How to Help a Depressed Spouse or Loved One

Apr 25, 2024 | Adolescent Treatment, Adult Treatment, Depression, Helping a Loved One, Therapy

Supporting a loved one who is battling depression can be hard on everyone involved, especially if the person affected is your spouse. While not all depression is long-term, it can cause bumps in the road for many relationships, romantic or otherwise. While you may not have all the answers, your unwavering presence and compassion can make all the difference in their journey toward better mental health. In this blog, we share some practical strategies for helping a depressed spouse or loved one so that you can get back to a place of health and happiness.

What Causes Depression?

Before you can effectively help the person you love, you need to try to understand what the root cause of their depression is. It could be a combination of factors, including trauma, unresolved family of origin issues, stress, unresolved grief and losses, biochemical imbalances in the brain, hormonal imbalances, or other environmental or biological factors.  Taking the time to really listen to them and pay attention to what is going on around them could hold some clues as to what is going on under the surface.

How Can I Be Sure My Spouse Is Depressed?

Dealing with changes in mood or experiencing periods of sadness is normal for everyone. When this continues for a long period, it is natural that you might begin to wonder if your partner is depressed. Although only a doctor or trained professional can officially diagnose the person, you can learn about some of the signs that this is the case. 

Depression exists on a spectrum of intensity from person to person. If your significant other constantly experiences feelings of sadness or anxiety, struggles with irregular sleep patterns, loses enthusiasm and energy for once-beloved activities, or expresses sentiments of worthlessness and hopelessness, it’s likely that they are dealing with depression. Another clear indicator is resorting to substance abuse as a coping mechanism for their emotional turmoil.

If your partner or loved one is a male, be prepared to do some additional leg work to figure out what is going on. In general, men are less open and forthcoming about what is causing their pain. In some cases, they may simply not know. Research has shown that women tend to be more expressive when it comes to emotion. Although depression is categorized as a mental disorder and not simply an emotion, it can be linked to emotions as a contributing source.

In the case of a depressed woman, she might find herself crying more frequently, losing interest in socializing with friends, or oversleeping. She might also become irritable, moody, or flat out disinterested in talking.

On the other hand, signs of depression in men might take on an entirely different form. Sometimes, men channel their depression into episodes of anger or aggression. Unfortunately, this can lead to underdiagnosis as we tend to associate depression with feelings of sorrow rather than rage.

How To Best Help Them
  • Open a Dialogue: Initiate an open and nonjudgmental conversation about their feelings. Let them know you’re there to listen whenever they’re ready to talk. Gently ask questions like, “How have you been feeling lately?” or “Is there anything you’d like to share?” This opens the door for them to express their emotions without feeling pressured.
  • Practice Active Listening: When they do open up, make sure you are giving them your full attention. Maintain eye contact and avoid interrupting, if possible. Reflect on what they’re saying to show that you understand and empathize with their emotions. A simple, “It sounds like you’re going through a really tough time,” can make them feel heard and validated. Be sure to put your phone down when you are chatting as well. Distractions can make the person feel further invalidated and unimportant, worsening the feelings of depression.
  • Offer Unconditional Support: Let them know that your love and support are unwavering, regardless of their emotional state. Say, “I’m here for you, no matter what.” Assurance that your care is not contingent on their mood can help alleviate feelings of guilt or burden. You can also try to build up their self-confidence by using positive affirmations during this time. Reminding them of how much you love them and how special they are can help bring them out of the hole they are in.
  • Suggest Professional Help: Suggest seeking professional support, like therapy or counseling, in a sensitive manner. You could say, “I’ve heard that talking to a professional can be really helpful for managing these feelings. What do you think about giving it a try?” Highlight the benefits without pressuring them into it. You can also take some of the pressure off them by doing the research yourself. Finding a therapist with openings that seem like a good fit can be time-consuming. By doing some of the backend work, you can help convince them to give it a try.
  • Go With Them to Appointments: If they’re receptive to seeking professional help, offer to go with them to their appointments. Especially for men, the stigma of getting help can be off-putting. Knowing that you will be there with them can provide a sense of comfort. This gesture also shows your commitment to helping them and can ease any apprehensions.
  • Take Part in Activities Together: Push them to resume activities they once enjoyed, even if they currently lack interest in them. Gentle encouragement to join in activities you used to do together can help counteract the isolation that often accompanies depression.
  • Be Patient with Their Progress: Recovery from depression is not linear for anyone. Be patient with their progress and setbacks, as they are inevitable. Remind them often that healing takes time and that you’ll be there to support them throughout their journey, no matter how long it takes. As a rule of thumb, treat them the way that you would want to be treated if roles were reversed.
  • Don’t Just Offer Simple Solutions: Avoid telling them to “snap out of it” or offering quick fixes. Depression is complex, and comments like this can minimize their feelings and make them feel insignificant. Instead, reaffirm that their situation is challenging and that they will need to continue to put in effort to get better.
  • Take Care of Yourself As Well: Supporting a loved one with depression can be emotionally taxing, to say the least. Make sure you’re also taking care of your own mental health while helping them. Take care of your physical body as well by exercising and eating healthily.

Supporting a depressed spouse or loved one requires a willingness to be there for them, no matter how difficult the journey ahead may be. Your role is not to fix them but to provide a selfless presence that reminds them they’re not alone. Offering help when they want or need it is a great way to be there for them. Although it may take time, you and your loved one can get back to positive mental health and begin enjoying life together again.

New Dimensions Can Help!

New Dimensions Day Treatment Centers provide Partial Day Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Treatment programs for adolescents and adults. We provide treatment to address mental health and substance abuse issues. To learn more about our treatment programs, visit our website at or contact us at 800-685-9796.  To learn more about individual, family, and couples counseling visit


Keywords: Depression; Depressed spouse; Depressed loved one; Supporting a depressed spouse; Loved one with depression



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