Is it possible that you or your partner are suffering from long distance depression or anxiety? Would you even know?
Anger, avoidance, changes in behavior, panic attacks, fear, self-loathing or apathy. You think you know what these are, but do you really? Does anybody?
Progress is being made every single day by brave doctors and researchers and yet, for now, we have to admit that we are still in the dark. (See the largest ever study of depression and anxiety here.)
These hidden dangers may be sneakier than you ever imagined. They change shape, they hide under the skin of other symptoms, they use defensiveness as a weapon.
On top of everything, you’re in a long distance relationship, so your partner may be suffering from anxiety or depression completely unknown to you.
Or you may have a little secret of your own. If you’re here and reading about it, that means you have some suspicions, but probably no certainties.
Let’s take a look today at what makes anxiety and depression thrive in long distance relationships, how to recognize it, and maybe how to stop it.
Are you suffering from anxiety or depression?
“No, of course not.”
“How would you know?”
“Well, I’d be sad or something, right?”
If only it were that easy. There’s a recent study you can find on the US National Library of Medicine that talks about undiagnosed depression. While there are very many interesting statistics and explanations there, the takeaway is that they estimate that there are the same number of undiagnosed sufferers as diagnosed ones.
That’s right, it’s quite possible that for every single person that’s in therapy, there’s another one out there suffering in silence.
While there’s no real universal pattern that fits all forms of depression and anxiety, here are just a few of the more subtle signs that something is wrong:
You’re not really in the mood.
For anything. Try as you might, you just don’t feel like doing anything. Even the things that you used to really enjoy leave you cold. It’s not that you hate any of them, they just make you feel…. blah.
Sadly, so does your significant other. You may have the very confusing and conflicting feeling that you love him, but at the same time would love for him to just leave you alone for a bit.
You’re suspecting that you have a vitamin deficiency.
Because even though you want to get on a plane, and you know how to buy the tickets… you just don’t have the energy. Forget traveling to see your partner, even going to the grocery store feels like a drain on most days.
Perhaps you do have a vitamin deficiency! In which case, a simple blood test will tell. Oh, what’s that? You’re not really in the mood to go get a blood test? huh.
You’re suspecting you have a stomach problem.
It just feels weird a lot of the time for no apparent reason. Maybe it’s an ulcer. When you’re about to take a driving exam and you feel nausea and heartburn, that’s not great, but it’s absolutely normal.
When it happens for no reason, or worse, when you should be experiencing joy, that’s an alarm.
Being around other people is an effort, including your long distance partner.
You may always have been an introvert and found quiet solitude more relaxing. But even so, a night out once a month with friends would have seemed fun. Now, it really doesn’t, and you don’t even know why you keep your dancing shoes around.
As for having a house guest? Unbearable. It may even feel like a visit from your long distance partner is starting to be more effort and hassle than happiness, and as soon as they leave, you sigh in relief.
Is my long distance relationship causing my depression and anxiety?
It’s very unlikely.
I know it can seem that way at times, but the problem with depression is that it isn’t caused by any external factor at all.
While being in a long distance relationship is hard, and nobody will ever deny that it can be challenging, it can also be beautiful and fun and exciting. The difference between the ordeal and the adventure, as the proverb says, is in your attitude. Or, in this case, in your condition.
If you’re not convinced, it’s quite easy to determine if you’re naturally a person prone to anxiety by taking one of these tests.
Normally I advise against the ever-present “personality quiz” as the great majority of them are nothing more than facebook clickbait. However, reputable sources like anxietycentre.com genuinely invest time and effort into helping us understand ourselves and feel better.
By taking their anxiety, depression and worry tests you can begin to understand what types of behavior you might have that prove you are naturally prone to these feelings. They have absolutely nothing to do with being in a long distance relationship or any relationship, and everything to do with who you are as a person.
I think I might be depressed. What can I do?
There’s a short and easy answer to that question that you need to hear: Absolutely everything you can.
A disturbing number of people would like to go on pretending like this isn’t happening. I’m not judging, I’ve been guilty of it myself.
But much like a pregnant teen who wants to pretend like she’s not pregnant, it’s only a matter of time before the truth bursts out and starts shouting at you.
What you must absolutely NOT do is ignore it. If you need any further convincing, just read this no-nonsense list of the consequences of sweeping depression under the carpet. (The link opens in a new window)
The other short, but equally important answer is this: Talk about it.
I would advise telling your long distance partner as soon as you possibly can. They may be far away, but you are in this together and they have a right to know. You would want to know if they were suffering from anything, wouldn’t you? And you would be on their case to get help, wouldn’t you?
If your partner is a keeper, they will want to know too, and they will be there to help, which is exactly what you should do.
Don’t bother with the excuses, we’ve already heard them all:
- I don’t have time for treatment (You don’t have time for suffering, either.)
- It’s too expensive (There are free options!)
- It’s embarrassing (Everything is embarrassing. Try having hemorrhoids.)
- It’s not like it’s a deadly disease (It can be.)
- I’ll just have a cup of tea and it will all get better (It might not.)
As for those free options I mentioned, there are really some great resources out there that you can lean on.
First of all, your loved ones. For better or for worse, anyone who loves you will want to hear you out and will have a word of advice for you. Don’t actually follow that advice, because they probably mean well but know even less than you do about the topic. But just the act of talking to them about it, and getting their feedback and understanding will help.
Secondly, I’d turn to literature. There’s so much you can read that will help you understand and fight anxiety and depression. And whatever we can understand, we can conquer.
Take a look at these articles and pick up something that inspires you. Everyone’s experience and journey are different, but there’s something to learn from all of them (links open in new window):
Finally, don’t dis the free help lines. I know it sounds cheesy, but it doesn’t have to be (as long as you stay away from the web pages that ask you to pay by the minute in order to get help.)
A really great starting point is to try The World’s Largest Emotional Support System. The good people over at 7cups.com will connect you to someone who is trained (and happy!) to listen to you and it’s completely free and anonymous. – Think about it, one click from now you could be on your way to feeling better!
Signs your LDR partner may be hiding depression
So you don’t relate to any of those personal feelings, the tests all came back negative and you think you’re in the clear? That’s great. And moreover, that’s a good opportunity to turn a careful eye at your partner and see if you can spot anything wrong.
Being in a long distance relationship comes with a lot of caveats, and one of them is that you may not always be the first to know news or notice a problem. It’s not only the distance, but it’s also the fact that you want to keep each other as happy and pleased as possible in an already difficult situation.
Here are some of the ways in which your partner may be quietly crying for help:
• They seem to be taking less care of themselves and their home every time you see them - Sometimes it’s the opposite, and they seem almost too perfect whenever you visit. You can usually tell that it took an enormous effort to accomplish that.
• They are unhappy or displeased whenever you do something together, even when they chose the activity themselves
• They avoid making any decisions or choices themselves and leave it all up to you.
• They are completely engulfed in work with little breathing room, mostly by their own choice
• They would rather spend most of your time together in escapist activities such as playing video games or watching movies
There are many more things you could recognize as signs of depression if only you knew where to look. We can’t list all of them here, however, there is a very good resource out there if you want to find out more about what people are genuinely feeling and how they are reacting to depression.
Reddit actually has an amazing page where people talk about their experience with depression. It can be pretty harsh, so I would definitely recommend it only if you’re feeling pretty stable yourself.
Here’s an example of people sharing their experiences on Reddit using ‘escapism‘ to avoid real life.
While you might not always find any answers or advice, you will find the most honest report of what sufferers are actually going through. And there’s nothing like being informed to help you help others!
How can I help my long distance partner deal with his depression?
The main thing is that you need to be there.
The very fact that you know about it, and are willing to do what is necessary is already a great first step.
You may have your work cut out for you in getting your partner to accept treatment. You will have to be patient, and extremely persistent. This is not an endeavor you can afford to give up on. Try to remember that your partner needs help, and he is not being stubborn on purpose.
Psychology Today writer Julie K. Hersh has a great couple of articles on the topic, starting with Convincing the Stubborn to Accept Mental Health Care – What’s really great about it is that she confronts the fact that there is no one single solution and no one simple way to do it.
Instead, she tells us about what the sufferer is feeling and how to gently coax them through every step of the way.
She also has a fantastic article on how her husband dealt with her suicidal depression and talks about what you as a partner can do to keep yourself sane and available during this trying time. (link opens in new window)
The main takeaway is that you need to take care of yourself as well. You won’t be in any shape to help if you are exhausted and pushed to the edge.
Asking for help from family or loved ones is always a good idea, as is remembering that this is not your fault.
The absolute best thing I suggest you should try is to get some training to deal with this situation! You can not only help your loved one but also volunteer to help many others who are in the same situation.
You can apply to become a listener on 7cups.com and they will train you in active listening. You can get certifications, as well as support and mentoring from other more experienced coaches. You can volunteer online from home, and then use all that you have learned in your long distance relationship.
There are miracles that you can do even with a chatting app. Don’t let the distance stop you from sending all of your support, encouragement, and love!
Words by: Alexandra Pana
Feature image: Rawpixel