Do you have a partner with depression or anxiety?
If you do, I can understand how frustrating it can be. But you are not alone! I will go into statistics in a little bit, but these two illnesses are more common than a lot of people might realize.
For many years, I have been on the other end of this. I’ve been the partner with depression and anxiety. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why he would get frustrated. After all, it’s not like I choose to have mental health issues.
Now that I’ve been focusing on my healing journey, I’ve been gifted a little perspective. I’ve come to realize that it’s hard to watch your partner suffer. It’s hard to live with the mood swings, and the weird sleep schedules. It’s given me a lot of sympathy and respect for my eternally patient husband!
In this post, I’m going to talk about some current statistics, and how to support a partner with depression or anxiety. If you are reading this with the intent of being a supportive partner, you get a gold star from me. Thank you for being an advocate!
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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with depression and anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
Current statistics on depression and anxiety
If you are baffled by your partner’s behavior, keep in mind: Depression and anxiety are very VERY common.
Here are some recent statistics about anxiety from the ADAA:
- Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S. (It affects 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older)- that’s almost 1 in 5 people!
- You can absolutely treat anxiety, but only about 1/3 of people seek treatment.
- People with anxiety are 3-5 times more likely to spend time at the doctor, and far more likely to be hospitalized for mental illness.
- Anxiety can be caused by a lot of things- including genes, individual brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
And now, some stats about depression according to the WHO:
- More than 264 million people of all ages around the world suffer from depression.
- Depression is one of the biggest reasons why people seek disability.
- More women are affected by depression than men. (But as a note from me: men are more likely to die by suicide)
- Depression can sometimes lead to suicide.
- It is very treatable with time and patience!
As far as the United States, the CDC states that, as of 10 years ago, 7.6% of people aged 12 and up reported depression that lasted at least two weeks. 10 years ago, the population of the United States was about 309 million. So, according to my calculator, 7.6% of that is 23,484,000 people.
Granted, the depression statistic is from 10 years ago, but I can only imagine it has gotten worse. If we combine that with the anxiety numbers above, at least 64 million people in the United States live with depression or anxiety in a given year. That is almost 20% of the current population!
How to help a partner with depression
As you can see based on those numbers, if you have a partner with depression, you are far from alone. And there are ways you can help them without sacrificing your own mental health in the process.
Tip #1: Practice active listening
It can be so easy to just shut out your partner’s talk about their illness. And in a way, I understand. It might feel very overwhelming to listen to them talk about their symptoms when you don’t know how to help.
But, even though this is an easy default mode to find yourself in, it is a very unhelpful way to treat your partner. And it can often make them feel more depressed. People with depression want to feel heard and understood.
Try this simple exercise next time you are talking about their emotions:
- Partner: “Today, it was hard to just get out of bed.”
- You: “Sounds like you’re having a hard time functioning.”
- Partner: “I hate it because there’s so much I need to get done around the house, and it makes me feel like a failure.”
- You: “I get it. I can see why you might feel that way.”
That’s a very basic example, but it should help you communicate a little better. Here is a graphic that illustrates the important steps of active listening, according to Lifehack.
Tip #2: Offer to take them to appointments
Sometimes, for a partner with depression, one of the hardest things to manage is getting out of the house to their appointments. It takes so much effort to get out bed, get dressed, brush teeth, etc. Let alone actually getting in the car and making the drive!
One simple way you can be supportive is by offering to help them through that process. Help them select clothes if they need help in that area. Run a nice warm shower for them, so that all they have to do is step in. Lay out everything they need by the door when you leave (keys, phone, wallet with ID and insurance info). Drive them to the appointment.
This isn’t to say that your partner with depression needs to be “babied.” Many people with depression are very capable of managing simple tasks like this. These suggestions are mainly to be put to use if you notice your partner does struggle with them.
And make sure to perform these tasks as sensitively as possible. (Ex, don’t say, “Woah, someone needs a shower!” Obviously.)
Tip #3: Take some time for just the two of you
It can be hard to stay connected to your partner with depression. They sometimes become withdrawn and don’t have a lot of energy for affection. (Sometimes. This might vary person to person.)
If this is the case for your relationship, it might be nice to carve out some time to strengthen your bond. They might not have the energy for an elaborate date day. That’s okay! It’s likely nothing personal. Depression really takes a toll on our physical health!
Instead, try something fun you can do at home. Get a sitter if you have kids, and plan a movie day! Set up a comfy spot on the couch, complete with all their favorite snacks and drinks, and watch their favorite movies. It’s a good way to get some quality time, and lift their spirits a little.
Tip #4: Do some reading about depression
If you really want to help your partner with depression, do some reading about it! It will show them that you really want to help understand what’s going on with them. They might even have books that they recommend on the topic.
Here are my recommendations to get you started. Click each image for more info.
Tip #5: Don’t encourage toxic or unhealthy habits in your home
If there is a particular habit that encourages your partner to feel depressed, do what you can to help them avoid that. They might not feel strong enough to do that themselves.
That being said, you don’t want to cross the line into being a controlling partner. What I’m talking about is trying to set a good example with your own behavior, and offering them encouragement and support.
Here are some examples:
- Using alcohol as a coping mechanism
- Hanging out with toxic friends
- Drug use
- Frivolous spending
- Avoiding hygiene practices
- Skipping doctor’s appointments
- Not taking medication
How to help a partner with anxiety
Now that we’ve talked about how to help a partner with depression, let’s talk about how to help a partner with anxiety! I’ve lived with both- depression and anxiety- and there is nothing more helpful than the loving support of a partner (or other loved one)
Here are my top 5 tips for helping your partner feel more calm and secure.
Tip #1: Help them stay distracted
One of the hardest parts about anxiety is that your mind often swirls with negative thoughts, irrational fears, and endless self doubt. Ever since a rough experience I had in March, I have had to really start over in this regard, and retrain my brain to stay away from worry and negativity. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m giving it my best shot.
If you notice your partner deals with the same issues, it might help if you can keep them distracted. Here is a list of simple things you can do together to have fun and enjoy a brief period of positivity:
- Cook dinner together
- Play a board game
- Do an art project
- Work on a project around the house
- Talk about your dream vacation
- Look at happy photos
Tip #2: Don’t invalidate them, but also don’t create a culture of negativity
Another great way to help a partner with anxiety is to be more positive yourself. This sounds a bit like toxic positivity, so let me expand on what I mean.
First of all, you never want to invalidate their feelings. Like I talked about in the active listening section above, it’s very important to make your partner feel heard and understood. Feelings shaming gets you nowhere and usually makes their mental health issues worse.
BUT, I think positivity can be contagious. Do what you can to take care of your own mental health, and put your money where your mouth is with positivity. If your partner constantly sees you saying bad things about your appearance, or being worried about money- whatever the case may be- that could rub off on them and make their condition worse.
HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you need to hide your own feelings and repress all the things you’re feeling. I just mean, try your best to model a positive mindset when you can.
Tip #3: Meditate together
One helpful coping strategy for dealing with anxiety is to practice meditation. Millions of people swear by it, and it can go a long way toward helping you clear your mind and feel more at peace.
If you feel daunted by meditating, and are feeling insecure about your ability to do it, start with guided meditation! There are a lot of great videos on Youtube where they tell you exactly what to do.
Here is an example, and it doesn’t take a lot of time.
Tip #4: Get out in nature with them
Being outside can have a lot of great benefits. Ecotherapy is a great way to relax and feel more grounded when you’re anxious.
Here are some easy ways to enjoy nature when your partner’s not up for something elaborate:
- Sit out on the patio and watch the sunset.
- Go for a 15 minute walk after dinner.
- Do easy yard work together.
- Have a picnic at a local park.
- Go for a drive along a scenic route.
Tip #5: Give them space if they need it
As someone with anxiety, I can speak from experience and say, sometimes I just need space. Space to get self care in peace and process my feelings. That’s not meant as a personal jab against my husband. It’s just what my soul needs to get well.
There is a difference between being supportive and being smothering. Don’t smother. All people, anxious or not, need space to process and work on them. It’s really helpful!
Don’t lose hope- there is help out there!
I understand how hard it can be to have a partner with depression or anxiety. It’s not easy for them to feel those things obviously, but it’s not a walk in the park for you either. You face a lot of pressure to help them them and keep them safe.
Don’t lose hope. There are a lot of great resources available for you, if you are willing to be patient and dedicate some time to it.
Do you have a partner with depression? Or anxiety? What are some ways you have found to support them? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Also, make sure to share this post on social media if you found it helpful!