How to Cope With Partners Living With Depression

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Depression can have devastating effects on marriage and other partnerships. About 18 million Americans have depression, according to a 2008 study by the University of Maryland Medical Center. That means millions of people are currently dealing with a partner's depression. The good news is that you can help. It takes patience and the belief that you can have a positive impact.

Talk. Initiate a discussion with your partner about his or her feelings. Sometimes depressed people don't see their own depression--or the effect it is having on others. Be adamant. But also remember that your partner's depression is not your fault, says Barry Jacobs, a family therapist.

Listen. Depressed individuals need a sympathetic ear---and that doesn't mean just a mental health expert. Loved ones can have a big impact on depression recovery. Partners who simply allow a depressed person to talk and express their feelings and frustrations can help to ease tensions at home and further professional treatment efforts.

Help out. Sometimes the simplest things can aid depression treatment and recovery. Look for opportunities to reduce household stress. Jacobs warns against "enabling" depression by giving more help than is necessary, however. You should expect your partner to participate in everyday life.

Be involved. Attending doctor's appointments and understanding medication doses and side effects are positive ways to involve yourself in a partner's treatment. Don't be intrusive, however. Make sure that ask your partner's permission first, says Dr. Myrna Weissman, a director at the NY State Psychiatric Institute.

Get treatment yourself. Dr. Weissman reports that partners of depressed spouses are often also depressed. Getting your own treatment plan may also help you to understand what your partner is going through.