3 Crucial Ways To Be More Empathetic To Someone Struggling With Depression

Empathy is what they really need.

How To Help Someone With Depression By Learning How To Be More Empathetic unsplash

If you love someone who struggles with depression, you know how overwhelming and paralyzing it can be when you don’t know what to do to make them feel better.

Understanding how to help someone with depression is different than just recognizing when they’re depressed or talking through their pain.

It means being empathetic to their needs and working hard not to take bad days personally; even when you are exhausted and overwhelmed, too.


RELATED: The Science Behind Empathy And Being An Empath

Depression can be cruel — not only to those who suffer from it, but to the people who love them, as well. It can feel as though there’s been a pall cast over your relationship when someone’s struggling to overcome their emotional distress.


It affects every part of your lives together, from time spent doing quality things to even just normal household chores, time with the kids and friends, and numerous aspects of your daily life you never even realized.

It’s normal to feel sad or confused when you’re figuring out how to support someone with depression, but learning ways to care for yourself while caring for someone with depression is important, too. It can make all the difference, in fact.

If you don’t personally struggle with depression, understanding how depression affects someone might seem impossible. But by being empathetic to your depressed loved one’s needs, you can make it easier for both of you to survive depressive bouts and come out stronger on the other side as individuals and a couple.

But what does it mean to be truly empathetic to your depressed partner, and how can it help make this period easier on you both?


In any good relationship, there’s a quality of give and take from both people involved. But when someone you love suffers from depression, sometimes they’ll need a little more “give” from you in order to help them through that rough patch.

If you can be empathetic to them — that is, to really put yourself in their shoes and understand what they need and how they’re feeling — you’ll be able to be a sounding board for a person who might not be able to express those desires when they’re overwhelmed.

Depression might make you feel like you’re being robbed of your partner, or that you’re helpless to do anything to stop their slide further into it, but this simply isn’t the case. Depression doesn’t have to be a hopeless scenario for you both.

There are ways you can exercise empathy with your partner that will let them know how much you love them and show them the support they desperately crave in their time of need.


Here are 3 amazing pieces of advice from YourTango Experts on how you can be empathetic and help the person you love get through their depression … without wearing yourself down in the process:

1. Remind yourself that the goal isn’t just for them to “feel better.”

“Supporting someone with depression requires an "other-centered" attitude, which enables you to show consistent support unconditionally, even when the responses are not as you hope for.

In order to come from 'other-centeredness', you need to detach yourself from the outcome you desire and focus instead on the desired direction and its process.

By doing so, you are releasing expectations that are burdening the process, making the journey more enjoyable both for you and the depressed person you are helping.”


It’s easy to get caught up in waiting for a depressive “bout” to finish. But wondering when things are going to get back to normal can stress both you and your partner out. Instead of making the situation about the destination, make it about the journey. Don’t forget to make the most of every moment together — even the ones shrouded in depression.

Ellen Patricia, M.A. is the recipient of Heartline Award for "Family Counselor" category (Indonesia, 2016), as well as an internationally-certified professional coach (ICF). You can find her online at her website or learn about her services on Instagram @yayasanbusuremas.

RELATED: The Desperation Of Depression: Why We Must Show Compassion


2. Don’t forget to take care of your needs, too.

“Check with yourself first though to make sure you’re at a relatively healthy headspace to even offer up empathetic support. It’s not a slight undertaking and can be triggering for some and emotionally overwhelming to others to be empathetic if it isn’t something that doesn’t come naturally or even practiced often.

Validating and reaffirming your loved one are a few ways in which you can show empathy to them. Not in the typical “I am strong and capable” affirmation sense, but being sure to iterate to them that struggling with depression is not their fault will help to release any sense of blame or guilt they may be holding for experiencing what they’re feeling while depressed."

Being a caretaker is a massive undertaking of heart. And if you’re not in the right mindset to give of yourself, then you’ll end up feeling worn out and exhausted when you try and help others.

Remember to put the mask over your own face before trying to put it on someone else’s. Self-care will help you be the loving, empathetic person your depressed loved one requires — without burning you out, too.


LaKeshia Grant, LPC is the lead therapist and owner of Mindfully Restored Counseling and a certified dynamic mindfulness teacher who’s passionate about minority mental health, depression, anxiety, and life transitions in. To find out more about LaKeshia and how she helps those in counseling get to their definition of emotional wellness, visit her website or follow her on Instagram @mindfully_restored.

3. Remember that depression is scary for both of you.

"We lose empathy when we get scared. The human blueprint is to respond by going into survival mode, so there’s no possible way we could even think of anyone else while we’re trying to protect ourselves emotionally and physically. Heal your relationship trauma so your nervous system can calm down and you don't operate from a fearful or anxious state, this way you can give and receive through authentic connection."

Part of what's important to remember as a caretaker is that the person you love who's suffering from depression is operating out of fear and sadness. This can wear you down and make you feel like you need to protect yourself as well.


Be empathetic in taking care of them, but remember not to let the fear control you, too. Make decisions with a calm, level head so that you can keep both yourself and your partner on an even keel.

Terrie Huberman is an intuitive coach and psychic medium helping high driven, goal-oriented women who are sick and tired of being stuck in their life and are serious about getting out of indecision. For more information, you can visit Terri's website and follow her on Facebook or Instagram at @intuitivecoachterrie.

For more advice from incredible people in helping professions, look to our Experts. They are here to help!

RELATED: 8 Ways To Turn Your Empathic Abilities Into A Superpower (And Make Your Life Better)


Merethe Najjar is a professional writer, editor, and fiction author living in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their cat. You can follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.