Four Rules for Living with a Depressed Person:

The couple sitting opposite me in my San Mateo office looks like a very nice couple. They say they love each other. But, the marriage is ending. He wants out. He says, “I can’t live with her depression anymore.” “It’s her negativity, her tunnel vision and her never ending pattern of self-defeat.” He is tired of always making excuses for her.

If you are in a relationship with someone that is depressed, then you know it is not easy. Recent studies have shown that only 30% of people that take an antidepressant are helped by it. Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame that goes with depression and this can prevent people from getting the help they need. If you are in a relationship with someone that suffers from depression, it is important to maintain your boundaries. Here are four rules to live by:
  1. Understand the disorder. Take time to find out what depression really is. There are many myths about depression out there. There is also a lot of denial.
  2. Don not try to rescue. The person that suffers from depression may put pressure on you to fix whatever they perceive as the problem. You may feel guilty when the person places demands on you, remember to hold your ground and not take on the omnipotent parent role. The person suffering from depression may be a slave to their disorder, but you don’t have to be.
  3. Tell them what you need. Your partner may be ill, but you still have needs. Relationships are built on the mutual meeting of needs. It is important to be realistic, while identifying your own needs and boundaries in the relationship. Do not make promises that you can’t keep. This will only make things more difficult in the future.
  4. Encourage the depressed person to seek help. Many people that suffer from depression are in denial or self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Or, by working to much or shopping. In the long run this will only cause the person to crash and feel worse. Part of taking care of yourself is seeing that the depressed person gets help.
The good news is that depression can be treated and people are able to live with the illness. As a Marriage and Family Therapist I specialize in working with couples. If you are in a relationship with someone that is depressed please call for a consultation, (650) 892-0357.


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