Depression can be catching. When someone is depressed, the illness touches everyone who is close to that person.
If someone you love is depressed, whether it is your spouse, parent, child, boyfriend, girlfriend, or friend, your whole life can be affected. You may feel you’ve lost your confidant and lover, the person with whom you enjoy all sorts of activities, and on whom you rely for many of your own needs. You may find yourself assuming some of the depressed person’s responsibilities, or “covering” for him or her in social situations. You may suffer from financial instability if your loved one cannot work while in the grip of depression.
When someone you love is depressed, you may try a variety of ideas to improve his or her mood. No matter how hard you try, you may not be able to alleviate the depression, or to persuade your loved one to seek psychotherapy or take any other action to help himself or herself. It can be frustrating and terrifying to watch someone you love suffer, and feel unable to help.
Loving someone who is depressed, and going through these experiences yourself, you might feel a whole range of emotions, including anger, anxiety, depression, fear, helplessness, hopelessness, and shame.
Like many individuals with a depressed loved one, you may not believe that you are entitled to ask for help–whether in psychotherapy or just from a friend. You may worry that you are selfish or are complaining if you talk about the difficulties you experience as a result of your loved one’s depression. This isolation can make your painful feelings worse.
When someone you love is depressed, you need to take care of yourself, both for your sake and in order to help your loved one. Working with a skilled mental health professional in psychotherapy can help you to improve your mood, reduce your own depression, and regain a sense of hope.
When I work with someone in my practice who has a depressed loved one, our goal is to reclaim your life, rather than losing yourself in your loved one’s illness. Here are some of the steps we take in psychotherapy, which I recommend to anyone who is facing this situation:
- Explore how you are being affected by the depression
- Identify your needs and find ways to meet them as much as possible
- Improve self-care and build your support system
- Make a plan to support and help your loved one
- Find ways to reduce isolation
If depression has a grip on someone you love, psychotherapy may well be helpful to you, and by extension, to the person you love. Feel free to contact me if you would like to consider taking action on your own behalf.