What To Do When Your Spouse Is Depressed
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- Coping with a depressed husband/wife can be tasking if the wrong approach is taken. The right approach is to support a depressed spouse and provide the right environment for them to deal with their feelings of depression so that they can recover quickly from the episode of depression. In this article, we will be showing you 11 of the best ways to support a depressed spouse and also deal with a suicidal spouse.
Major depressive episode in the past year among U.S. adults by age and gender 2019. Source: Statista
Percentage of adults in the U.S. with depression from 2013 to 2016, by age. Source: Statista
The charts above confirm one thing, and that is the fact that depression is no respecter of person or age. It can affect anyone of whatever age or station in life. And this should provide some solace or comfort in a small way because it means you and your spouse are not alone. Knowing how to help a depressed spouse is key to helping your spouse and your family successfully scale the challenge that depression presents.
You may also be interested in this related article on How to know if your teenager is depressed.
Coping With A Depressed Spouse
Depression can put a heavy strain on your marriage. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. It can feel difficult to live with a spouse whos unhappy, critical, or negative. Adding to your frustration may be your spouses reluctance or refusal to get help.
As much as you want to help your spouse, youll also need to be able to cope with their depression yourself. This lets you combat the illness as a team. Here are some simple ways you can learn to cope.
Respect Your Own Needs
If your spouse has depression, you still deserve everyday nicetiesa neat house, regular meals, a calm family environmentas well as friendships, a social life, and time to pursue meaningful interests, Walfish says. As much as possible, pursue these things. Its easy to spend your time dealing with your spouses needs and issues. But dont sacrifice your own joys and goals needlessly. As we noted, you are susceptible to depression too. Pursuing your personal pleasures will not only help prevent that but also better prepare you for aiding your spouse.
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Mission : Protect Your Marriage And Yourself
Caring for a depressed spouse can be lonely, overwhelming, and emotionally draining. You may blame yourself, feel helpless, grow pessimistic, lose your sense of humor, and even consider leaving.
It’s easy for the non-depressed spouse to become angry and frustrated with an irritable, lethargic mate who’s pessimistic and critical, who can’t unload the dishwasher or get the kids ready for bed anymore, let alone make love, ask how you’re doing, or acknowledge that you’ve been holding things together for weeks, months, or years.
“This starts a cycle that burns you out and doesn’t help your partner at all,” says Emily Scott-Lowe. “I did this with Dennis. I would become extremely angry with him. Then I would feel really guilty and try to make up for it by taking on more and more around the house. Then I would get angry all over again. This wasn’t helping Dennis, of course, and it was wearing me out emotionally and physically.”
These steps can help the non-depressed spouse stay well, and protect your marriage and your family while helping a depressed partner.
Include Them Even If They Reject Attention
“Depression is a very isolating condition and it can be hard for the loved one’s of a person with depression to keep reaching out when their invitations are constantly declined,”Megan E. Johnson, PhD, a psychological assistant, tells Bustle. “But it is crucial that the individual with depression always knows wanted and included.”
And that means sending a text with an invitation to meet up, even if you’re positive they’ll say no. “People with depression can be hypersensitive to the effect that this illness has on their loved ones,” Johnson says. “Hearing that want them around can be so refreshing â even if they aren’t able to participate all the time.”
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Focus On The Good Times Youve Shared As A Couple
This will help you see the silver lining because there will be days when it will all feel so overwhelming and almost unbearable. Remembering that there were good times before now would help you keep faith that those days will come back and that your spouse will overcome the depressive episode they are going through. Check out our helpful article on How to make yourself feel better when sad to learn helpful ways to focus on the good times in a depressive environment.
Dont Fall Victim To Angry Feelings And Stigma
Your spouses struggles with depression can evoke feelings of resentment and anger. You could find yourself constantly making excuses for their social absences. Household responsibilities may shift more to you. This puts more on your plate and adds to your own stress levels. Also, your sex life may even suffer if your partner is withdrawn or unaffectionate.
As tough as it is, try to think of life through your spouses current perspective. This may help you avoid angry outbursts.
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Questions To Encourage Self
Self-education and self-care are both vital to successfully helping care for and foster a healthy relationship with a partner living with depression.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reminds caregivers that you must first take care of yourself to be able to take care of the people you love. To do this successfully, here are a few questions to ask yourself in private:
- Are you getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night?
- Are you drinking or using drugs to cope with the stress?
- Are you exercising daily?
- Are you experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, insomnia, or digestive issues?
- Do you have people you can talk to who understand what youre going through?
- Where can you locate resources to help you?
Karen likens it to the oxygen mask that will drop from the ceiling of an airplane in the unlikely event of losing cabin pressure. Any parent would have the impulse to put it on their children first, but that usually results in the parent losing consciousness before they save the child. Both people suffer.
Put your oxygen mask on first, so you can best help your partner with this challenging situation.
Getting Help For Depression In Marriage: What Works
If a couple decides that professional counseling is needed, the depressed partner may want to go alone first, Jones says. Or, he has found that some nondepressed partners try to persuade the depressed person to get help and the partner won’t go.
Seeing a therapist together can give a couple valuable perspective, he says. “The therapist mediates,” he says. “It’s not a blaming session, but rather the therapist helps the depressed person recognize they are contributing to . If they improve the depression, they could improve the marriage.”
In a study, Italian researchers reviewed the data on whether couple therapy was a better way to treat depression in one partner and found no difference between couple therapy and individual therapy on the symptoms of depression. But couple therapy better reduced “relationship distress,” they report in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly.
Often, talking about the depression — whether alone or with a partner in therapy — brings up other issues in a marriage that, when addressed, help ease the depression, Sherman says.
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Negative Unrealistic Ways Of Thinking That Fuel Male Depression
All-or-nothing thinking. Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground
Overgeneralization. Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever
The mental filter. Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
Diminishing the positive. Coming up with reasons why positive events dont count
Jumping to conclusions. Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader or a fortune teller
Emotional reasoning. Believing that the way you feel reflects reality
Shoulds and should-nots.Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldnt do, and beating yourself up if you dont live up to your rules.
Labeling. Classifying yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings
Keep Up With Your Personal Life
When my husband struggled with depression, my instinct was to throw myself into the situation and do whatever it took to make him feel better. As difficult as it may be, Wade said itâs essential to maintain your own hobbies and interests. The cost of neglecting those may be a recurrence of depression in youâand it wonât help your partner, either. Now that I know this, I see red flags all over the quote Iâd posted on Facebook. Yes, I want my partner to be happy, but I also know I am best able to help him when I am taking the time to help myself.
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Dont Forget To Put Yourself First
It is hard to watch someone we love struggle, but you are not responsible for their mental well being.
You are only responsible for supporting your spouse. But let me clarify what I mean by supporting.
Supporting can mean paying attention to, like actively listening if your spouse sharing how they feel. This can also include, attending to, or letting your spouse know that you notice they are struggling, then asking if they need anything, like for you to make dinner tonight, or a night out with friends, or an ear for listening and validating.
What I dont mean is for you to take over everything and self sacrifice yourself. And yet this is a tricky balance.
On the one hand it hurts to see your partner struggling and you dont want to hurt anymore. Because it is emotionally painful watching the people we love struggle.
And on the other hand, it is more powerful for your partner to feel emotionally validated by you, so they can choose what works best for them in order to get better. It is also important to realize, that what may work best for them, is working with a professional.
It can be hard to hold this internal boundary, but boundaries are actually what create connection in relationships.
Living with a spouse who has depression can be challenging for both of you. You are not alone. There are many couples that struggle with depression. You may have times of experiencing depression yourself as well.
Accept That There Will Be Bad Days
People with depression have good days and bad days. To deal with the bad days:
- expect that they will happen
- understand that this is a normal part of depression
- do not withdraw love or support during these times
- take some time out and do something enjoyable, either alone or with others
- remember that not every day will be like this there will be good days too
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Dont Take Responsibility For Their Feelings Either
We are all responsible for our actions, as well as the way we feel. Of course if you did something to hurt your spouse, you need to take responsibility for this, but partners are rarely responsible for their partners depression. Many partners feel as if they should somehow have the power to heal or help fix the depression, causing them a great deal of stress. In reality, depression is a serious, complicated disorder that almost always requires the help of a professional. For a partner to take responsibility for their partners feelings is not only ineffective, it is often harmful, causing undue stress on the relationship, and prolonging the healing process. Having healthy boundaries is not only necessary for a good relationship, it also is very important to retain your own sanity while trying to be helpful to your partner.
I had a client describe her husband as follows: He just mopes around all the time! He drives me crazy. When we dug deeper, we discovered that the thing that was driving her most crazy was the fact that she was feeling angry at herself for not being able to fix him. This often causes the depressed partner to feel like a burden, worsening the depression. It is okay for you to feel good even though your partner is depressed.
Be Mad At The Situation Not Your Spouse
This is much easier said than done, but do your best to be mad at the situation, not your spouse. As you might already know, attacking your partners personhood or character is not a positive way to go. In fact, this could even cause them to spiral further into depression.
When all else fails, try to remember that your partner is not making a conscious decision to feel bad. At the end of the day, their mood swings are not your fault or theirs.
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Know That The Odds Are In Your Favor
Up to 80 percent of people report seeing an improvement within four to six weeks of starting treatment, according to statistics from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Usually, the road back is relatively simple: antidepressants, counseling, or a combination of the two, they report. That said, recovery may take time and patience, Walfish says. There may be an initial trial-and-error period while you try various antidepressants or see whether various therapy techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal counseling, are helpful. The results are worth it.
The Signs Of A Depressed Spouse
When your spouse struggles with depression, it can affect every part of your life all at once. You can all too easily get swept up in their mood swings and their unexplainable suffering. You may begin to feel like youre along for their extreme ride.
The following are some of the more common symptoms of depression to look for in your spouse. Its important to remember everyones experience is different. You may be the one person best able to see changes in your spouses habits, moods, and thought patterns.
Loss of Enjoyment or Interest in Normal Activities
People who suffer from depression can lose interest in the things they once enjoyed. These include hobbies, their social life, or even their sex life. Your spouse may feel like they dont identify with who they once were.
A person can withdraw under the weight of their depression. Theyll do anything possible to avoid social interactions and responsibilities.
Mood Swings, Agitation, or General Anxiety
Depression can cause mood swings that arent related to the challenges of a given situation. These personality changes can represent the most extreme of emotions. One can go from feeling empty and numb to aggressive and angry in a matter of minutes. Its important to observe your spouses shifts in mood over the course of days or weeks. Compare this to how youve known them to be in the past.
Chronic Feelings of Hopelessness or Sadness
Changes in Appetite, Including Weight Loss or Gain
Disturbance in Normal Sleep Patterns
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Help Them Keep A Mood Log
If they’re open to the idea, help your partner assess how they feel â whether it’s in an app or an actual journal meant to track their ups and downs.
“Mood logs are important in tracking when moods are elevated or normal and keeping track of what was going on during that time to help treat symptoms before it gets too severe,”Dr. Patrice N. Douglas, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “In keeping a mood log, you will be able to identify if they are going through an episode so you can better support them.”
Seek Diagnoses And Treatment
If you suspect your spouse may be depressed, the most important action you can take is to help him or her get proper diagnosis and treatment. That can be difficult, though, since one of the factors of depression is hopelessness depressed people tend to believe nothing will help. Thats why its important that you be persistent.
You can begin with listening to your spouse and showing empathy. You can indicate that youve noticed a change in behavior and are concerned for your partners happiness and well-being. You can also say that you wonder if depression may be the cause.
It doesnt matter whether you begin with a counselor or your family doctor. Either one can help in the diagnosis and refer you to the other for additional treatment.
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You Have To Put The Oxygen Mask On Yourself First
Loving your partner with depression cannot mean that you stop loving and respecting yourself. If you give yourself away by decreasing time with friends, taking less time for yourself, denying your own needs on top of assuming more responsibility, youre going to run out of air. Its hard to be loving and nurturing when youre depleted.
|Approaching caregiving like a race by giving everything all at once will quickly leave you with little left to give.
You have to think about the things that you need to keep breathing. You may have to get by with less and sacrifice. Thats likely inevitable. However, giving up on everything and leaving yourself will nothing hurts you and your relationship. It leaves you with very little to give to a partner.
Give Children And Teens Age
Depression not only affects a marriage, but it also impacts the entire family. Kids can often sense when something is wrong.
In a sensitive and honest way, talk about the illness with kids so they don’t feel afraid or worried. Some depressed parents say that feeling an obligation to their children, for example, to get up early in the morning and take them to school, helps them to function better.
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