Is Their Depression My Fault?
Relationships are complex things and when we care about someone it’s easy to become worried or over-sensitized about our actions and the effects these may have on a loved one. Depression is a case in point. I’ve noticed several questions appearing on the HealthCentral boards that share a common theme. ‘Should I have been more sensitive to their depressive symptoms? Am I helping or hurting? Is their depression the result of something I did or said?’
The situation becomes even more marked if aspects of the relationship have been stressful. It’s easy to blame ourselves in such situations. Perhaps something we said or did has had a negative effect on the relationship? Maybe this did lead to upsets and disagreements? Perhaps you have read that stress is linked to depression and that’s why you are feeling responsible? Let’s see if we can clear something up in this regard. It is our perception and reaction to stress that may help to trigger depression – it is not stress per se.
What do I mean by that? I’m saying that just because we have a physical and emotional connection with another human being we need to guard against assuming a connection with their depression. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but in many cases of depression the causes are either completely unknown, or they are complex. The fact that you may feel a failure, or somehow guilty or their behalf, is far more likely to be an issue of your own concerns than to have any connection to reality. In order to help another person with depression the very first step is to stop blaming yourself.
Stormy relationships can generate a lot of stress and people can behave badly towards one another. Even so, the guilt that arises from this can work both ways. Sometimes you feel bad because of what you’ve said or done and sometimes you feel bad because that’s exactly how the other person wants you to feel. Let’s see these issues for what they are and not assume they have anything to do with the onset of depression. Of course your relationship may be entirely tranquil. You may adore one another and never a cross word may pass between you. Despite all this you may still be burdened with the torment that you are somehow lacking.
There are various explanations as to the cause of depression. Whether you subscribe to biochemical, or genetic, or psychosocial explanations the fact is depression is a global issue that affects millions of people. Take yourself out of the equation – it’s not your fault.