Depression: A Challenge for Relationships
Can depression affect our relationships? The answer is yes. Sadly, because depression affects our lives in so many ways, our relationships may suffer. Sometimes even suffer badly when one partner is depressed. It's such a travesty! However, did you know that a healthy relationship may actually be very therapeutic for a person suffering with depression? Yes, it's true! When we feel down, we may not show it but we need love, support, and closeness more than ever.
When Your Partner Is Depressed
Your partner could pull away because they don't have the energy to keep with their normal routine. They may not even notice your attentiveness, which can make you feel unwanted or unloved, and you may soon feel that you partner has lost interest or has even become hostile to your affection. Don't take it personally! This is very important. It can be extremely difficult, but remain calm, and relax when your partner is becoming distant and unhappy - Just keep in mind that your partner is suffering from an illness that can pass with time. Remember the nature of their illness when they won't smile or don't appreciate the good moments that you share together, and recognize that it's the illness that causes them to lose concentration and fail to acknowledge what you are saying to them when you talk. When you think that you are at your wits end, and their behavior indicates that they want nothing to do with you, remember that this is a mental illness. This will help to keep things in perspective for you as they begin undergoing treatment.
Can this illness affect sexual interest and performance? Yes. It certainly can. Depression is known to slow down all major bodily systems and adversely impacts sleep and energy levels. Subsequently, all activities requiring energy and coordination can also be affected, including sex. Some depressed people will not admit this because sex is the only thing that gives them comfort and reassurance as they strive manage to maintain a normal sex life, but the impact of chronic depression on the relationship can cause them to lack the energy to make the romantic overtures that turn you on or they could completely lose interest in sex in general. Men suffering from depression often feel tired or hopeless, which may be associated with loss of libido and erection problems. Meanwhile women may experience a lack of sexual interest and have difficulties getting turned on or achieving orgasm. The good news is that these problems tend to diminish as the depression improves. In fact, renewed interest in sexual activities may be the first sign of recovery!
Can antidepressants affect sex? Yes. Usually. Antidepressant medicines can interfere with sexual function, and one of the most common side-effects is reduced sexual sensation and delayed or non occurring orgasms. If this happens, you should speak with your doctor to see if you can adjust the dosage of medication in order to reduce these side-effects, but don't suddenly quit the meds just because you want to regain your sex drive!
What The Depressed Person Can Do
Can depressed people help themselves and their relationship? Yes! There are good days and bad days. On good days, make a serious effort to show love and affection to your partner, and experiment with going for a walk every day with your partner. Exercise can get you out in the fresh air and this may give you a boost because also releases endorphins in the brain and is known to be very effective for alleviating mild to moderate depression. The 'happy' chemicals released by exercise elevate your mood quickly. Going outside for a walk even on your worst days may bring unexpectedly positive moments like noticing a bird singing or a new flower blooming in your garden. Train yourself to notice at least three of these positive moments per day.
Eat five pieces of fruit and vegetables per day, even if you have little appetite. Listen to music that is important to you and trust that the depression will pass as you continue to take action to treat your depression. One day, hopefully soon, you will enjoy your life with full color once again. Remember that caring for your partner is not only good for your physical health, but your mental health as well, so show them affection, even if you don't feel fully engaged. If you don’t feel like sex, make the effort to cuddle and show affection. Touch and closeness can keep a relationship intact, so if you cuddling is all you can do, talk with your partner. If you do this, you may both feel a lot better.
What You Can Do For Your Depressed Partner
Can I help my depressed partner? Yes! Be honest about empathy because you don't know what your partner is going through. Be sympathetic and strive to understand their experience, and remember that they are experiencing a mental illness that may pass with proper treatment. Their loss of interest is most likely not personal but rather a consequence of their depression - Everything slows down with depression and begins to lose optimal functionality, and that includes quality of relationships and communication. Your constant love and constant support should be of great help in persuading your partner of his or her self-worth, and encouraging your partner to get all the professional help they can should be balanced with giving your partner plenty of tender loving care and patience.
Do something nice for yourself too! Being around a depressed person can be demanding and very draining, so make sure you look after yourself. Take some alone time or socialize with friends. Depressed people often want to stay home and not do much, but if you do this too, you could become very frustrated and perhaps even develop your own sense of depression. Don't forget that this period in your life will pass and that your partner is the same person underneath the depression that he or she was before - With consistent love, attention, and proper treatment, this will pass.
- Jeff Stein
In the best of times relationships can be challenging and tough. When one of the pair suffers from depression it is more than difficult, and it can often seem impossible. Under certain circumstances the test is insurmountable.
I have suffered from depression at different times throughout my life, but when I was younger I did not know or understand what it was, and I absolutely did not know how to deal with it. I know there were times in my life when I was sad, but the feelings I had as a child and adolescent were more than sadness.
For example, I was sad when my first pet was hit by a vehicle and killed when I was six years old, and I was depressed when my mother moved 400 miles away from home in the middle of the night and left me to live with my grandparents when I was twelve years old. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I know that losing my pet was sadness and living without my parent ignited my depression. I was not able to articulate my feelings. I could not even label or name my feelings much less articulate them, and my grandparents certainly did not recognize it. In fact, I am not sure that any doctor would have diagnosed depression in children in the 1980s, and I feel confident in saying that a doctor in rural America would not have diagnosed an adolescent with depression at the time.
Now these many years later, I am married with children, and I have worked as a marriage and relationship counselor. I can clinically see depression in my clients as well as myself. However, I still find difficulty in confronting the cause of my own emotional traumas.
I am blessed with a wife who was not only a cheerleader for over half her life, from elementary school through college, but also to me for nearly twenty years. She has been my biggest fan and most outspoken cheerleader throughout our life together. I hope at some point I can repay the blessing to her. She is always there to pick me up and encourage me to be the best that I can be. Her actions will not cure me of my depression or of its affects, but her praise certainly does not hurt. When I am at my lowest, she can lift me up from the doldrums of despair, and she will have me at an even keel, if not above the water line, before I even realize. What a blessing. I wish for all of us to have such people in our lives.
The reality of relationships is that we can all have people who are an inspiration to us if we allow them to be. We often determine on our own that we are not going to allow other people to be a blessing to us, but in so doing we actually rob them of a blessing.
Our Pastor each week ends the worship services with this prayer, “Heavenly Father, bless us and in so doing, may we be blessed while being a blessing to others.”
Depression – how it affects sex and relationships. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2014, from http://m.netdoctor.co.uk/sex_relationships/facts/depressrelation.htm
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