“I just can’t work on our relationship right now. I’m too depressed.”

Have you ever made this statement about depression? If you have, then you probably understand the negative impact that depression usually has on both road trips and relationship travels.
Depression. It’s an emotional state which could indicate that a major detour in your relationship travels is rapidly approaching. A healthy relationship journey assumes (and even requires) that both relationship partners are reasonably healthy as individuals, especially in regard to mental and emotional health. Any serious health problem can become a significant detour for the total relationship and can take the travelers off-course and into unexpected areas. One such threat is clinical depression. In our personal travels we usually groan with frustration when we face an unwelcomed detour; similarly, we can be deeply frustrated by a “depression detour.”
We understand that our moods affect our relationships, and our relationships certainly influence our moods. If either person is experiencing clinical depression, the relationship can be hurt, hindered, or seriously damaged. Obviously, any relationship is likely to struggle when either person does not feel like contributing effectively or participating actively. The depression could be related to some relationship problem that has been present for some time, and that ongoing problem continues to reinforce and worsen the depression. Such problems may have to be removed in order for the depression to be resolved. It is also true that the depression could have a strong negative impact on the relationship. The whole process may reach a point where it feels like we’re in a traffic circle:  we’re going round and round without making any progress toward our relationship destination. Then it becomes clear to us that our depression has become a major hindrance in our relationship journey. It’s also clear that some roadwork is in order!
Are you or your relationship partner experiencing clinical depression? Typical symptoms include persistent feelings of sadness, tearfulness, hopelessness, helplessness, decreased self-esteem, decreased concentration, excessive struggles with guilt, decreased motivation, decreased interest in pleasurable activities, social withdrawal, sleep problems, decreased energy, appetite issues, and suicidal thinking. If you’ve experienced these types of symptoms nearly every day for the past few weeks, then you could be struggling with clinical depression. Some of my clients have described their depression as a “black hole” or a “bottomless pit.” They report feeling “stuck,” “unable to move,” and “living in a fog.”  Clearly, it’s no fun to be depressed. It’s also no fun to be in a “depressed relationship.”
So, what action could you take so you can get back into your relationship journey? First, find out for sure what’s going on. Regarding possible depression, an accurate assessment would have to be done by a mental health professional before a formal diagnosis could be made. Secondly, if depression is present, get some professional treatment. Effective treatment usually involves a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and appropriate medication such as an antidepressant. If you are feeling suicidal, please contact the appropriate resources immediately (your Primary Care Physician, a therapist, or your local Emergency Room).  Calling your emergency response number (911) is a wise decision for you to make when you are considering self-harm.
If your level of depression is adversely affecting your relationships, you need to consider the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which you can gain by working with a professional therapist. In therapy you will identify some things you may be doing, perhaps unknowingly, that “feed” your depression. The negative thoughts you have about yourself or about your circumstances can intensify your depression. Some of your daily behavior may be worsening your depression. In therapy you will learn how to stop these negative patterns and how to replace them with healthier patterns that will work much better for you. As you decrease the symptoms of clinical depression, you will increase your ability and desire to function as an active member of your relationship. If you need assistance on how to locate a professional therapist in your geographical area, go to the Therapy Services section of this website and click on the appropriate question. If you want to learn more about depression, check out the materials referenced in the Resources section of this website under the category of Mental Health.
The “depression detour” poses a significant threat to our relationships. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the depression can be treated and the relationship can get back on course. The roadwork can be hard and may take a while, but you can do it. The result? You’ll be happier, healthier, and more successful in reaching your relationship destination.
Best wishes in all of your relationship journeys!
(Mental Health #1301)

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