Depression and How You Can Support Your Partner

By Ashley Barnes

Depression and relationships.

Depression often impacts a person’s functioning in several spheres of their lives including but not limited to employment, education, tasks of daily living, and our interpersonal relationships. Romantic relationships in particular can take the brunt of depressive hardship. Many people report that their romantic relationships have become strained as a result of living with depression. This strain may be due to the relationship dynamic being impacted by a combination of depression symptoms and a lack of understanding.

Understanding depression.

Understanding what your partner experiences, even if you haven’t personally experienced depression, can help foster a deeper sense of empathy. Some people best understand depression through metaphors. One such metaphor is that depression feels like being stuck at the bottom of a well. Your partner, at the bottom of the well, feels stuck, isolated, and too exhausted to climb out. They may try to start climbing out, but it is exhausting and feels futile. You may call down to them words of encouragement, and though they may feel less alone, it can still be extremely burdensome to climb out of the well.

Learning how to support and understand our partners with empathy and patience is a wonderful step towards bettering their quality of life and your relationship as a whole. Your partner may feel that they need to be thrown a rope to help them climb out of the well that is depression, and this rope could be in the form of psychotherapy, medication (including ketamine therapy for depression), or a combination of both. Supporting your partner through getting professional help can aid in their climbing and can ultimately bring you even closer to your loved one in the end. 

Depression is one of the most common mental health challenges that people face, with approximately 4.7% of American adults experiencing regular feelings of depression (CDC, 2022). Considering the entire population of the United States and that many people live undiagnosed, this is a stark number of people living with depression. 

Common depression symptoms that your partner may be experiencing are:

  • Depressed mood: feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness.
  • Lack of pleasure: in various activities, even those you love most.
  • Fluctuations in weight: eating more or less than usual.
  • Sleep changes: you may find yourself sleeping more or less than you normally would.
  • Slowing down: you may be observed by others to move and talk slower than usual.
  • Loss of energy: you may experience tiredness and lack of energy.
  • Guilt: this feeling may become excessive and may be accompanied by feelings of worthlessness.
  • Concentration changes: you may have trouble focusing or making decisions.
  • Thoughts of death: some people experience thoughts of suicide or related ideation (APA, 2013). 
    • If you have any of these thoughts and have an intent to act on them, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call or text 988 for your own safety.

Helping yourself is helping your partner.

Supporting someone with depression actually starts with supporting yourself. It is challenging to watch a loved one live with depression, hard to watch them struggle with symptoms, and can be exhausting trying to help when your efforts don’t seem to work. Those who are living with depression need sensitive and caring support which can be hard to give when you are feeling emotionally drained. You may feel the strong desire to help your partner while also feeling burnt out, and many people feel that way. To better help your partner, you must maintain strong support for yourself through connecting with social support networks, engaging in self care, and seeking professional help if you feel that you need it. 





American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Publisher. Text citation: (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). FastStats – depression. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 14, 2022, from