Divorce is more likely if a spouse is depressed because depression produces loss of sexual intimacy, resentment, anger, and blame. The deeper the depression and the longer it lasts, the more difficult it is to treat the problem and the more likely the depressed spouse is to abuse substances or commit suicide. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, with an estimated 20 million Americans suffering from some form of depression during their lifetime. Unfortunately, only about one third of people suffering from depression seek treatment, although the success rate for treatment with medication and counseling is around 75 percent. Depression runs in families and is triggered by events such as working too hard, being too self-critical, and placing unrealistic expectations on yourself. There are several things a spouse can do to help their depressed spouse deal with the problem.
Encourage Exercise and Activities.
Exercise tends to relieve depression and encourages the depressed person to be more active. Taking a walk in the sunshine and talking with your spouse are both helpful. Don’t push them, just invite your spouse along for a walk and try talking with them. If they stay quiet, just enjoy the time together and try to talk with them next time. Try to keep your spouse mentally and physically active and interested in their world. Encourage him or her to do little things that give them pleasure.
Be considerate of your depressed spouse when they are emotionally down. Do things for them that they can’t seem to accomplish for themselves. Show your depressed spouse you love him or her. Spend time together and indulge their needs as much as you can tolerate. However, don’t collude with your spouse to allow them to sink into serious depression–insist that they take some responsibility for their own mental health and set boundaries so you can maintain your own well being.
Care For Yourself.
Living with a depressed spouse is taxing and difficult. You may feel guilt, anger and frustration by your spouse’s inability to function. Suppressing your own frustration and anger can produce depression in you, so be careful and pay attention to your own mental health. Make certain you spend time alone doing things you care about and engage in things you like that make you feel good about yourself. Avoid self-medication with alcohol or recreational drugs because they will make depression worse.
Listen To Your Spouse.
Encourage your depressed partner to share their feelings with you. Be prepared to face difficult questions and uncomfortable feelings. Keep an open mind and be prepared to make hard decisions. Don’t allow your spouse to make large changes in their life when he or she is depressed because the decision usually won’t be a good one. Try to gently show your depressed spouse the positive parts of their life to help them feel better.
Get Professional Help.
Depression has a number of terrible outcomes, including withdrawal, addiction, loss of employment, and suicide. To avoid these negative outcomes, it’s important for your depressed spouse to receive competent treatment from a psychiatrist or psychologist. Be supportive of your spouse and go with them to appointments if he or she will allow it. A combination of antidepressants and counseling tends to be the most effective treatment for severe depression. Both depression and antidepressant medication suppress sexual interest, so be prepared to discuss this issue with your spouse if it becomes a problem. Don’t ignore depression because it can be life threatening if you do. Nearly as many lives are lost to suicide as breast cancer every year. Don’t let it happen in your family.
Living with a depressed spouse is difficult because they are often negative, resentful, distant, and disinterested in you and the world. Be supportive, but insist that they seek treatment and take responsibility for their own well being. It’s not your fault they are depressed, but you have to live with the consequences, so take the problem seriously and encourage your spouse to seek help.
During this trying time try to give your partner plenty of love, be supportive, understand that they are hurting and help them feel safe. Most important, develop a treatment plan for helping your spouse get better. Don’t be an enabler by allowing your depressed spouse to abuse you–set boundaries and insist that he or she treat you with respect. The key to living with a depressed spouse is communication. However, if your spouse won’t seek help or try to help themselves, you need to get out of the situation before it drags you down too.