By Rachel Welch
The world is still recovering from the mental health impact of COVID-19. In January 2020, the world had not yet been altered by the pandemic. Statistics suggested at that time, more than 264 million people suffered from depression (1). Recent studies since the pandemic show a drastic increase, with that number nearly tripling as a result of recent stressors. (2) This has inspired discussion surrounding depression's impact on our relationships.
Common symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, irritability, apathy, and hopelessness (3). Additionally, individuals with depression may suffer from extreme fatigue, lethargy, and low motivation (4). In relationships, these symptoms can make interactions challenging. Depression's impact on relationships stems from these challenging symptoms. Feeling constantly sad or irritable can make it difficult to be engaged in a social event with friends. Feeling apathetic or fatigued can make holding an attentive conversation seem impossible. These are some of the many challenges that people with depression face in their relationships.
Our support systems and networks are valuable in times of hardship.
This is especially true for people who struggle with depression. With depression, interaction may feel extremely daunting. People need support from friends and loved ones. For those experiencing depression, it is tiring to feel like they are fighting their own brain when they try to interact.
Thankfully, there are treatments to help alleviate and improve these symptoms. “Talk-therapy” has proven beneficial for many people with depression, in addition to lifestyle changes. Increased exercise, changes in diet, and a heavier focus on nutrition are often part of a depression treatment plan. When it comes to nutrition, vitamin D has been a hot topic since 2020, and has even been referred to as “sunshine in a pill.”
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a number of symptoms that include depressive mood and fatigue or low energy (5). The same symptoms are also commonly related to depression. Therefore, an increase in vitamin D can be a useful treatment for depression (6). Individuals who suffer from depression and anxiety have also found benefits in adding a daily magnesium supplement (7). Different types of magnesium provide benefits such as treating migraines, improving sleep, and reducing muscle pain. There is power in nutrition as a treatment option! While supplements are valuable in improving mood, energy, and general wellbeing, depression is a complex and serious medical issue that is rarely addressed from supplements alone. Consult with your doctor about the treatment options that are right for you.
Depression's impact on relationships can be a barrier to healing.
We all need a strong support system. This is especially true for those who suffer from depression. When a depressive episode strikes, having loved ones to help pull us through can be crucial. Quality social relationships are strongly related to depression (8). This further emphasizes the importance of treating these symptoms in the best possible way.
Depression has the potential to affect not only the individual, but also those close to them. In relationships, the give-and-take dynamic is important to ensure that all people involved feel that their needs are being met. Individuals with depression may have a difficult time meeting their own needs, let alone the needs of others. This makes open communication a useful tool for growth.
Communicate honestly and openly.
To maintain healthy relationships while coping with depression, it can be helpful to educate loved ones about what depression is, and what it isn’t. It is important to clarify what exactly loved ones can do to help. Maybe they can cook dinner more often, allow some alone time, or do the grocery shopping. Also, it is important to be clear about what is not helpful, and to offer an alternative about what would be a better form of support. Clear communication is highly valuable and should be handled with patience and compassion. Understanding that our loved ones want to help and may not know how is a perspective to consider when working towards healing together. Individuals with depression can help to strengthen the support within their networks by taking time to equip their loved ones with helpful knowledge and understanding.
Ask for what you need.
Working on communication is a wonderful step towards preparing loved ones to be as helpful as possible when supporting someone with depression. A person experiencing depression can further improve communication patterns by being crystal clear about what they need and share their current feelings and emotions. Individuals with depression should consider that their partners and loved ones likely want to make them happy, and when coping with depression, it may not be possible to react in the way that a loved one is hoping for. In this case, it can be helpful to communicate that you are currently experiencing depression, and that you appreciate their support, even if that is hard to show in the moment. Reassuring our loved ones that they are not doing anything wrong can be helpful when depression affects your ability to express your reactions and feelings.
There are several tools that we can use to alleviate and cope with depression more effectively. Taking supplements like vitamin D and Magnesium with your doctor’s approval can help by uplifting mood, increasing energy, and improving sleep. A nutritious, balanced diet and exercise regimen is beneficial to increasing endorphins in the brain and reducing stress. Anti-depressants prescribed by medical providers are effective for many people. High-quality social relationships have strong potential to positively impact a person’s treatment of depression as well, and healthy communication can ensure the health of those relationships. Clearly asking for what we need, being patient and understanding, and reassuring our well-intentioned loved ones are all healthy habits to maintain strong relationships.
We now have a plan when it comes to combatting depression, being present in social interactions, and maintaining positive relationships. We can take our "sunshine pills." We can take our magnesium. We can be there for each other in hard times, and we can communicate clearly. By taking these steps, we may be able to help push the clouds of depression a little further away.
- World Health Organization. (2020, January 30). Depression. Retrieved from World Health Organization website: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
- Sep 03, M. V. B. | N. W. | C. N. |, & 2020. (2020, September 3). Depression triples in US adults amid COVID-19 stressors. Retrieved from CIDRAP website: https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/09/depression-triples-us-adults-amid-covid-19-stressors
- How Depression Can Negatively Affect Relationships. (2020, June 26). Retrieved from TMS Washington website: https://www.tmswashington.com/2020/06/26/how-depression-can-affect-relationships/
- Torres, F. (2017, January). What Is Depression? Retrieved from Psychiatry.org website: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
- Why It is Important to Take Vitamin D in the Winter. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2021, from Health By Principle website: https://www.healthbyprinciple.com/blogs/news/taking-vitamin-d-in-the-winter
- Anglin, R. E. S., Samaan, Z., Walter, S. D., & McDonald, S. D. (2013). Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(2), 100–107. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.111.106666
- Magnesium for Anxiety: How You Can Fight Anxiety and Feel Better. (2019, March 20). Retrieved from Healthline website: https://www.healthline.com/health/magnesium-anxiety#which-magnesium
- Teo, A. R., Choi, H., & Valenstein, M. (2013). Social Relationships and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up from a Nationally Representative Study. PLoS ONE, 8(4), e62396. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0062396
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