Boyfriend Appears Depressed. What Can I Do to Help?

Reader’s Question

I have been dating my boyfriend for almost three months now and I’ve begun to become really worried about him because he comes and goes through these almost apathetic or depressed states. Some days he will be extremely happy, pleasant to be around, funny, affectionate, focused on school and life; but then other times he just gets into this funk where he becomes withdrawn and moody. When he is in these kinds of funks he won’t talk to me when I ask him what’s wrong, he is moody and short with me and all of his friends as well. He is also always tired and has a difficult time focusing. He thinks the latter may be due to ADHD but he is undiagnosed. I suffered through depression myself for ten years when I was a kid and I know what it can be like, but I don’t know how to proceed or act with him because all I want is for him to be happy always and even though I myself have gone through depression I don’t know if he has it, or how to proceed.

Psychologist’s Reply

The mood swings you are describing are common in depression. If he’s depressed, he will also have physical issues such as difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, fatigure, and even odd symptoms such as hot flushes and leg cramps. If he won’t consider depression as a possible source of his issues, maybe you can focus on the fatigue and physical symptoms. Many adults will see a physician due to sleep problems rather than crying spells. The physician should be able to easily identify the depression if present. Also volunteer to accompany him to a mental health professional’s office. You can also have a mild confrontation with him in which you focus on the changes you’ve seen such as

  1. changes in his mood,
  2. changes in his behavior,
  3. changes in his ability to get things done due to poor concentration.

ADHD is unlikely to be the major problem here.

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