If your SO has been distracted, down in the dumps, or if they've been acting differently lately, it could be a sign your partner is dealing with anxiety, depression, or some other mental health issue. While many people are fully aware they've got some struggles going on, not everyone pays close attention to their mental health. Others don't know or want to deal with a problem, and are happy to ignore the signs for as long as possible.
In either case, it may be up to the you, the partner, to swoop in and offer some help. "Most partners recognize changes in their loved one quicker than anyone else in the partner's life," author and therapist Shannon Thomas, LCSW tells Bustle. This is all thanks to your outside perspective, as well as all that time you spend together as a couple.
So, if your partner seems a bit off, definitely express your concerns. "Don't wait until someone is at their worst to get them help," says mental health therapist Devin Pinkston. "If unsure how to help, reach out to supportive friends or family for guidance. You can also encourage your partner to read up on articles about their symptoms, seeing a therapist, or talking to someone who's been through what they're going through (peer support), and simply validating and letting them know you're there for them emotionally." Read on for some signs it may be time to do just that.
1. They Seem To Get Mad Easily
While everyone's entitled to the occasional bad mood, it's never a good sign if your partner has been blowing up in fits of rage. "Anger is often referred to as 'depression with enthusiasm,'" Caroline Madden, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "A sign of depression is that everything and everyone easily annoys them (like traffic)." So if your partner is suddenly road raging, take note.
2. They've Been Feeling Tired Lately
Long work days aside, you should definitely check in with your partner if they're suddenly going to bed super early. Same goes for a partner who never goes to bed. "Emerging mental health concerns will often drive people to desire a lot more sleep, or opposite and they can't stay in bed," says Thomas. Either way, their weird sleep problems could be a sign of a problem.
3. He Or She Is Suddenly Spacey And Forgetful
If your partner's been "out of it" lately, it could be due to their unaddressed (or ignored) inner turmoil. "What seems like sudden onset of forgetfulness can be a sign of struggling with a stable mental health," Thomas says. "Someone who once was organized may find themselves missing deadlines, forgetting to pick up kids on time, and seeing other adult-life duties becoming really messy and disorganized."
4. They Seem To Be Drinking More Often
While it's definitely OK to have the occasional drink, take care of a partner who seems to be turning to alcohol (or other coping mechanisms) on a more regular basis. "Many people with mental health issues have learned various ways to cope with their symptoms," licensed counselor Monte Drenner tells Bustle. "Individuals with anxiety or depression, for example, realize that 'something is off' but choose to medicate their symptoms rather than address them."
5. They Aren't Interested In Physical Intimacy
Since issues like depression and anxiety can steal your energy and ruin your self-esteem, don't be surprised if an ailing partner doesn't want to be physically intimate. As Madden tells me, this may be one of many signs your partner isn't feeling quite like themselves.
6. They're Complaining About Not Feeling Well
Mental health issues often take a physical toll, so pay attention to a partner who can't seem to stop complaining. "Believe in the mind body connection," says Madden. "When something is depressing someone and they won’t admit that they are depressed or stressed, eventually their bodies start giving out." They may complain about headaches, stomachaches, or an ongoing feeling of fatigue.
7. He Or She Doesn't Want To Shower Or Do Laundry
Everyone's needs are different, so it's totally OK if you partner doesn't shower everyday, or if they go a week without washing their hair. Do take note, however, if their life is suddenly all sorts of dirty. "People with depression can sometimes neglect self-care: not showering or brushing teeth, wearing the same clothes several days in a row," says licensed clinical social work Patti Sabla. They may also forget to do laundry, or stop cleaning their apartment.
8. They Won't Answer Their Phone
Someone who's struggling with a mental health issue, like depression, may not have the energy to make plans to hang out, much less get up to answer their phone. If this is your partner, Sabla tells me they may also start to isolate themselves. And that's not good.
9. You Can't Predict Their Moods
Again, it's normal to have some mood swings throughout the day. But it's not so normal if you can't predict your partner's moods, or if they're truly extreme. "Mood swings between high and low that cannot be accounted for by life actually getting better or worse may indicate Bipolar Disorder," says therapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW. This one can truly impact your relationship, so the sooner you can both seek help, the better.
10. They Don't Seem Present
When hanging out with your partner, do you feel like they're fully present? If not, they could be in their head overthinking a problem, which is a common when someone's struggling with mental health issues. "He [or] she may be ruminating or be hyper-focused on an issue that is out of their control," relationship therapist Teresa Solomita, LCSW-R, NCPsyA tells Bustle. "Soon, they will not be able to be present with you and may not be able to focus on conversation or activity."
11. They Don't Want To Talk About The Future
If your partner is dealing with depression, they may not be able to gather the energy to think about the future. So, if that seems to be the case, take it upon yourself to check in with them. "Ask your partner about their goals," says NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "If they don't have any or don't seem to care about their future, this may be a sign of mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression."
If you notice any of these signs, gently point them out to your partner and find ways to be as supportive as possible. And remember: helping a partner with a mental health issue can be stressful, so make sure you take care of yourself, too.
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