Dating and Depression: Yes or No?

People without a partner are often anxious about getting “hooked up” ASAP before the biological clock runs out (this attitude affects men and women both).  But people living with depression often find the dating pool to be a taxing and often futile place to be.  How do you handle feeling pulled in two directions at once?  On the one hand, you need a date in order to progress toward those all-important love and family goals; on the other hand, you’re hardly at your best when in the throes of a downswing, and, oh, it’s probably not worth the effort anyway…

Over the years, we’ve talked with a lot of folks struggling with just this dilemma.  And we have developed some practical tips to help think through how to move forward on the search for romantic love while mood surfing.

  1. There’s no rush.  It’s just not true that you’ll never find love and happiness if you miss the right age or time to pair up.  You may be able to have your own children at a later age than you think, and you may find happiness in a different family configuration than the traditional one.  Give it time.
  2. During a depressive mood swing it’s harder to put yourself out there, be outside the comfort zone, aspire to something completely new.  This may be a time to hold back, and work on the depression itself first. In fact, we have even found that the mood level can influence the type of relationship you seek out, rather than the relationship influencing the mood.  At the peak or trough of a mood swing your ideas about people may be skewed, leading to inappropriate commitments.
  3. There are other things you can do to prepare.  For a healthy, adult romantic relationship, some introspection and self-knowledge may be in order first.  Take some time to reflect on your attachment style.  Consider the ways you have tried to build intimacy in relationships.  Look back at your own and others’ romantic relationships that you have observed.  What lessons have your drawn from your experience?  Are these lessons giving you good guidance, or do you need to unlearn some toxic relationship “rules” from your past?
  4. You can change. We have found that people who believe that their personality is unchangeable may get depressed about their potential as a dating partner in the future, whereas people who believe that they can learn new skills and change things that may have gone wrong in the past are more ready to try again with a new person or relationship.
  5. Some have found it useful to work with a dating coach.  Not a matchmaker, a dating coach can help you be explicit about what you’re looking for in a relationship and what you have to offer.  Sometimes just using a dating app isn’t enough if you don’t know how to present yourself in a realistic way.  A dating coach may be able to help you walk through what to say and what not to say as you meet new people.

We’re not against dating here, but we are very aware of how many ways it can go awry and lose you the chance for the strong relationship you’re looking for.  So take some time to work through these issues, and get stronger before you’re ready to plunge back into the dating pool.