How Do You Help a Partner Who is Depressed? Advice From a Sex Therapist

April 8, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller

“The simplest thing to do—which is not simple at all—is to be able to be present, to be there, to tell them that they need to seek help. that you love them, that they will come out of this, that they were not always like this. But don’t try to change them.” – Esther Perel

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the United States. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health, 1 in 14 Americans experienced an episode of major depression in the last year alone. Given the circumstances surrounding the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, many in the mental health community predict that the number will be even higher this year because these circumstances are creating a “perfect storm” of depression risks.

The widespread prevalence of depression has a lot of implications for our lives, even if we don’t personally have depression ourselves. Many of us will have loved ones, such as a romantic partner, who develops depression at some point. In these situations, it’s common for people to wonder how they can help their partner most effectively. So what should they do?

Sex and relationship therapist Esther Perel has some insights, which she shares in the video below. As Perel discusses, it’s common for people to try to “lift” their partners—to give them specific suggestions and advice on how they can feel better. However, while this is well intended, it often doesn’t have the desired effect and sometimes exacerbates the negative effects on the relationship.

So what’s a potentially more effective approach? Check out the video below for Perel’s advice.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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