How to be a Healthy Partner to Someone Struggling with Depression or Anxiety
Monday, November 30th, 2015 at 3:23 pm
Anxiety and depression are two of the most common disorders diagnosed among Americans today. According to a 2013 report from The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 40 million Americans are affected by an anxiety disorder, and depression touches 14.8 million people annually. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for individuals to experience the comorbidity of anxiety and depression.
Given the prevalence of anxiety and depression, it is likely that someone close to you will struggle with one or both of these disorders at some point in their life: a spouse, parent, sibling, or even a child. One of the most important elements of treatment and symptom remission for those who have anxiety or depression is a strong network of understanding and caring loved ones and friends.
In order to support your loved one through the difficulties brought on by anxiety and depression, we’ve highlighted a few key ways you can be a healthy partner and a positive influence in their recovery and ongoing wellness.
- Build your knowledge of what anxiety and depression are. It’s important for supportive partners to understand that neither anxiety nor depression are conditions that a person can will himself or herself to not have; they can’t just “snap out of it.” Unfortunately, these are common misconceptions that can be quite harmful to those who are suffering and cause them to feel shame, guilt, and frustration. Find a reputable book (perhaps one suggested by a therapist) to learn more about anxiety and depression. Read it together with your loved one to show your interest in understanding what they struggle with and that it’s not their fault.
- Be a partner in health. The benefits of regular exercise, hobbies, and healthy social outlets have been shown to be powerful tools to keep symptoms of depression and anxiety at bay. The buddy system works well for everything from going to the gym, to showing up at social outings. Encourage your loved one to participate in things you know he or she enjoys doing, even when they seem to have lost interest. Losing interest in activities one normally enjoys is a common symptom of depression and anxiety, and when left unchecked can cause further isolation.
- Acknowledge when your loved one is going through a tough time. It is important that he or she feels they can talk to you about their feelings, and what they’re going through. Also, be conscious of any statements or actions that may point to a heightened need for treatment, such as mentions of suicide or loss of hope. Sentiments like these should be taken seriously and help should be sought immediately.
- Attend a therapy session with your loved one. If it is appropriate, it might be beneficial for you, as the individual’s primary partner, to go to therapy with your loved one to learn about any new changes or goals the therapist has established. In these sessions, it’s important to be open, honest, and realistic with your loved one and their treatment provider.
As a friend, parent, or spouse of someone with anxiety or depression, your love, understanding, and kindness can be some of the most powerful and successful treatments available. You play an important role in your loved one’s health, but it is important to keep your own health and wellness top of mind, too.