How to break up with someone who is depressed

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  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

    Also visit the online treatment locator.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.

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No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

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Last Updated: 08/30/2022

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Depressed partner support


Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, affecting more than 350 million people of all age groups.

Every year about 150 million people in the world lose their ability to work due to depression

The support of family and friends is essential in the treatment of mental disorders. However, depression can negatively impact relationships and leave loved ones feeling helpless, frustrated, or afraid. nine0003

There are ways people can support a partner with depression on their journey to recovery.

Questions to ask about symptoms

To understand the severity of a person's depression, it is helpful to study how these symptoms affect their life.

Asking about symptoms also shows a person that his partner is interested in his feelings and experiences.

Useful questions to ask include:

  • Can you help me understand how you feel?
  • What activities do you find enjoyable right now?
  • Do you enjoy spending time with other people?
  • What's wrong with your energy?
  • Do you sleep more or less than usual?
  • Do you eat more or less than usual?
  • Can you focus on things right now?
  • Do you have thoughts of death or suicide? nine0026

Questions to avoid

Avoid asking questions that seem judgmental or that place blame on the person with depression. They may already be blaming themselves for their symptoms and need support rather than further judgment.

It is also important not to oversimplify depression, which is a serious illness.

Examples of questions to avoid include:

  • Why can't you just cheer up?
  • Don't I make you happy?
  • When will you feel better?
  • Don't you understand that it's all in your head?
  • Why do you attach such importance to this?
  • Do you know that others are in a much worse situation than you?
  • Partner support

    1. Learn about depression

    Learning about depression can make it easier to support those with depression. Learning about symptoms often helps people recognize symptoms in their loved ones.

    Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may change over time. However, symptoms must last at least 2 weeks before a doctor can diagnose depression.

    Symptoms of depression may include:

    • feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt
    • loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
    • changes in appetite or weight
    • changes in sleep habits
    • fatigue and loss of energy
    • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
    • thoughts of death or suicide

    2. Understand and acknowledge your partner's feelings

    It is important to listen to a person with depression and express empathy, which is the ability to understand and share other people's feelings. One way to show empathy is to mirror what the person is saying. nine0003

    For example, if he says, "I just feel like things will never get better," their partner might reflect this by saying, "that sounds like you're not looking forward to the future."

    Constant attempts to cheer up a person are useless, as this devalues ​​his condition and feelings. Phrases like “tomorrow will be better” or “try to cheer up” do not take into account the nature of the disease.

    3. Ask your partner what they want from you

    To show further understanding and support, ask the person what they need. He may need:

    • medication reminders
    • company when visiting a doctor or visiting therapy
    • homemade dishes
    • encouragement to socialize or exercise
    • hug or hold the hand
    • to sometimes be left alone

    Useful questions to ask include:

    • How can I help you?
    • Would it be helpful if I...?

    4. Encourage your partner to heal

    Depression can cause a person to lose their motivation, which can be a barrier to seeking treatment. However, most people with depression need treatment to get better.

    Those who support someone with depression can play an important role in their recovery by encouraging them to seek medical help. nine0003

    To inspire a partner to seek treatment, a person can try:

    • joint detection and documentation of your partner's symptoms
    • expression of desire to help
    • discussion of treatment options such as medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes
    • accompaniment to doctor appointments

    5. Support your partner during recovery

    Recovery from depression can sometimes be difficult. To support a partner in the recovery process:

    • help them keep track of their prescriptions and medications
    • do some physical exercise together
    • plan and prepare healthy meals together
    • try to reduce stressors at home
    • make your goals small and achievable
    • nine0025 encourage them to socialize with other people
    • plan fun activities together
    • pay attention to the person's progress towards recovery
    • avoid forcing treatment on the person

    Let your partner know they are not alone when you say:

    • I'm here for you.
    • We'll deal with this together.

    6. Accept that there will be bad days

    People with depression have good days and bad days. To cope with bad days:

    • expect them to happen
    • understand that this is a normal part of depression
    • don't give up love and support at this time
    • take some time and do something nice, either alone or with others
    • remember that not every day will be like this - there will be good days

    7. Take care of yourself

    When a person supports a partner with depression, it is very important to take the time to enjoy hobbies and other activities for yourself.

    Caring for a partner with depression can be draining, frustrating, and intimidating.

    Research shows that having a spouse with depression increases a person's risk of developing depressive symptoms. This risk is especially high when a man is supportive of a depressed woman. nine0003

    Those caring for someone with a mental illness should also take care of their own mental health. They can do it:

    • trying to stay positive
    • having realistic expectations about the recovery process
    • knowing that they also have the right to be heard and respected
    • taking time out and doing pleasurable activities and hobbies
    • interacting with people other than their partner
    • seeking help from friends or relatives
    • doing regular exercise
    • eating healthy
    • trying to get more sleep and rest
    • visiting a psychologist or psychological support groups

    Professional support

    Professional treatment is an important part of the recovery process. The first step is often to see a doctor, who can recommend treatment, psychotherapy, or both. nine0003

    For particularly severe depressive symptoms or in life-threatening situations, seek emergency care.

    Beginning of form

    People with depression may be at risk of suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, more than half of those who die by suicide suffer from major depression.

    Partners of those who suffer from depression should be aware of the warning signs of suicide so that they can take prompt action if necessary. Warning signs include:

    • talking about death or suicide
    • having a suicide plan
    • preparation of means of suicide, e.g. collection of pills
    • preparation for death, e.g. by making a will
    • distribution of things
    • farewell to family and friends
    • engaging in risky or reckless behavior
    • Extreme changes in mood or personality
    • nine0025 withdrawal from society

    If a person suspects that someone is in imminent danger of suicide, they should seek emergency help.

    If someone believes that a loved one is contemplating suicide but is not in immediate danger, they should contact the person's doctor and seek support from other family members or a support group.

    Support for a partner with depression, both emotional and practical, can help speed up the recovery process. nine0003







    How I got free of depression after a breakup

    Alexandra Kirakasyants

    asked questions

    Author profile

    Problems in personal life often become a reason to turn to a psychotherapist.

    A reader of Tinkoff Magazine found herself in a relationship with a man who was married and did not talk about it. The revealed truth and parting led her to depression. She went to a clinic, where she received free psychological help for four months, was able to get rid of depression, learned to build boundaries and understand her feelings. Here is her story. nine0003

    This is a Community story. The editors asked leading questions, carefully edited and designed according to the standards of the journal.


    Kira Kalk

    had a difficult breakup

    Author Profile

    I am from St. Petersburg, I am 29 years old. Now I work as a tutor in mathematics and work part-time at school. My psychological state is stable, and I am also in a happy relationship. But recently things have been different.

    A few years ago I met a guy - we were working in the same company then. He was a little older and I immediately liked him as a human being: he joked funny, paid a lot of attention, helped with work. As a person who is very independent and not accustomed to showing emotions, I really missed the feeling of fun and carelessness - that's what I got from communicating with a colleague. nine0003

    After a while, I realized that I fell in love. She immediately broke up with a young man whom she was dating at that time. I decided that it was not fair to meet one and dream about another.

    It soon became clear that my sympathy was mutual. In the first year, we talked a lot, but communication did not go beyond flirting.

    9 good books about the psychology of love and relationships

    Several times I asked the guy if he had someone. He left the answer, but for some reason this did not alarm me. The guy did not wear a ring, there was no stamp in his passport, and none of his colleagues knew that he was married. Therefore, when I still had suspicions, I convinced myself that it seemed to me. Of course, one should have immediately guessed that he was turning the topic off for a reason, but I was already so in love that, apparently, subconsciously preferred not to notice anything. nine0003

    The truth came out a year after we met, when I once again asked a question about marriage. The guy confessed, but tried to turn everything into a joke. He said that this is his second marriage and he does not exclude the possibility of marrying a third time. And then he told me a classic story - supposedly everything is bad with his wife and they live like neighbors.

    All my friends convinced me that these were excuses, but I considered myself smarter than them - what do they understand! He constantly spends time with me, breaks down for any reason, supports, texts at night, and even on his wife's birthday he was with me. nine0003

    But the story kept dragging on, and I started pushing. It seemed to me that I was certainly better than his wife, so I persistently tried to beat him off. At some point, he promised that he would get a divorce, and even talked about it with his wife. It began to seem to me that I almost won: six months after the confession, he said that he would finally pack his things and move in with me. But then he sent a message where he wrote that he would no longer see me, and his wife loves him so much that he cannot leave her.

    After a while, this wording amused me a lot: even for this decision, the guy shifted the responsibility to his wife. Much later, I realized how good it was that the relationship with such an infantile person ended. nine0003

    And at the moment of parting, I experienced a shock. I sobbed, and my heart ached a lot. I made an appointment with a therapist and a cardiologist, but it turned out that from a medical point of view, everything is in order. Then I began to eat tons of bananas, thinking that the body simply did not have enough potassium, but this did not help. I started to ride a bike, and now this has already saved me from pain. True, when I got off the bike, the pain returned.


    How I survived a difficult breakup and learned how to build healthy relationships

    Around the same time, I found myself out of a job: the company was reorganized and several departments, including mine, were cut. There was no strength to find a new job, and the money to pay for a rented apartment began to run out.

    For the first time in 10 years, I thought it would be a good idea to live with my mother. But she said something like: "I don't need your closets here." Then I decided to meet my friend, explain the situation to her and find out if I could stay with her for a while. My friend agreed, and I moved in with her in an apartment that she recently bought and where there was literally nothing but an old chair and a small portable tile. So I ended up with my friend, on an air mattress. nine0003

    It's been about three months since the breakup, but I still felt bad. My heart hurt like hell, I sobbed for no reason 20-30 times a day. My eyes were always irritated, I couldn't sleep. Tears flowed by themselves against my will. For example, when I was spreading melted cheese on bread, it fell off the knife onto the table, made a "slap" and flattened out a bit. And I stood, looked at him, and tears flowed down my cheeks.

    How can you tell if your partner is leading a double life?

    Julia Tereshkina

    psychoanalytic psychotherapist, Yasno psychologist

    Author profile

    There are not so many people who live a double or triple life, hide their connections, lie masterfully and enjoy it. Most often these are people with psychopathy or sociopathy - they make up 1-2% of society.

    Most of those who start relationships on the side simply deceive themselves and try to escape from crisis situations in marriage with the help of infidelity. Exposing such people is quite easy, especially in the era of social networks. If a person constantly hides their phone from you or does not invite you to their home, this can be alarming. Over the months of the relationship, the reader has repeatedly encountered similar situations. nine0003

    Why didn't she notice problems? Most likely, the matter is in an internal conflict. On the one hand, the heroine wanted to believe that she had finally met a handsome prince. On the other hand, situations constantly arose that destroy this idealized picture: a person avoids questions about his personal life, disappears for a long time, does not introduce friends.

    In this case, you should trust your feelings more. Even if some discoveries hurt, they will help to avoid more difficult and deeper problems in the future. The reader invested a lot of energy in the relationship, so the breakup was a traumatic experience for her. If she had known the truth at the very beginning, she would have survived the breakup more easily. Don't be afraid to ask direct questions and appear overly demanding. It is worth telling your partner directly that it is impossible for you to communicate with a non-free person. nine0003

    Sometimes people don't see the obvious because they want to protect their dream. The heroine really wanted to believe that she had met a man who would surround her with love and care. This is probably what she was missing for a long time. The belief that she had finally found happiness overshadowed everything around her.

    In addition, there are times when people unconsciously indulge their hidden desires. For example, if a person is insecure, they may feel "second-rate" and settle for destructive relationships in which they will always be number two. nine0003

    In such cases, we are driven by an unconscious desire to defeat the opponent and prove to ourselves that we are worthy of taking first place. This is not at all out of love for a partner. When the fog clears, a person realizes that he could hardly truly love and respect the object of his admiration. The reader rightly calls her partner infantile and notices a lot of shortcomings in him. If she had paid attention to this earlier, most likely, she would not have fought for him.

    Search for a psychologist

    A friend suggested a psychotherapy room - then it was called the psychotherapy center under Kashchenko. There, for free, according to the MHI policy, everyone who is registered in the Kirovsky and Krasnoselsky districts is accepted. I came with a policy, I was assigned an attending physician - a psychiatrist, as well as a clinical psychologist and just a psychologist. I myself did not choose specialists, but then I did not have the strength to do so. I just needed help.

    How to get free psychological help: 11 support centers

    I didn't dare to enter the office for a long time, they say, how is it that I - and Kashchenko?! But a psychotherapy center is not a hospital or a day hospital. This is a separate institution. In the end, I decided that it couldn't get any worse and I had to try.

    How was the therapy

    The first appointment took about an hour and a half. First, the doctor took an anamnesis - asked what led me to her. I impudently lied to her and myself: I was ashamed to admit that the reason was some man. After all, I am so strong and everything is always fine with me. nine0003

    I told the doctor that I was worried about layoffs at work, told about pain in my heart, that I didn’t sleep well and couldn’t control my tears. She constantly asked how I could be treated if I soon found a job and could not come to appointments during the day. Only by the end of the session was she finally able to tell the truth, but she pretended that this was a minor and completely unimportant problem: "I also ran away with a guy, but this is nonsense." Fortunately, the doctor noticed that I was simply avoiding this topic, and began to question me. nine0003

    At the end of the appointment, the specialist said that I had adjustment disorder and depression. The tests that I took showed that her degree was on the border between medium and severe.

    My psychotherapy lasted four months. The treatment was structured as follows: once a week — a consultation with a psychiatrist-psychotherapist, a consultation with a clinical psychologist, and a meeting with just a psychologist. We worked with each for half an hour. I was also recommended to attend classes in open and closed groups on art therapy, self-regulation, cognitive behavioral therapy and some others. nine0003

    I really wanted to be cured and followed all the instructions with zeal: I kept diaries, beat a pillow, wrote letters, drew feelings, spoke aloud to my little self and went to all the groups that I could. I spent 5-8 hours on everything every day.

    Where to Talk: 10 Free Psychological Support Groups

    Stage One

    Initially, we dealt with acute illness, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. It is impossible to fully engage in psychotherapy in an acute state, first it must be stopped in order for the work to be productive. Therefore, the doctor prescribed tranquilizers and antidepressants. nine0003

    I had no doubts about the need to take them, and I was ready to do everything that the doctor says, just to get better. In the first six months, I spent about 3,000 R a month on medicines, and then 2,000 R each: antidepressants had been canceled by that time, and I took tranquilizers for another six months.

    ~30,000 R

    spending on drug therapy

    A month later I felt that the pills worked. Increased anxiety went away, I stopped crying all the time and started to sleep normally. I also felt that classes in open groups helped me, to which everyone could come. They were held every day, on the advice of a doctor, I attended classes in groups on self-regulation, art therapy and psychoeducation. nine0003

    In self-regulation groups, I learned to calm down. They explained that by performing a certain sequence of inhalations and exhalations, or squeezing and unclenching muscles, we calm down. Therefore, every time I became anxious, I began to breathe. At first, anxiety came up every half an hour when I was outside the psychotherapy center, and then less and less.

    Art therapy also helped me a lot: I learned to understand my feelings and emotions. At receptions, it was necessary to choose a topic, draw images, and then lay the drawings on the table and say in a circle what we feel when we look at someone else's drawing. Thanks to feedback from other participants, it was possible to better understand their emotions. nine0003

    For example, in one lesson we had to draw something that allows us to replenish the resource - a picture that gives us strength when we look at it. Someone painted the sea, someone painted mountains, and I depicted a tree in bright colors and a face. According to my idea, a kind creature was sitting inside this tree, and it was warm and good there.

    I thought it was quite a life-affirming drawing, but some of the band members said that the face was creepy and scary. These words aroused a storm of emotions in me: I thought that people did not understand anything and criticized me from scratch. And when I spoke my emotions, I understood what I felt. It was an annoyance. Before, before psychotherapy, I did not understand my feelings at all. nine0003 My drawing, which was criticized by the members of the group

    In psychoeducation groups, the doctor gave various printouts about coping strategies, told how to set boundaries, and gave many other useful information and tasks. For example, you had to write about what you would like to hear from your parents, draw yourself or the worst event from childhood. In addition, the specialist advised me books by Aaron Beck, Robin Norwood, Melody Beatty, Viktor Frankl, Eric Berne.

    Although first of all, the experts and I discussed the breakup of relations, this topic quickly faded into the background. It became clear that this was only a consequence of my childhood grievances, experiences and unmarked boundaries. nine0003

    I grew up in a complete family with a loving father who spent a lot of time with me and my brother, but my mother was cold and did not know how to show love. She didn't hug, didn't play, didn't say that she loved me. I remember how one day she came to pick me up from kindergarten and called me a bunny. I was amazed. Why's that? At the same time, I often heard that there is nothing of mine in the house and I must take what they give, otherwise I will not receive anything at all.


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    Due to the fact that in childhood my desires were often not taken into account, I poorly understood my own and other people's boundaries. I think that's why I got into a strange family.

    But most of the work was about mother, love, acceptance and forgiveness of oneself. I imagined that my mother was sitting on an empty chair opposite me, and I spoke to her, spoke to my little self - uttered the words that I really wanted to hear in childhood, but never heard.

    This is how I portrayed my mother

    And when I began to deal with my childhood grievances and achieved some success in this, I was able to forgive my ex-partner very quickly. It was even funny.

    The doctor offered to talk to him in an empty chair: I had to imagine that the young man was sitting opposite me and tell him what I wanted. At first, I spoke beautifully correct phrases: "Be happy, I hope you find what you want." The doctor pulled me up and asked me to tell me how I really feel. And I say: “May you die under the fence and work all your life in Eldorado.” Then I felt better and immediately let go. Because he went to hell, that's why. nine0003

    Second stage

    A month after the start of treatment, I was admitted to closed groups. They are formed from specific people, no one from the street can come freely. Closed groups are designed for deeper work. I went to cognitive behavioral therapy, person-centered reconstructive psychotherapy, existential therapy, and assertiveness training.

    The most effective was cognitive behavioral therapy, where I went three times a week. We kept diaries: we wrote down our reactions to situations and analyzed our feelings. This helped to reduce anxiety in the moment and in the future. It was necessary to write down 15-20 situations a day, that is, literally everything that worried. And then, together with a specialist, we looked for logical errors and cognitive distortions. nine0003

    11 psychotherapies that work

    The diary I kept when I went to CBT

    I learned in CBT that we have automatic thoughts that are based on irrational attitudes. And behind them, in turn, are deep convictions. Most often, these beliefs are the cause of our inadequate reactions and decisions. Such beliefs are always very brief, resonate very strongly within, and begin with "I." For me it turned out to be the attitudes “I am weak” and “I am unnecessary”. nine0003

    Through cognitive behavioral therapy, I have learned that thoughts that seem to be our own often hide the voice of others. A banal example: if a company of teenagers laughs next to you on the street, it may seem that they are laughing at you. At this point, you need to ask yourself: why do I think they are laughing at me? Who told me this? Usually there is no answer to this question, or it sounds in someone's suspiciously familiar voice. For example, in the voice of a mother, who in childhood constantly said: “What are you wearing, everyone will laugh at you.” It is important to keep track of such situations and understand whose voice sounded in your head. Because if this thought is not mine and, in addition, causes me discomfort, then why do I need it. nine0003

    Mom's voice doesn't always ring in my head. One day a funny thing happened during a consultation. The specialist and I were discussing the situation when I got very angry with my friend - she said that she approved of the death penalty. I was furious, and when the specialist asked me why, I replied that any life is sacred. And then he asked who told me that. I sat, opened my mouth, and I did not have the courage to admit that it was Gandalf. And then the therapist asked me to describe what thoughts I had when I started to get angry. It turned out that at that moment I felt insecure: I was afraid that they might execute me too. It was this irrational thought that caused me so many emotions and led to a quarrel. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you to catch such automatic thoughts and get rid of irrational attitudes. nine0003

    And in person-centered reconstructive psychotherapy, I worked with my behavior in a group. At one of the meetings, I lost my classic reaction: I came into conflict with the whole group, refusing to accept one of the rules. Then the group decided that it was necessary to exclude those who skipped more than three classes, and I was against any exceptions. And I was able to resolve this conflict by being honest about why I reacted this way: the reaction was caused by my own fear for myself. The group understood this and accepted my point of view. nine0003

    Can intensive psychotherapy speed up recovery?

    Yulia Tereshkina

    psychoanalytic psychotherapist, psychologist of the Yasno service

    Author's profile

    Probably, the intensive regimen helped the heroine get rid of her anxiety and regain a sense of control over circumstances. But the principle "the more the better" does not work here. It's like taking medicine: you can take a handful of pills instead of one, but most likely it won't make you healthier. nine0003

    In therapy, the frequency and stability of meetings is important - this helps to maintain intensity and gives a sense of security. But the pace is selected depending on the specific problem and the client's condition.


    There were many insights in therapy. The most important thing I learned is that to be honest, as it is, it immediately becomes easier to say what I really think and feel. Now I immediately clarify the situation and speak honestly about what worries me, and do not hush up. People understand that I am not perfect, but an ordinary person, and they are more willing to enter the position. nine0003

    I realized an important thing: my mother is also a person. She did what she could and how she could. I loved it the best I could.

    Another discovery: I have a problem with boundaries and I need to learn how to be flexible and say no at the same time. And for this - never make decisions right away, give yourself time to think. And apply self-regulation techniques when necessary, such as breathing.


    “It was an amazing experience”: 5 important discoveries in consultations with a psychologist

    I have learned to understand how I feel. Psychotherapy taught me to analyze the sensations in the body - it's easier to realize what emotion I'm experiencing. For example, I learned that when I get angry, my knuckles itch.

    And when I figured out the basic emotions, it became much easier to be aware of more complex feelings: gloating, despair, and so on.

    Learn more