If your boyfriend is depressed or going through a tumultuous time, we know this situation can be extremely distressing for you as well. You probably spend a lot of time worrying about him and trying to make things easier for him. Always make sure he stays away from any triggers, ensuring that he doesn’t have any major episodes and always censoring your own behavior so as to not upset him – having a depressed boyfriend can be quite the responsibility on your shoulders.
With a brave smile and optimistic outlook, you might try to uplift his spirits as often as you can. Loving someone with depression or helping a depressed boyfriend is just not an easy thing to do. The stress from your loved one’s lack of well-being can truly take a toll on your own mental health too.
But that does not mean you should give up or walk out on them. Relationships always bring their own crazy set of hurdles and this is just one of them. If you do truly love him, then your heart will ask you to stay and be the best girlfriend you can be to him.
But if you’re asking ‘I do love him intensely but I don’t know how to help my depressed boyfriend’, then your worries can end right here. We are here to help you figure out how you can help your boyfriend through this situation, with insights from psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT and couples counseling.
How Can You Know If Your Boyfriend Is Depressed?
Depression is a complex phenomenon. It can be hard to spot in some individuals but could be blaring and obvious in others. In most cases though, it is hard to identify a clear-cut cause behind it. This ambiguous nature makes identifying and overcoming depression quite an arduous struggle for your boyfriend, and even you.
So before you exclaim, “My boyfriend is depressed and I feel helpless”, let’s check with the following signs to establish whether he might actually be depressed or not. Depression looks different for everyone but here are a few major signs and symptoms that appear in most individuals when depression kicks in.
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1. Sleep problems
If your boyfriend is suffering from mental health problems, you will probably notice changes in his sleeping pattern. It does not have to be a drastic shift but his sleep may become erratic, leaving him extremely fatigued. Nandita tells us, “You’ll notice that either the person is sleeping too much or not enough at all.”
Sleeping too early on some days, staying up all night on others or oversleeping until afternoon are a few signs to tell you that he might not be so well. Trying acupuncture for sleep might help dissolve his stress and worries somewhat, however, he may still suffer from bad dreams and an unhealthy sleep cycle.
2. Decreased sex drive
If your boyfriend is depressed, he might not initiate sex or be as interested in getting physical with you as he used to be. This might have nothing to do with you or his love for you. It is only a case of a decreased sex drive brought on by depression.
Nandita tells us, “This is one of the signs which will probably be a little more visible than the rest. The person will not be as enthusiastic for sex as they were before and you will notice their sex drive tanking.” His energies are so drained from battling every single day that he might not be able to find the motivation for sex anymore. Moreover, pleasure may become a far-off concept for him and he may be unable to seize it like he used to before.
3. Finding less happiness in the things they used to enjoy
One of the biggest and most obvious signs of depression is when your boyfriend might stop being himself. If he used to love hiking, you might notice that he will barely do it anymore after the depression kicks in. The small and cherished happy moments of life become completely worthless to a depressed person. This might even trickle onto you and cause boredom in your relationship. Their feelings of hopelessness do not allow them to enjoy anything anymore.
4. Sudden unhealthy behaviors
Men suffering from depression often show sharp changes in behavior by indulging in unhealthy habits. They might begin to drink too much and at the wrong hours. They might develop other habits such as gambling or rash driving. Nandita says, “Even food habits can change drastically. Eating too much when depressed is common or you might notice that he has absolutely no appetite.”
5. Reduced self-esteem and constant criticism
When your boyfriend is sad, he may lose his confidence and look at himself very poorly. Depression can often stem from a negative self-image and the person might get stuck in a cycle of this reduced self-esteem. Nandita suggests, “You will notice your boyfriend talking negatively about either himself or even others. They may even be more cynical about the world in general.”
Owing to depression, a person might further view himself as unworthy, undeserving and untalented. This tainted perspective might compel him to use harsh words for himself or perform badly in different aspects of life while also constantly criticizing other things in the process.
Related Reading: What To Expect When You Love A Man With Low Self-Esteem
8 Things To Do When Your Boyfriend Is Depressed
Anxiety in relationships is a common byproduct in cases when one of the partners is depressed. Besides, it is not a condition that should be taken lightly, as statistics suggest that almost 50% of suicide cases in the US are linked to depression. It is natural then that you may find yourself worried about your boyfriend’s well-being as well as the future of your relationship.
You might try to enliven your boyfriend and walk him through this tough phase to make him feel better. You need to sit, stay, hold his hand and always let him fall back on you. To make sure that your efforts do not go to waste and that you can help your boyfriend cope with this difficult time, here are 8 things you must do for helping depressed boyfriend.
1. Help your depressed boyfriend by showing him that he is worthy
Kris Tarnowski, a dance coach at the local high school in her city, had suspected that her boyfriend was depressed and said, “My boyfriend is depressed but won’t get any help. I’m trying my best to convince him to go to therapy but he won’t budge or even admit the problem. That’s why I’ve taken it upon myself to show him that he is worthy and better than who he thinks he is.”
Feelings of worthlessness are a major symptom of this illness. To revive and build up his image, you will have to constantly empower him with kind and encouraging words. Showering him with compliments and buying him something new are a couple of small things that you can try.
If your boyfriend is depressed, he needs you to tell him that you still consider him worthy of love now more than ever. Do not avoid or ignore him but show him that you care. This is the time to give him all the love that you can and do it generously.
2. Do not overboard him with your concerns
If your boyfriend is sad, he probably does not want the insecurities and sadness of his mind to spill over and cause hurt to you. At the same time, he wouldn’t want to feel like he is someone who needs fixing. Doing so might make him feel like he is looked down upon and he could react in harsh ways, even.
Nandita says, “It’s important that you understand his problems and try to be on the same page as him. You should suggest visiting a doctor or trying therapy. It is important that you keep any kind of judgment at bay because he is already in a very sensitive position. He will end up magnifying every little thing that you say and could take it very personally. Identify the positives in his personality and talk about them more than showing him that you are trying to change him.”
Offering them support is one thing, but taking charge of their personalities and trying to change them is another. He needs to feel a sense of independence to feel like he has conquered this battle instead of giving its reins to you.
3. Appreciate small milestones for helping depressed boyfriend
When your partner has depression, even the smallest lifestyle changes – no matter how slow or insignificant – can make a big difference to their emotional condition. Waking up at the same time for a week, taking a shower before noon, dressing well, etc are all little goals that must be met and celebrated.
When your boyfriend has depression, even such simple tasks might make them feel like they are moving massive boulders. Thus, help them start slow and do one good thing at a time. Do not expect them to eat healthy and well one night and then wake up the next morning feeling on top of the world. Coping with or recovering from depression can be a one-step-forward-two-steps-backward kind of a process. You have to have patience in your relationship and be prepared to encounter many failures along the way.
Nandita says, “Do not try and change certain habits of your boyfriend unless you know that he wants to. If you push him too hard, it could have reverse repercussions that you do not want. What you want to do is increase his self-esteem by being positive and indulging in positive self-talk. Be genuine and supportive in your praise as that can really help, especially if it is coming from those other than you such as his friends or family. So try to encourage that if you can as it will give him a big boost.”
4. Don’t lash out in frustration when your boyfriend is depressed
It might not be easy to always be a hopeful ray of sunshine for your partner and give him the world. There might be days when you might miss their old self and ponder how badly this whole situation is affecting you too. It’s okay, you are also allowed to have your bad days. But saying, “I don’t know how to help my depressed boyfriend” and giving up on them is not the answer.
This whole thing is less about you and more about the one you love. He needs you right now more than ever! His rough patch might make you crazy but you need to stay strong for him and continue to show affection as you did before. Your job is to calm down a depressed person and not show your vexations toward them. This will only make him feel worse and guilty of wrecking you.
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5. Be receptive and let him talk when your boyfriend is sad
When you date a man with depression, he might find it difficult to talk about things and express emotions like he used to. You’ll notice how earlier he would talk to you about the smallest quarrel he had in the office, but now, days go by and he doesn’t really open up to you about anything anymore. Depressed individuals tend to create downward spirals within themselves and dwell in them. So then, what do you do when your partner is sad?
Naomi Wyatt, a realtor, had been dating Steve for four years, and recently, she had started noticing that he was depressed. She said, “My boyfriend is depressed and I feel helpless most of the time but the only thing I can do is lend him an ear. So I try to get him to talk to me as much as he can so that he knows that I’m always here by his side and he can come to me if he needs anything. It’s the least I can do.”
As Naomi points out, you must try to get them to open up and prove that you are a good listener to them. This is the perfect way of how a woman should treat a man with depression. Loving someone with depression will require you to lend your ear to them whenever they might need it and be as open-minded as you can be with them.
6. Help your depressed boyfriend by taking him out
Even though your boyfriend might resist this on most days, you must get him out of the house when the situation seems right. Even if they choose to be left alone and cancel plans on you, you must keep inviting them out at the very least. They may not always tell you what’s on their mind, but they do need you and they do need a stimulating environment that can bring out the best in them.
Social circles and spending time with friends can be enlivening and are sometimes necessary to get out of one’s head. Even if it is just a temporary respite, try to take your boyfriend out and show him that the world is an amazing place with him in it.
7. Take care of yourself too when your boyfriend is depressed
Yes, you read that right. Don’t forget to focus on your well-being while you are trying to make your partner feel better. Such a taxing time might make you feel low on some days but you must remain the strong one for yourself and him. Nandita says, “It’s very easy for you to get sucked into a low mood when you see that your boyfriend is low. You might feel frustrated and say, ‘My boyfriend is depressed and I feel helpless’, which means it is time that you focus on your own well-being too.
“Take time out for yourself and not just be around your partner all the time. Be active, eat the right foods and keep revisiting your own self-esteem and self-image time and again. It can also be healthy to take small breaks from the depressed person. This is not abandonment, this will, in turn, help them too.” Eat well, sleep well, and exercise regularly. You must try to not lose touch with your true self to avoid self-sabotaging the relationship.
8. What do you do when your partner is sad? Encourage him to get the help he needs
A lot of women do end up saying, “My boyfriend is depressed and won’t get any help”, which is why they have to take up the entire responsibility of making their partners feel better. If your boyfriend is suffering from mental health problems, he needs professional help, there is no doubt about it. So if you are able to, then you must encourage him to take that step.
He might refuse many times and choose not to talk about it. However, it is always imperative to get the right kind of help when one needs it. This happens because he is afraid of judgment or being uncared for. He needs to know that everyone around him only has his best intentions at heart.
If your boyfriend has depression and is showing warning signs, then don’t fret. We have a skilled panel of counselors, who can help him carve out a path to recovery. They are only a click away.
You can try many things to cheer up your boyfriend. Show him his favorite movie, play a board game with him or take him out for a good meal. No matter what you do, it’s most important to show him that you are there with him through everything and that he can rely on you.
Tell him that you love and believe in him. He needs to feel like he can trust you with everything and you must reassure him about the same. Reassure him that there is no difficult path in the world that cannot be crossed and that he can conquer anything that he puts his mind to.
Try breathing exercises with your man. Sometimes, simply breathing deeper and better for a few minutes can make the stressful situation easier to cope with. You can also engage in some kind of other physical activity to get his mind off of things or try these fun things to do with your boyfriend.
To make your partner feel better, you can try a number of things. Do his favorite activity, encourage him to put on his best clothes, etc. But most importantly, let him talk it out and confide in you. It is very important to allow him to discuss his feelings without the fear of being judged.