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How to Help your Spouse Fight Depression

Updated on March 23, 2016
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Don’t blame yourself

When it dawned on me that my husband was suffering from a depression, I immediately blamed myself and went back into our mutual past to identify in which situations I had reacted wrongly. I was sure, I had contributed to his problem and that he wouldn’t be sick if it hadn’t been for me. Blaming yourself is a natural reaction when you find out your loved one is depressed. It is important to understand that blaming yourself does not make the situation any better. You cannot change the past and it will make the situation even more unbearable if you let feelings of guilt crush you. You will have to carry a lot of weight during your spouse’s treatment anyway, so rummaging in the past can only make it worse.

Understanding depression

Marriages affected by depression are nine times more likely to get divorced. In my case, my head was spinning with a million questions:

  • Can I handle this behavior for months/years?
  • How are we going to come by financially?
  • Is he/she ever going to be normal again?
  • Can he/she make me happy again?
  • Will I fall back in love with him?
  • Are we going to get back our intimacy?
  • Does he/she really love me?
  • Is he ever going to thank me for this or make it up to me?

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Many marriages break due to depression but some of those spouses who are able to withstand their partner’s disease come out of it stronger and happier than before. The success rate of depression treatment is between 80 and 90%. However, going through that phase together puts enormous pressure on the spouse/relative and makes life so much harder. You are going to have to carry a lot of additional weight on your shoulders. It is physically and emotionally draining to live together in the same house with a depressed person. He will most likely not give you any of the things for which you feel in love with him such as acknowledgement for nice things you did, love and intimacy, financial support and help around the house. In the worst cases of depression, your partner won’t be able to help you with anything. So apart from working a full time job, you need to make doctor’s appointments, do house chores, cook, take care of your kids or pets and still handle his moods. Your spouse/relative might treat you disrespectfully, attack you verbally, disregard your feelings or make you cry, in spite of all the help you are offering. You have to always remember that this person is not himself at this time. You can regard depression as a force that is trying to take your spouse away from you and manipulating him constantly to push you away. When he attacks you verbally, it’s the disease that is attacking you, not him. You have to learn to filter those attacks and not react aggressively or blame him or her and make him feel guilty. He doesn’t really want to hurt you. His reactions are triggered by changes in the brain chemistry that can affect his/her thoughts, mood, appetite, sleep and energy levels. At times you might wonder about extreme mood swings; one second he is telling you he is a nobody, a failure or weak and minutes later, he’s back to normal and you can actually lead a normal conversation. It’s a disease just like diabetes or heart disease. It can change your life and the life of your family on a long-term basis. It won’t do him/her any good if you tell him to “get over it” or “stop making a fuss about it”. He needs treatment.

Help Your Spouse Get Treated

If you notice a change in your spouse’s or relative’s behavior or reactions that you have never seen in him/her until now, then these could be the signs of a depression. These are some symptoms of depression:

  • Increased aggression
  • Not able or hardly able to make decisions
  • Carelessness
  • Inattentiveness
  • Verbal attacks
  • Struggles to handle basic tasks
  • Caught up in his/her own world
  • Sexual inactivity
  • Emotional absence
  • Not able to show much love or affection for his/her partner
  • Thinks the whole world is against him/her
  • Feeling of emptiness
  • No feelings except sadness (this is how depressed people often describe how they feel)
  • Does not see a sense in life anymore
  • Unusual and maybe excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs
  • Engaging in risky activities, maybe even illegal

Those are just some of the symptoms you may notice in your relative/spouse and if you do, it’s high time you take him to a psychiatrist or psychologist as soon as possible. A depression is a disease and if you think you can treat it by simply offering him/her love and support, you are wrong. You can only be there to support him/her and hold it out but it’s impossible to treat it as a relative/spouse. Don’t try to do your own therapy sessions with your spouse/relative. There are too many emotional bonds between you and him/her. Depressions need to be treated by a professional with a neutral perspective. Treatments can vary and some may require medication while others may simply require regular therapy sessions. Your relative/spouse may not feel comfortable with the first psychologist/psychiatrist he/she sees so don’t hesitate to take him/her to several therapists until you have found one he/she feels comfortable with.

Make sure your spouse/relative takes the prescribed medication at the right time. If he/she is not able to cook, you should make sure he has regular meals and drinks enough water.

Is Depression Destroying Your Marriage?

The role of sports

Sports are another element among various elements that will help your spouse overcome depression. Sports raise your self-esteem and trigger the production of endorphins, the happiness hormones. They reduce anxiety levels and stress and help the patient get on his feet faster while being treated.

Talking to a counselor/therapist

Some spouses find it extremely helpful to talk to someone about their partner’s disease. Some seek support by talking to a friend or a family member while others find it soothing to talk to a counselor or therapist, in mutual sessions with your partner and/or separately. You have to be aware of the fact that spouses and family members of depressed people are much more likely to spiral down into a depression themselves. None of us are robots and even if you are a professional at shielding yourself from your spouse’s symptoms of depression, your emotional health will inevitably be affected, if you don’t take the necessary precautions.

Leave the house and spend time with positive people

You should definitely spend some time away from your partner, even if it is only an hour or two per week. In order to keep yourself strong and offer the best support for your partner, meeting healthy people with a positive attitude who make you laugh is definitely a good way to make sure you are staying strong.

Research about the topic

The more you know about this disease the better you can handle the situation. The internet offers information en masse and there are uncountable books on the market dealing with the issue. It can also help to talk to people who have gone through the same thing. You may have someone in your circle of friends or in your family who has gone through depression and successfully treated it or if not, you can seek out a support group for family members.

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    • challengethestorm profile image

      Alex Hanna 

      2 years ago from Wilmington

      I can attest, first hand, that a spouse supporting depression is very challenging. Anything the spouse can do to be supportive, understanding, and considerate is the most important thing. Being there is often the biggest part of the battle.

      My wife and I (both suffer with depression), started an organization based on this premise. Check it out, if you'd like.

      https://challengethestorm.org

    • Jennifer Madison profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Madison 

      4 years ago from Lohmar

      I do understand what you mean. However, these were the thoughts running through my head before I did any research on this topic and this is probably what many people think if they don't know much about theses diseases. I realize that no one is normal and there is not such a thing as being normal.

    • profile image

      Nia 

      4 years ago

      The only thing that irks me about this article is the question "Is he/she ever going to be normal again?" Normal. Wow. I think the word you're looking for is 'healthy'. What's the opposite of normal? Is it freak? Even abnormal is such a negative word. Please use words like healthy/unhealthy because using words like normal to talk about a health issue only serve to encourage the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Jennifer,

      I loved this hub. From top to bottom, excellent! Loved the lay-out, graphics, and overall presentation. I voted up and all the way. Thanks for sharing your amazing writing talent. I live in Hamilton, Ala., a Mayberryish-like town two hours west of Birmingham. I have my roots in rural Alabama, but I have more than one tooth. Just so you will not be nervous about knowing someone from the south.

      I would consider it a great honor if you checked out a few of my hubs, and then became one of my followers. I am going to leave you some mail now and follow you.

      Much success and happiness to you.

      Peace.

      K.

    • Jennifer Madison profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Madison 

      4 years ago from Lohmar

      Thank you for sharing your experience Denise. It's extremely helpful for me right now to read about how others combatted the disease. When you are in the situation, you feel helpless, alone, frustrated and scared. The more I read about the subject, the stronger I feel. My husband and I are still battling it and it's so hard. I feel like it is going to be a long road. But giving up is no option so the only option is to keep fighting, keep supporting and keep smiling all the way through it.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Living with a depressed person is very difficult. I blamed myself for my husband's depression for years before I realized that it wasn't my fault and that he needed medical assistance. It nearly took an act of Congress to get him to the doctor, but we pulled it off! I talked to his employer, and told them I was picking him up at work, and that they needed to provide a sub for him during that time. The doctor told me that I saved his life! We never know when depression can lead to other, more serious issues.

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Good hub, Jennifer Madison. You've presented the information in a fashion that speaks to the partner of the depressed person in a way that is validating and easy to understand. Very helpful and informative without getting clinical. It's also good that you mention the spouse needing to address their needs as well and the increased probability of a double depression in the household. Good job, voted up and useful.

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 

      4 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Thanks for the tips in spotting depression.

    • Rafiq23 profile image

      Muhammad Rafiq 

      4 years ago from Pakistan

      I am pretty sure that these tips will help many people to assist their spouses in getting rid of depression.Very informative and useful hub!

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