When your spouse or partner is struggling with depression, it can leave you feeling quite helpless. From the sidelines, you witness your loved one suffering and have no idea how to help them.

Fortunately, there are some constructive ways you can help your partner through a bout of depression. Read on to learn more about depression, and how to support a loved one through it.

Understanding Major Depressive Disorder

First, it is important to clarify the difference between a short period of low mood and clinical depression. This distinction is made during an intake interview with a mental health professional, who will ask about the presenting symptoms, how long they have existed, and whether you have become impaired due to the symptoms. When they struggle to perform even the most routine daily tasks, it is most likely depression.

Depression symptoms include:

- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair
- Extreme fatigue
- Slowed cognitive functioning and movements
- Sleeping too much or having insomnia
- Sudden unintended weight change
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Irrational feelings of guilt or shame
- Having trouble making decisions or concentrating
- Persistent thoughts of death or suicide

Some of the known factors associated with depression include:

- Genetics. Having family members that also struggle with depression.
- Abuse. Past history of physical or sexual abuse.
- Trauma. Witnessing or experiencing a highly traumatic event.
- Adverse life events. The sudden death of a loved one, a divorce, job loss, etc.
- Health conditions. Some health issues can cause symptoms of depression.
- Medications. Certain drugs can cause depression.
- Substance abuse. Depression can co-occur with substance abuse, especially alcoholism.

5 Ways to Provide Support for a Depressed Partner

Rather than stand by and watch your spouse or partner suffer the effects of depression, there are some supportive actions you can take:

1. Open up the conversation. While it might feel awkward or even a little invasive, it is really important that your partner knows you are aware of their struggle and are there for them. Find a quiet moment to mention you are worried about them and ask if they want to talk about it. If they aren’t ready to chat, that’s okay; you will have planted the seed.

2. Learn about depression. You will be more help to your spouse if you become informed about this mental health condition. Learn about the symptoms of depression, as well as the most effective treatment methods and levels of care.

3. Try not to take it personally. When your partner is struggling with depression he or she may not feel like conversing or being social. They may have reduced libido and seem to be checked out of the relationship. Understand that this is the depression and not a reflection on you.

4. Encourage self-care. You can partner with your spouse in several ways to help him or her manage the symptoms of depression. Offer to go on walks together, as exercise can boost mood. Provide meals that are nutritious and contain foods high in omega-3 fatty acid.

5. Help them take the first step toward treatment. If their symptoms persist over two weeks, suggest that they see a psychotherapist for evaluation. If they are hesitant, offer to accompany them to the first session.

Keep the lines of communication open, express your willingness to help, and guide your partner to receiving the help they need.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Booth is the CEO and Founder of Elevation Behavioral Health a residential mental health program that offers treatment for depression in Southern California.