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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How to cope with a partner who is depressed?

    I have been with my girlfriend for a three years now. When we met I brought her out of a dark place. However after being together for one year, I started to notice signs of her depression coming back. We talked about it and spoke how it affected her a lot as a child. After some online research, I decided that I needed to emotionally be more attentive and try take her mind off things by taking her out or doing more exciting things. This went on for about a year and seemed to work. After being together for two years, she started to blame me for her depression, how I spoke/acted. So I changed small things about my behaviour and tried to make a very conscious effort. But after doing this for a year (we've now been together 3 years) it's not helping. Each month, it will be a different thing which I'm doing wrong and need to change. Although I'm more concerned with her wellbeing, how constantly flawing of my character has given me low self-esteem.
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    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    It sounds like perhaps you are feeling at quite a loss about how to help your girlfriend with her depression. It's a natural response when any of us are feeling that way to find someone to blame - either I'm to blame (and therefore, if I just change something about myself then I can fix the problem), or the other person is to blame (and therefore, if I just get them to change then the problem is fixed!). You don't mention whether your girlfriend has been diagnosed and treated for depression. If she has received diagnosis and treatment, it may be important for her to revisit her doctor, psychiatrist and/or psychologist and discuss whether treatment is working, and if not, what other options may be tried. If she has not been diagnosed or treated for depression, then the next step would be to encourage her to see her GP and have a preliminary assessment done. Then the GP can refer her to the right professional supports she may need. What all this means for you is - next time your partner tells you that your behaviour is why she is feeling depressed, let her know that you are concerned about her low mood, that it is affecting you as well because you care about her and her wellbeing, and that you think it could be important for her to check out whether she may need to get some help. If your girlfriend thinks that she is depressed because of things in your relationship, a place to start may be with relationship counselling. Changing things in the way you relate to each other may well help lift her mood to some extent. If changing these things does not lift your girlfriend's mood, she may then be more willing to look at other explanations for why she is feeling the way that she does.

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