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Question
Posted by: | 2020/08/06

My boyfriend suffers from depression

Hi doc, I'm in a long distance relationship (different countries). In the beginning everything was great. He was active and lively and we had many plans. For reasons I won't go into he's currently in his country and I'm here. We haven't been able to make plans to see each other because of the lockdown and covid situation. About 2 months ago he became distant and eventually he told me he was depressed but he's fine now. I thought it was the common dip that everyone goes through now and again but it seems to be getting worse. He goes in and out of depression. He closes himself off from me, ignores my calls and texts, refuses to video chat and recently he removed his photo from his social media. When he gets into his depressive state he simply withdraws without word which makes me insecure and hurt because I don't know if he's ghosting me or if he is depressed. I've asked him to at least tell me when he wants to be alone so that I know to give him space. I'm struggling right now because I don't know how to support him or how bad/often his depression happens. I sometimes wonder if staying with him is healthy for me because when he pushes me away he triggers some of my own issues which makes me want to end the relationship. I love him more than I want to run away. I just worry about this dynamic in the long term. What is the best way to support a partner who suffers from depression especially with the current situation because I can't even visit him. I don't know if this is a chronic condition because he doesn't want to talk and when I try to push him I can feel he's struggling with himself like he wants to be open but can't. Sometimes it feels like I'm dating two people.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink
- 2020/08/08

Hello,  I understand your concerns. Long-distance relationships are never easy, and automatically include a range of extra problems on top of the usual difficulties of simple close-by human relationships.  And the virus has obviously added greatly to this.  Now, this does give an opening in long-distance relationships for people to gracefully agree to downscale their relationship, to remain friends but lower mutual expectations so as to match realistic possibilities.
That he maintains at least intermittent and unpredictable contact with you suggests that he does care about you.
You don't mention him showing this sort of pattern of depressions and evasiveness during times that you were together ; maybe it has started more recently, maybe related to problems in his situation in his home country.  or other matters not involving you.
Of course you would like to be supportive, though this is hard to achieve.  Sometimes the best you can do is firstly to express clearly to him that you care, wish you were close enough to provide direct support and help, and hope things will soon improve for him. But above all, this sounds significant depression ( or similar problems) and surely he needs to seek proper professional assessment and help in his country, which you need to encourage him to do.  He should see a psychologist or psychiatrist for a full assessment and a discussion about how they can best help him to get a grip on this condition.  Then as he improves with local expert help, he may well become more open to making better contact with you.

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