you have it, though over time it is possible to be weaned off of certain medications (discuss this with your doctor, if interested). But as stated above, antidepressants aren’t happy-pills. A person with depression will still deal with his or her depression, but on a much smaller scale, if prescribed properly.

3. All You REALLY Need Is Therapy

The first thing you should know is that not even therapists think this, so if you really believe you’re more aware than professionals and people actually suffering from depression, sorry, but you’re wrong.

While I personally think everyone can benefit from therapy, any therapist/psychologist/etc. will tell you that there are some people who can benefit only so much from therapy, and thus need the assistance of antidepressants. Depressed patients have this sort of impenetrable wall around them that will make it difficult or impossible for any therapy alone to truly help.

What It’s Like Inside The Psychological Purgatory of Depression

4. Antidepressants Give You Horrible Side Effects That Make You MORE Depressed

This is only the case for people who:

a) Don’t have clinical depression, but were very sad and were wrongly prescribed medication.

b) Need a different medication

Lots of people are prescribed antidepressants who shouldn’t be. Before taking antidepressants, a person should be aware if there is a cause for the mood change (such as the death of a loved one) or whether its an overall constant feeling. If an antidepressant doesn’t have any depression to treat, other reactions to it can occur.

This should not deter you from looking into the potential side-effects of your medication, and if bothersome or dangerous side-effects occur, you should speak with your primary care doctor to find another solution immediately.

5. They Numb You

Antidepressant treatments are pretty unique, and there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all medication. Sometimes the first medication taken isn’t the right one, either because of side effects, the medication is simply not working, or actually triggering other feelings that are abnormal.

If any of these things are a concern, a doctor is an appointment away, and your physician will happily help you find something better.

I was lucky enough, when first prescribed, to have the medication work great! My depression numbed me to every feeling but sadness and anger, so once my antidepressant worked into my system, my range of feelings actually expanded to a “normal” variety.

I still remember sitting in my room at the end of a day and thinking: woah…people can feel like THIS? I’m allowed to feel this okay?? It was a freeing feeling and I have no regrets.

It’s certainly not for everyone, and I don’t think that antidepressants are even the perfect solution. But if prescribed correctly, they can help so much. Basically, don’t knock it ‘til you try it (safely), and even then, don’t knock it until you’ve tried another. Make sense?

True Story: One Father’s Struggle with Postpartum Depression

-Tom Burns

Dads get the “baby blues” too.

People might not realize this, but, after the birth of a child, both women and men can encounter symptoms of postpartum depression. I’m speaking from experience here.

After the birth of my daughter, which endures as one of the happiest moments of my life, I found myself struggling with unexpected waves of anxiety, fear, and depression.

It was horrible, and what made it worse, was that I was very uncomfortable talking about it.

Here’s why — don’t you hate it when a couple says “we’re pregnant”?

I do. Because the dude isn’t pregnant. He’s not going to have to squeeze a bowling ball out of his downstairs business, so, c’mon, give credit where credit is due — SHE is pregnant and the guy is along for the ride.

I’ve never liked it when a man tried to make the pregnancy about him. He plays a part, sure, but, I was always of the opinion that, as a guy, there is NO way that I can ever comprehend the physical and emotional toll of pregnancy, so my role was to sit back, be supportive, and shut up.

And, for the most part, I think that strategy works.

However, I wasn’t prepared for how “shutting up” would negatively impact me AFTER my wife gave birth.

Because becoming a parent stirs up deep, powerful emotions. And, while many of those feelings are overwhelmingly sunny and positive, they can, sometimes, cast a shadow. Those epic highs lend themselves to equally epic lows and, suddenly, you find yourself crying and you don’t know why.

Once we brought my daughter home, I found myself confronted with those overpowering moments of terror and panic and I didn’t say anything about them.

Why? Because my wife had just gone through a freakin’ c-section. She’d spent almost a year getting sick every day, while a living creature grew in her belly, and then doctors had to cut her open to pull the creature out. They then sewed her up, handed her the creature, and expected that she’d know how to feed and care for it.

That’s a lot of shit to put on a person. No question — my wife had it WORSE than I did. There’s no comparison.

However, just because things were harder for my wife doesn’t mean that they weren’t also hard for me. She might win the miserable contest, hands down, but I was still in a really bad place. And I was too embarrassed to let my support network know that I needed them.

The more I’ve talked to new fathers, the more common I realize this experience is.

We’ve all just watched our partners go through one of the most intense physical experiences in the world, so we just feel ashamed to admit that we’re hurting a little too. It feels like our struggles are frivolous in comparison, but the fact is they’re very, very real and painful. Postpartum depression can be painfully real for men too, even if it’s embarrassing.

It all came to a head for me the first evening I spent alone with my daughter.

I’d encouraged my wife to go out with some friends — she’d only consented to leave for a few hours — and told her I’d be fine. Our baby was so good and happy. A little alone time was going to be good for us.

So she left. And my daughter started crying. She rarely cried.

And she cried, as if she’d been set on fire, for three hours non-stop.

I was beside myself. She never did this and, no matter what I tried, I could not get her to stop.

It shredded me, but I knew I couldn’t call my wife. I wanted her to have a fun first night out. I didn’t want her to worry. I was supposed to able to handle this.

My wife called me when she was leaving to come home, and I guess she heard the panic in my voice. She asked if I was OK. My voice cracked and I said, “Just please get here soon.”

She raced home and, the SECOND she stepped into our apartment, my daughter stopped crying. The baby smiled. The baby laughed. The baby goddamn cooed.

I handed her to my confused wife without a word, went into our bedroom, locked the door, laid down on the bed, and cried for thirty minutes.

Once I opened the door again, my wife and I had our first conversation about my postpartum depression.

I will say, my depression was extremely manageable in comparison to some stories I’ve heard. It came in waves that seemed to grow smaller and smaller as I became more comfortable as a father. So I was lucky.

Lucky it wasn’t more severe and lucky that my partner was so supportive (even though, again, she had it SO much worse than I did).

But, more than anything, it really opened my eyes about the importance of men needing to talk about postpartum depression.

It doesn’t just happen to women. It is important. And it is valid and OK acknowledge that you’re not feeling right, even when you know your partner is feeling worse.

Men — don’t be afraid to speak up about your anxiety and emotions following the birth of a child.

The healthiest thing you can do, for everyone, is get your feelings out into the open and let your support network do their job, even if they’re breastfeeding and changing diapers while they do it.

Victims Of Bullying At Increased Risk Of Anxiety Disorders And Depression Later On

Children who are bullied are at an increased risk of developing anxiety disorders and depression when they become adults, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study identified that bullying is not simply a ‘harmless rite of passage’, as it can also cause serious adverse health outcomes in the victims and perpetrators, in the form of depression, physical health problems and behavior and emotional problems, psychotic symptoms, and loss of motivation.

The researchers, led by William E. Copeland, Ph.D., of Duke University Medical Center, evaluated the impact that childhood bullying can have on both the victim and the perpetrator in later life. They wanted to determine whether it can be predictor of psychiatric problems in adulthood.

A total of 1,420 people participated in the study, they were assessed regularly from the age of 9 until they turned 16. They were categorized as either bullies, victims, a combination of both, or neither.

The authors said:

“Bullying is not just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. Victims of bullying are at increased risk for emotional disorders in adulthood. Bullies/victims are at highest risk and are most likely to think about or plan suicide. These problems are associated with great emotional and financial costs to society.”

The results showed that victims, as well as bullies/victims, were more likely to have psychiatric disorders in adulthood and experience family hardship and childhood psychiatric problems.

Factoring in family hardship and childhood psychiatric problems, the researchers found that victims of bullying had a high rate of agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, and panic disorder. In addition, they found that bullies/victims were at high risk of depression, panic disorder and suicidality. Bullies were only at risk for antisocial personality disorder.

The authors concluded:

“Bullying can be easily assessed and monitored by health professionals and school personnel, and effective interventions that reduce victimization are available. Such interventions are likely to reduce human suffering and long-term health costs and provide a safer environment for children to grow up in.”

It should be noted that teens suffering from depression tend to be more at risk of being bullied because of difficulties making friends. This could suggest that the victims themselves are more prone to being bullied because of pre-existing psychiatric problems.

How Pokémon Go Can Help with Anxiety, Depression

Pokemon GoI have to admit it. I’m 31. Officially out of the “youthful” age group, according to some of my favorite students. “Mrs. Meg, no one uses Facebook anymore. That’s for old people.” Fair enough.  So I must venture further to confirm that I am not all too shot down with playing the new Pokémon Go. I certainly cannot speak for all my contemporaries, though, nor those in older age brackets. This app, released a mere 7 days ago, has already surpassed total number of downloads and user than the Tinder app and has been projected by a number of people in the know to exceed the number of Twitter users soon. Which means, this app is currently spanning a number of age ranges and demographics and providing a number of positive benefits to the masses.

Apart from the joy of beating your friends in chasing down imaginary figures, this game actually has some mental health implications. Think about it. In order to gain the most points, you have to go the most places, right? One must get off the couch in order to catch (I’m going to keep calling them all “Pokémon”, because we’ve already established I’m not hip enough to know all the names of the characters). Your phone alerts you to the Pokémon in your area, so you have to get up off the couch and go get them if you want the points. They don’t just come to you.

I recently read a post on the old folks’ (remember, that’s Facebook) of a dad who admitted to the benefits of the game in relation to his own daughter. After dinner, it was his daughter’s idea to leash up the pup and go for a walk with the parents in order to catch two Pokémon out in their neighborhood. A young teen actually asked her parents to go on a walk with her! Granted, she still had her phone in hand, but I say, progress. While on the hunt for these two mythical creatures, the aforementioned girl walked 1.5 miles (exercise is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety), and also stopped and talked to a brother and sister, 10 and 13 years old, respectively (having a common introductory topic can be helpful in decreasing social anxiety) who were chasing a Golding – oh look, I found out an actual name – while the dogs played (and who doesn’t love to watch lovable pups having fun in the park?).

Even if you don’t run into someone also on the hunt for a Pokéspot, having the motivation to get up and get outside (free Vitamin D and Serotonin, along with fresh air and additional steps) can be beneficial to those who have found themselves often couch-side due to negative emotional states. It can be possible for individuals to utilize the game to get on the move for health benefits, to achieve instant gratification, to enjoy playing a game with clearly defined boundaries and goals, and allows those participating to tap into our imagination and creativity.

Thoughts?

-MegAnne Duke, LCSW, LCDCi

8 Behaviors Often Mistaken for Depression

Do you know someone who looks and appears depressed but denies it when confronted? Do you believe their rejection of your assessment of them? Could it be that they are”hiding,” covering their true emotions, or simply telling the truth? Even as a trained therapist I have seem my fair share of clients, primarily men and adolescent males, proclaim over and over that they are not depressed even when they appear that way. I ended up second guessing myself and desperately searching for a term, diagnosis, or phenomenon that could help me make sense out of what appeared to be depression. Little did I know, it was pretty simple.

We live in a nation that fervently seeks for answers for behaviors that we do not understand or that do not meet a certain set criteria. For example, mental health professionals will often engage families in learning about depression when a adolescent exhibits traits and behaviors that seem to be depression. Rarely, if ever, will a trained mental health professional ignore other reasons for behaviors that seem like depression. We are all susceptible to mistaking certain behaviors for something way more serious than it actually is.

This article will discuss “normal” behaviors, moods, and traits that can be mistaken for depression symptoms.

When I was beginning in my field in an inpatient child and adolescent residential facility of very troubled and ill youngsters, I began to feel very tired. Every other day I felt more and more tired. I loved the work I did and I felt honored/humbled to be as close to troubled, yet wonderful youths who were mistaken to be “tarnished.” There wasn’t a day that went by that I did not have crippling fatigue or migraine headaches. I found myself developing, because of mild burn-out symptoms, a pessimistic view of today’s youths and their future. This pessimistic view most likely caused others to question whether I was depressed or not.

Trying to identify differences between depressed mood and normal temperament can be a very big challenge, especially for family and friends. It is important to learn the signs of depression so that you can decipher what may or may not be clinical depression. Unfortunately, because depression can be so very similar to other disorders or difficult temperaments, it is important to understand what is and is not a symptom of depression. Some of the following “symptoms” may be more temperament than depression:

  1. Isolation: Believe it or not, some people prefer to be alone. Why? Well, a few reasons may be that they “rejuvenate” through isolation (introverts), they prefer thinking over socializing, or they are avoiding social settings because of a history of social ostracism, discrimination/racism, or bullying. Some people believe isolation is not a bad thing, especially if isolating will keep them from having to be disappointment and uncomfortable in the social arena.  Have you ever heard of the saying “the quietest people have the loudest minds.”
  2. Maturity or serious behavior(s): Some individuals grow up fast while others take a bit more time to become “real adults.” People who “act mature” are often regarded by their peer group as “depressed,” “old,” or “pessimistic.” Mature behaviors or serious thinking styles can cause others to regard the individual as depressed or sad. Many mental health professionals come across as more serious than others at times which can appear to be depression or pessimism. For example, while completing my counseling psychology program in graduate school I often had fellow-classmates make statements about me such as “why don’t you ever joke around in class” or “you do know that therapists can have fun…right?”
  3. Not easily amused or “moved” by things: Some people are simply calm about almost every single thing in their lives. Nothing moves them. “Laid-back” people are sometimes underwhelmed and may not react to certain things like others would. For example, a wedding announcement or baby-announcement may not move the “laid-back” person like it would someone who is more reactive. For me, I tend to be “laid-back” and will only naturally respond to events that truly moves me to respond. Individuals who tend to be underwhelmed may or may not be depressed. It is important to consider the natural mood of the individual before assuming they are depressed.
  4. Emotional or reactive behaviors: As stated above, some individuals are reticent and laid-back while others are not. Individuals who are reactive are often viewed by others as positive or optimistic. Individuals who are thoughtful and tend to react only when necessary, are often viewed as depressed or pessimistic. I’ve heard families of some of my laid-back teen client’s say “OMG. Just tell me already. Don’t you have any thoughts or feelings about this?”
  5. Irritability: One of the hallmark features of depression for men and adolescent males is irritability. For women, depression is often characterized by tearfulness, depressed mood, or mood lability (i.e., changeable moods). But some irritability is temperamental and not based on mood. Temperament is personality and an irritable personality or temperament is not depression.
  6. Substance abuse and use of alcohol: Self-medication with drugs and alcohol is often a “symptom” of depressed mood. But there are some individuals who will use drugs and alcohol for social purposes (i.e., engaging with others or interacting at parties) or because they are addicted/dependent. Substance abuse/dependency does not always = depression.
  7. Anhedonia or lack of motivation: As difficult as it may be to believe, some individuals are born unmotivated. Individuals who seem to “take things in stride” or “does not care” may not be depressed. Again, temperament is often a major influence of personality. It is important to understand that individuals who have a positive temperament will most likely lose motivation if depressed. An individual who has always been unmotivated does not have to be depressed.
  8. Interest in “dark” subjects such as death/dying, life challenges, tribulation, or sorrow: Individuals who like to listen to depressing or “dark” music (or read dark/depressing books/articles, etc.) does not have to be depressed. As you know, some people enjoy topics that speak about life challenges, death, or depressed moods/attitudes. This does not always insinuate a depressed mood. While many of us are drawn to things that “speak” to our challenges, primarily when struggling with some aspect of life, other individuals gravitate toward this kind of stuff all of the time.

-Tamara Hill, MS, LPC

Bipolar/Mood Disorders – What can I do to help me feel better?

  • Know the difference between your symptoms and your true self. Your health care providers can help you separate your true identity from your symptoms by helping you see how your illness affects your behavior. Be open about behaviors you want to change and set goals for making those changes.
  • Educate your family and involve them in treatment when possible. They can help you spot symptoms, track behaviors, and gain perspective. They can also give encouraging feedback and help you make a plan to cope with any future crises.
  • Work on healthy lifestyle choices. Recovery is also about a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular sleep, healthy eating, and the avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and risky behavior.
  • Find the treatment that works for you. Talk to your health care provider about your medications’ effects on you, especially the side effects that bother you. There are many options for you to try. It is very important to talk to your health care provider first before you make any changes to your medication or schedule.

-Talkspace

4 Ways to Survive Unexpected Situations

Expert advice for maintaining your confidence and finding a positive outcome.

Life throws unexpected things at us all the time. Some we like—such as finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk—but many of them we don’t, such as missing a flight due to an extra long line at airport security. Sometimes unexpected events can be much more serious, such as an illness or a job loss. Needless to say, these kinds of events can be quite distressing.

What you need to rely on most during these difficult times is your ability to think creatively and solve problems. However, research shows that negative emotions such as fear, anger, and frustration can actually cause your brain’s executive network, which is responsible for problem solving, to constrict and work less effectively. On the other hand, positive emotions help your brain generate more creative solutions to problems.

How can you become more successful at dealing with life’s curve balls? Although you can’t control the occurrence of unexpected situations, you can control how you respond—and that can make all the difference in how you feel and how you deal with distressing issues. Following are four ways to survive unexpected stress, and maybe even come out ahead:

1. Pause before you act.

There is a huge difference between a reaction and a response. A reaction comes from an automatic part of the brain. It is almost like a reflex. Reactions are very quick, especially when we feel threatened in someway. On the other hand, a response is something you consciously choose to do based on a more thoughtful assessment of a situation. For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic your automatic reaction might be to get angry and assume the driver is deliberately being rude or thoughtless. This anger can cause you to want to retaliate in some way. By pausing and taking time to think, you give yourself a window of opportunity to pick a better option. You might decide that retaliating is not in your best interest or you may realize that the driver wasn’t deliberately trying to be disrespectful, but was simply not paying attention. For most people, practicing deep breathing and counting to 10 can help restrain a reaction long enough to choose a better response. If you are a very visual person you may even imagine yourself aiming a remote control at the situation and pushing the pause button. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is another great way to increase your ability to pause before acting.

2. Don’t assume that the things you don’t want are bad. 

Most people automatically assume that if something they don’t want happens to them, it’s a bad thing that will likely lead to an even worse outcome down the road. If you break up with your partner, you may think it is awful because you will never find anyone better and you will always be alone. If you don’t get a job you sought, you may think no one will ever hire you and you will be stuck living with your parents forever. Thinking this way inevitably makes you feel terrible.

For most of the things that happen to you, there’s no way of knowing whether they will be a bad thing or a good thing—and which one an event turns out to be often has a lot to do with how you respond. If you end a relationship, blame yourself, become despondent, and never leave the house, you increase the likelihood of not finding another relationship. However, if you accept that, for whatever reason, it was not the right relationship for you, maintain a positive attitude, believe that a better relationship is coming your way, and then get involved in fun activities, you significantly increase the likelihood of finding another great partner, possibly one who is an even better match.

Unexpected situations often have the potential to open the door to new events in our lives that we do want. If you miss your plane, you may end up meeting the love of your life on a different flight. If you lose your job and are forced to move to a new city, you may meet a great new set of friends, or find your dream home. You never know what will come of a situation, so rather than assuming a situation is bad, which only generates lots of unhelpful, negative emotions, practice saying to yourself, “We shall see.” Then make an effort to look ahead with hope.

3. Plan for everything to turn out well.

Many people hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The problem with this strategy is that we act on our expectations, yet our actions create our experiences. If you want a good outcome, you have to plan for one because that is what leads to the actions that create good experiences. An unexpected event is one you didn’t plan for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan to create the best possible outcome from the situation. We all have the ability to shift our attention from an unexpected event that seems like a big problem and focus instead on finding the solution. The minute you ask yourself what you can do to make something better, you have taken the first step in planning for events to go well. When you see a plan laid out in front of you for how to make something turn out well, your assessment of the situation starts to change. You regain your sense of control and as a result you start to feel better.

4. Trust in your ability to be OK.

Most people have been through more than one difficult thing in their life. You’ve probably already been through several significant challenges and quite a few smaller bumps in the road. No one likes them, but most of us survive them. When you are in the middle of a difficult situation, instead of assuming it won’t work out, think about the things you have already been through and ask yourself, “What did I do to get through those events?” Knowing your own strength is important for self-confidence. If focusing on your strong qualities doesn’t come naturally, ask someone who knows you well to give you a boost. When you redirect your attention from a problem to the knowledge that you’re able to handle it, you will start to feel better.

-Jennice Vilhauer, PhD

Exercise as an Anti-Depressant

The following exercise tips offer a powerful prescription for boosting mood:

  • Exercise now… and again. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. The key to sustaining mood benefits is to exercise regularly.
  • Choose activities that are moderately intense. Aerobic exercise undoubtedly has mental health benefits, but you don’t need to sweat strenuously to see results.
  • Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic (rather than intermittent). Walking, swimming, dancing, yoga, and cycling or stationery biking are good choices.
  • Add a mind-body element. Activities such as yoga and tai chi rest your mind and increase your energy. You can also add a meditative element to walking or swimming by repeating a mantra (a word or phrase) as you move.
  • Start slowly, and don’t overdo it. More isn’t better. Athletes who over train find their moods drop rather than lift.

-Talkspace

How to Support a Partner Dealing With Depression

As a mental health counselor and someone who has battled depression for most of her life, I’m no stranger to the toll it can take on relationships.

While it differs from person to person, at its core, the illness causes people to feel lonely, inadequate, and misunderstood—even isolated. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to inflict our pain on the people we love. Other times, it’s because we’ve been hurt by (even well-meaning) others and don’t want to risk feeling even worse than we already do.


When someone with depression withdraws from loved ones without communicating why, it leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. A partner may not understand why their S.O. is distant, distracted, or even angry. They may wonder what they did to offend the other person, or they may be frustrated that their partner is suddenly detached from them.

In addition to intense feelings of shame, sadness, and worthlessness, depression can manifest itself physically—including changes in sex drive, sleep; and appetite; energy loss; and even physical pain, such as headaches, stomach pains, and back or neck pain. This leads to more confusion for a partner, who may wonder why their loved one is often sick or generally disinterested in events and activities (including sex).

Expressing my feelings when I’m depressed has always been a challenge, especially in relationships. I’m afraid of coming across as whiny, ungrateful, or melodramatic. I have been blamed for the way I was feeling and told that I was a negative person. I have had a partner turn away from me as I was crying in bed, telling me he couldn’t tolerate me when I was “like that.” Mostly, I have been ignored, or told to take a pill or go see a therapist so I could “get fixed.”

We’ve been able to develop a course of action that works for both of us, resulting in communication, understanding, and support.

Two years ago, I began a new relationship. Because of my previous experiences, it was difficult not to repeat the same habits—I withdrew when I was feeling depressed, closing myself off completely, which took a toll on our relationship.

But eventually, we were able to talk openly about my depression and behaviors surrounding it. Over time, we’ve developed a course of action that works for both of us, resulting in communication, understanding, and support. What works for us may not work for everyone, but these are methods we have found to be helpful.

5 Tips That Worked for Us

1. Make communication your highest priority.

It can be as simple as switching your language from “Gosh, I’m so upset” to “I’m depressed” to let your partner know that it’s more than being annoyed about traffic or bills. Explaining your triggers, warning signs, and symptoms can help them better understand your illness and respond in a supportive and productive way.

2. Come up with code words.

For me, it can still be hard to say, “I’m depressed.” For some reason, those two words stick in my throat like cement. There are so many years of shame attached to them, and saying them sometimes feels like I’m giving in to the depression.

During times like this, my partner has worked out a way for us to continue communicating. He will ask, “Is it in the kitchen or the living room?”—meaning, how intensely are you feeling it right now? I’ll respond that it’s down the street, or at the door, or in bed with me.

Another way we increase communication is through more direct questions. When I say “I don’t feel well,” he will ask “Physically or emotionally?” This opens up the conversation for specifics, instead of one or both of us shutting down.

Accept that this is part of your relationship with your partner, instead of trying to change or cure them.

3. Don’t try to solve the problem.

Partners of those struggling with depression tend to feel helpless and may jump to problem-solving or giving advice. Often, someone who is depressed knows what they need to do to feel better; they don’t have the energy to do so in that moment. In these situations, it is very powerful to simply be with your partner. Accept that this is part of your relationship, instead of trying to change or cure them. Holding their hand, giving eye contact, and actively listening can help far more than offering suggestions for things they should be doing. Talking through thoughts and feelings can effectively reduce symptoms, and knowing that someone loves you when you’re feeling at your worst is both healing and empowering.

4. Provide basic comforts.

Drawing a warm bath, whipping up a meal or a cup of tea, or even giving a back rub can be life-changing for someone suffering with depression. Because depression often makes people feel unworthy or unattractive, words of encouragement are also vital. Finding other ways to be intimate when your partner is not feeling well shows sensitivity and relieves pressure from a partner who may feel inadequate.

5. Give reminders and encouragement.

People with depression may believe the things they are feeling are a result of who they are as a person, which can result in self-loathing. They may feel shame or guilt for not being able to better control their emotions. My partner will often remind me that my depression is not me, and that I am separate from it. He also reminds me that depression is an illness, and like any other illness, the one who is sick is not to blame. When he points out my strengths and past successes, it empowers me and reminds me that I will eventually feel better again.

The Bottom Line

While a partner may not be able to take away their loved one’s depression, they can provide the strong support system that is vital to a person’s mental health and sense of self. Through patience, understanding, and open communication, a partner gives their loved one a space to heal and feel safe to communicate what they are feeling. Having a relationship where one or both partners experience depression can be a challenge, but if both are willing to put in the time and effort, the result can be a strong, supportive relationship built on trust and understanding.

-Lauren Hasha