If you’re dealing with a depressed girlfriend, here’s how to help without making it worse.
I’ve been dating my girlfriend for almost a year. She is 25 and has had depression much of her life.
She tells me she is hopeless, wants to die, and is not sure how much longer she can go on like this. She sees a therapist and psychiatrist regularly.
When I ask, she’ll tell me that it wasn’t this dark when we started dating. (I think?) She can recognize how the recent events may have impacted her emotionally as well. I get confused and frustrated when she says things like “there is no hope and it’s not going to ever get better” because she’ll also tell me that it wasn’t like this a few months ago.
Is it normal for someone who has severe depression to not be able to acknowledge and recognize that she wasn’t feeling this hopeless not that long ago?
Is there anything I can do to help her see past those blinders?
I have hope for her and I want her to be able to see that there is hope since she didn’t always feel like this. I am aware that’s not my job and that I can’t make her see anything.
I would also appreciate any other feedback on how I can support her. I’ve been working on acknowledging her feelings when she says things like “I don’t want to bother you” “You’d be better off without me” and other things that are 100% not true from my perspective.
First, I’m not a licensed medical professional and this is not medical advice. If you or a loved one requires professional counseling, therapy or other intervention, please consult the appropriate professionals.
I’m glad your depressed girlfriend already has a treatment team in place. If you hadn’t mentioned she was seeking treatment for depression, I would have suggested that you help her get in contact with the appropriate mental health professionals as your first step.
Just making the first call to get help can be really, really hard when you’re clinically depressed.
With that out of the way, I’m really sorry you and your girlfriend are going through this.
When someone finds themselves in a relationship with a clinically depressed partner, they can fall into a few nasty traps that don’t make the situation better at all, so I commend you on trying to get answers for how to help your depressed girlfriend.
Falling into patterns of codependency is a big problem for depressed partners. If you’re naturally a caretaker type of person, the subconscious fact you have a new “project,” namely “Help Fix My Girlfriend’s Depression” can be a really, really seductive idea.
Suddenly, you have renewed purpose in life. Fixing your girlfriend’s depression.
This attitude will cause you heartache to no end.
In the case of clinical depression, wondering how you can fix your girlfriend’s depression is like googling how you can cure your girlfriend’s cancer using only the powers of your mind.
Not exactly a research-supported strategy I would bet on in a pinch.
While you didn’t cause her depression, can’t cure it and it’s not your responsibility, I deeply respect your desire to help her or at least not make things worse.
So, with that said, here’s 21 ways you can help your girlfriend with depression.
1. Quit arguing, disagreeing or trying to “reason with” her negative thought distortions.
Never argue or disagree with whatever feeling or intense and overriding hopeless judgement your depressed girlfriend is making in the moment.
Just quietly listen to her, look in her direction and let her talk it out if she wants to open up. Hug her if she’s open to that.
Don’t add your opinion, advice, helpful suggestions or any analysis. Just empathize and be understanding (even if you really don’t and can’t actually understand).
Try your best not to sound patronizing in any way.