Here’s how to recognize the signs of depression in men, plus tips on how to help a depressed boyfriend. This article is inspired by a reader who wants to help her boyfriend deal with depression.
How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed: Living and Coping With Depression Fallout by Anne Sheffield, Mike Wallace, and Donald F. Klein is the book you need if your boyfriend is depressed. Depression is a serious emotional health issue, and it can’t be treated or solved in one blog post! Please go to the experts to get help when your boyfriend is struggling with depression.
How do you relate to a boyfriend who is depressed? How do you act, and what should you say? These tips are for girlfriends who aren’t sure how to handle depression in their relationships.
Here’s what Krystie says: “Dear Laurie, I have every reason to believe my boyfriend suffers from depression – he has all the classic signs. For the first time three weeks ago, he said he thought he was depressed. He is a very supportive, kind and loving boyfriend, but recently that has changed and he can be rather cold and hurtful. I try to understand that this is just the depression talking, because I know the person that he otherwise is. His depression has put a real strain on our relationship and it hurts me. I told him that I felt his depression was the core of our issues and other issues in his life, along with ADD, which his kids also have. I told him depression clouds, confuses and masks emotions, feelings, desires, wants and needs. I don’t know what else I can do. Do you have any thoughts? Whatever you can offer would greatly be appreciated. Most sincerely, Krystie.”
Another book to read if you think (or know) your boyfriend is depressed, read Is He Depressed or What? What to Do When the Man You Love Is Irritable, Moody, and Withdrawn. It’ll help you recognize his symptoms, and help him to get the help he needs to manage his depressed feelings. The book will also show you how to take care of yourself and not get lost in his depression.
Signs of Depression in Men
The tricky part of recognizing male depression is that often doesn’t look like depression at all. Depressed guys often mask their depression with workaholism or substance abuse. Sometimes they withdraw from their girlfriends, wives, and other loved ones – or they lash out in aggressive ways.
If your boyfriend is depressed, he won’t necessarily walk around crying or being glum and sad. Rather, he may show signs of extreme fatigue, listlessness, social isolation, weight gain or loss, changes in sleeping patterns, or feelings of being overwhelmed. He may abuse drugs or alcohol, or take his feelings out on you.
Getting help for depression can be as complicated as seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist, or as simple as getting the right information about depression. Sometimes medication helps; other times talk therapy is most effective. It depends on your boyfriend’s depression, personality, lifestyle, and other health issues. Unfortunately, all you can do is learn how to help a depressed boyfriend – you can’t actually make him happy with his life.
Signs of depression in men include
- Inability to concentrate
- Unexplained changes in behavior
- Loss of interest in sex or physical intimacy
- Withdrawal or detachment, in communication or otherwise
- Irrational thoughts, phobias, or emotional issues becoming increasingly evident
“These signs of depression differ by personality and by gender,” says depression expert Rich Naran. “The most intimate person – the partner of a depressed person – will perceive the subtle changes before a co-worker or a neighbor does. In fact, partners will see changes that others don’t grasp.”
You may recognize depression in your boyfriend before anyone else does, because you’re closest to him. You may even be in a codependent relationship.
When Your Boyfriend is Depressed
Helping a depressed boyfriend depends on the signs of depression and how your boyfriend is coping with the idea of being depressed. Because of the social stigma of mental illness, denial and retreat are common when it comes to men and depressed feelings. Depression affects all relationships.
Learn all you can about depression. Depression can be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain or a hormonal imbalance – it’s not necessarily caused by a difficult life or recent tragedy. Depression can be caused by less sunshine or a lack of certain nutrients. To help with your boyfriend’s depression, think about what the possible cause could be. You don’t need to diagnose or treat him — just think about his lifestyle and way of handling life’s problems.
Never treat your depressed boyfriend like a sick child. Let him know that you perceive something is wrong, but don’t demean your boyfriend by “trying to cheer them up.” In fact, never use the words “cheer up” in any fashion. You can’t raise his self-esteem or make him feel better — depression is more serious than simply “snapping out of it.” This is one of the most important tips on how to help a depressed boyfriend.
Be watchful, but respect his space. Your depressed boyfriend has an illness that needs to be treated if it goes on too long. But, he has to be ready to get help before he can be helped. If you think he’s ready to think about accepting and overcoming his depression, read Natural Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It offers a few tips for treating depression that aren’t as scary or threatening as medication or counseling. The treatments will help men overcome the signs of depression.
Avoid being a crutch or “enabler.” If your boyfriend is depressed, don’t take over all the responsibilities or create a situation that allows him to stay depressed and not get help. You need to find the balance between giving space, and encouraging your boyfriend to get depression help. Don’t turn into his mommy, caretaker, housekeeper, or personal assistant.
If you’re considering leaving your depressed boyfriend, accept that there is no easy way to separate. Make a clean break, not a slow agonizing weaning off, which only fosters more guilt, emotional pain, and stress. The breakup has to be clean, or it will mess up both your lives even more. Read How to Break Up With Someone Who is Depressed.
If you feel guilty about your boyfriend’s depression, get counseling or a support group. Don’t struggle through this alone – find out if there are any depression support groups in your community. Going online and reading about signs of depression in men is good, but it’s important to get in-person support if you want to learn how to help a depressed boyfriend.
For more help with depression and men, read How to Cope With a Moody Boyfriend.
How do you feel about dealing with a depressed boyfriend? I welcome your thoughts below – but I can’t offer counselling or advice. Please call a depression help line if you’re struggling with your relationship.