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Dealing with depression yourself can be a trying and painful ordeal, but sometimes it's even harder when the person who's suffering is someone you love. If your girlfriend is feeling depressed, she may begin to withdraw from you and from other social activities, or may be more irritable or quick to anger. Although it can be hard, she needs your help and support. By understanding how to deal with a depressed girlfriend, you'll improve your relationship and demonstrate how much you care.
The following are a few steps you can take to help your girlfriend overcome her own depression.
The first step after any disease diagnosis is to educate yourself. Depression, as with many mental illnesses, is sometimes hard to understand; it has no outward physical symptoms, and it may be tempting to think that it's all just "in her head". What you should realize is that this doesn't make it any less real for her. The mental and emotional symptoms of depression include feelings of irritation and hopelessness, losing interest in activities she once enjoyed, deficiencies in memory or cognition, and a number physically manifested aches and pains.
The most important thing to understand early on is that depression is a disease like many others, and just as you wouldn't blame your girlfriend for catching malaria, you shouldn't blame her for getting depressed. Remember, she has it much worse than you right now.
Modern treatments are generally very successful, with one report stating that 70 percent of patients who seek treatment fully recover. Unfortunately, due to the stigma of mental illness, many people never seek evaluation or treatment, and so suffer needlessly. You can help your girlfriend by telling her you'll be there for her as she undergoes treatment. Use the knowledge you learned in the last step to show her you're engaged and that you are there for support. Sometimes it is helpful if you make doctors' appointments for her, or go with her to those appointments (as permitted) to help remember information the doctor gives or to discuss treatment options. The key is to stay positive and try to direct your girlfriend to professional help.
When we take care of loved ones, it is easy to lose sight of the need to take care of ourselves. The depression becomes the center of the relationship, affecting both your girlfriend and you. You can maintain a healthy personal balance by exploring hobbies and interests of your own when you're not with her. It may also be beneficial to maintain social contact with persons outside the relationship. In severe cases, you might be best served by participating in a support group of your own for partners of depressed individuals.
Sometimes, there is a limit to what you can do. Knowing the steps of how to deal with a depressed girlfriend is a very different thing than actually facing the situation itself. Maybe your girlfriend refuses to accept treatment, or maybe she needs to face her demons without you before she can return her focus on your relationship. At the very least, the recovery process can last for months or years and it may be too hard for either of you to commit to continuing the relationship through that. Be honest with yourself and with your girlfriend, and if the time has come to part ways, be up front about that.
Depression strikes nearly 19 million people in the US each year. It can drive a wedge between two people who genuinely love each other, but it can also be an opportunity to show your girlfriend the depth of your feelings for her. By standing by her side during some of the worse days of her life, you reaffirm what she means to you, and give her the strength of knowing she doesn't need to face depression alone.
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