Living with someone who is depressed is not easy, whether that’s a partner, sibling or parent. You may find that the mood of the household is directly affected by that person’s mood. They may be reluctant to engage in activities that they previously enjoyed and this could be affecting your lifestyle. It’s perfectly natural for a lot of your energy to go into supporting the person with depression. However it’s important to pay attention to your own needs – you’re just as important! So how can you be supportive and get through this without losing yourself? This week’s blog is full of tips that will help you and the person you’re living with.



Recognising that someone is depressed


What are the signs that you should be aware of? You may have some concerns but not be sure whether this is actually depression. Some typical signs might be that they are not engaging in activities they usually find enjoyable. They might have a consistently low mood and / or be irritable. Sufferers are highly likely to be extremely tired, and sleeping less or much more than usual. It may be that they are using alcohol or tobacco to a much greater extent than usual for them. For a comprehensive list of symptoms and behaviours, have a look at this summary from Mind.

There is often a lack of understanding about the cycle of depression, even when speaking to a GP. They often focus on medication without explaining how and why that medication might help. Also it’s useful to understand the role of sleep, dreams and worrying in the cycle of depression. Both you and the person who is depressed might benefit from checking out this article, Understanding the Cycle of Depression.


Is depression contagious? 


Now that might sound ridiculous, I mean medically we know depression isn’t contagious. But in practical terms, you can ‘catch’ depression. If you’ve checked out the aforementioned cycle of depression article, you’ll know the role worry and introspection plays in depression. When we worry a lot, and we’re probably worrying about the depressed person, it creates over-dreaming. Over-dreaming leads to feeling exhausted and lacking in motivation, which can stop us from living our lives the way we used to. 

As well as this, if our partner is depressed, or one of our parents who are our caregivers, this can have a huge impact on our lives too. Your social life might be affected if your partner no longer wants to engage with other people. As a child, you might be shouldering the responsibility of cooking or cleaning. These changes can mean that basic emotional needs are not being well met. Needs such as receiving attention, having a sense of community and a sense of control can become compromised. It is important that all of our emotional needs are met in healthy balanced ways. And when they aren’t met, we can be at risk of anxiety, stress and also depression. 

So whilst we can’t ‘catch’ depression, we’re at risk of the situation creating conditions for us to become depressed ourselves. 


It’s not selfish to take care of yourself! 


In order to help someone else,  you need to be well yourself, otherwise you’ll both be struggling. 

How can you make sure that you take the best care of yourself while living with someone who is depressed?  Try these tips: 

  • Get outside for some fresh air every day if possible. Even a small amount of exercise, especially if taken outside, can calm stress levels, and raise your mood. You could go alone or, if you persuade them to come too, it could be something positive to do together.

  • Take time to be alone. Privacy is another of our emotional needs. Even if it is just time spent in the car driving, it’s important that you get some time by yourself. Try listening to music, podcasts or have a relaxing bath. 

  • Keep in touch with friends. Our friends are important to make sure we stay connected. Life with a depressed person can become very insular. You need to be able to speak about what’s happening in your life without judgement. This helps you to order your thoughts and reflect. But it’s also important that you don’t spend your time with friends just talking about life at home. Keeping your focus on the other person helps you maintain a connection with others and give yourself a well needed break from all the issues you might have at home. 

  • Learn something new. If time or finances allow, spend some time each week on a new skill or hobby. Learning something new challenges your brain and it rewards us by releasing endorphins that will raise your mood.  

  • Take an emotional needs audit and check out how your emotional needs are being met currently. This will help you to see if there are any potential areas that need addressing. Check it out here. 


Practical tips to help someone with depression 


  • If you’re living with someone who is depressed then reassure them that these feelings will pass. Sometimes its hard to remember what life was like before or to imagine that it will ever be like that again. It’s important though to acknowledge what they are feeling is valid whilst reassuring them it will pass. 
  • Listen to their feelings without judgement. Even if you feel that what they’re saying isn’t right, don’t contradict them. What they are feeling is what they are feeling. 
  • Don’t do everything for them. It’s tempting to take care of everything for them, but this won’t help in the long run. Ask them what it is that you could do to help them and encourage them to do some things themselves as well. 
  • Don’t be critical. If you’ve not suffered with depression, it can be hard to understand that they can’t just shake it off. Depression is debilitating and consuming. Try not to put too much pressure on them to get help, they need to come to that decision themselves. 
  • Be open to talking about depression and make sure that they know that you support them in getting help. Accept that this may take time. 


It’s not a competition 


Sometimes it can feel like all of the attention and energy goes to the person with depression. It’s easy to feel as if you’re losing yourself in their depression. This understandably can cause resentment and also anger. Understand that having depression makes us very self-centred. It is natural for someone who is depressed to separate themselves from others. They may feel numb and hopeless. Don’t let lack of attention dent your self-esteem, it’s not personal. By focusing on things that raise your mood, looking after yourself physically and emotionally, this will affect you less.  


Recognise that everyone is responsible for their own actions


Ultimately, everyone is responsible for themselves.  You can encourage them to get help but it is their journey and they may not be ready. Recognise that they are on their own timetable. 

You can help them in practical ways, rather than nagging them to go to the doctor. Try engaging them in activities that interest them. Encourage them to eat healthy food as this will help. However, it’s important that you accept they may be leaning on things to get by, such as alcohol or tobacco. These are likely to be boosting emotional needs that are lacking. It is more beneficial to try to boost these needs, such as community, or purpose, rather than nagging them to drink or smoke less. If their needs are better met, they naturally won’t rely so heavily on inferior replacements. 


Sometimes, just being there is enough


Sometimes just being there and not judging is what’s needed. We tend to look for solutions and then we get frustrated when someone doesn’t act on our advice. But someone with depression may not be able to put your advice into practice right now. Allow them to progress along their journey at their own pace. Take care of your own mental health and be a strong and non-judgemental support for the other person. This way you can weather the storm together and come out of the other side together.

I hope you have found this information about living with someone who is depressed helpful. As always please share if you know someone who would benefit from reading it. For more information and useful downloads, head over to our website.

With very best wishes


Book your free phone consultation for proven therapy that works


Share This