Dealing with depression in relationships
Depression is often confused for sadness and vice versa. Many don’t realize that depression isn’t just a momentary emotional downtime but a mental situation that needs to be diagnosed by a licensed psychologist.
What is Depression?
It is a mental health disorder with symptoms like deep extreme sadness, fatigue, irritability, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness and a lack of interest in doing activities that one used to enjoy. Depression is not just about feeling sad or down. This mental illness is often accompanied by suicidal thoughts.
Depression occurs in many different forms and of course, is caused by different situations. It can happen after one has had a baby (postnatal depression), or after the death of a loved one, and it can certainly occur in relationships as well.
What is most important is that this illness cannot be diagnosed casually. Like other illnesses such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections or erectile dysfunction, one has to visit a licensed psychologist to get a diagnosis that confirms depression.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in four Nigerians suffer from depression.
Depression in Relationships
Just like a single person can experience this mental sickness, so can a person or people in a relationship. Sometimes, the relationship can be the cause of depression, and in other times, someone in a happy relationship can also experience it.
There are many possible reasons why depression occurs in a relationship. For women, some of the reasons include, but are not limited to abuse, infidelity, fertility problems, or problems in the relationship. Sometimes, the cause may be deeply rooted in trauma that one faced in childhood or while they were much younger.
If one partner in a relationship is depressed, it will negatively impact both partners in many ways. They can lash out or shut the other person out and it can affect their sex life and also affect bonding with their kids if they have any.
Marriage has been shown to be a risk factor in the development of depression in African women, specifically because of the gender-specific demands placed on women in African cultures.
Studies have also shown that depression impacts black women more significantly than non-black women, so it helps to be aware, to know what signs to look out for and to know when to seek help from a licensed psychologist, doctor or counsellor.
How to deal with Depression in Relationships
- Get a diagnosis: Don’t conclude you have depression until you have seen a licensed psychologist.
- Admit it: It’s not always easy to admit or deal with mental health struggles, but the first step is admitting that something is wrong. When you can admit that you need help, then you can start to look for how to get help and get better.
- Talk to your partner: If you are depressed, there is a huge chance that your partner has noticed that something is wrong, and there is a possibility that they feel helpless and confused. If you’re comfortable with it, share your struggle with your partner and assure them that they are not at fault for how you feel. If they are the trigger for your depression like in the case of abuse for instance, you should talk to a professional instead. They will be able to guide you in making the right decisions that will help you get better, even though this might mean the end of the relationship.
- Get professional help: If your partner shows support and is willing, you can both seek professional help from therapists that will help you get diagnosed, navigate your mental illness and help you get better.
- Show support: if your partner is suffering from depression, the best you can do is listen to them, show that you support and love them regardless, and are willing to help them in getting better. You can show support by not pressing them to talk if they don’t want to, listening to them, not trying to fix them and even attending therapy sessions with them.
Like most mental illnesses, depression is curable with lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, good sleeping habits, meditation, yoga, identifying and avoiding triggers etc.
Also, just like physical illness, mental illnesses have professionals that are skilled in providing care and guidance on how to get better and healthier. It’s always a good idea to see a therapist, who will provide the best care possible in getting healthier and getting rid of depression.
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