Considering Your Spouses Feelings
Compassion from both partners toward each other can go a long way in a marriage in which one spouse has bipolar disorder.
The partner with the condition may have feelings of guilt, shame, and fear because of the impact of a mood episode on the relationship. Meanwhile, the spouses partner may experience a range of emotions, including anxiety, resentment, loneliness, or feeling stuck.
Learning how to take care of themselves and support each other can strengthen the relationship.
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How To Help Your Spouse With Depression
This article was co-authored by Peggy Rios, PhD. Dr. Peggy Rios is a Counseling Psychologist based in Florida. With over 24 years of experience, Dr. Rios works with people struggling with psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression. She specializes in medical psychology, weaving together behavioral health programs informed by empowerment theory and trauma treatment. Dr. Rios uses integrated, evidence-based models to provide support and therapy for people with life-altering medical conditions. She holds an MS and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Maryland. Dr. Rios is a licensed psychologist in the state of Florida.There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 572,368 times.
Depression is a mental illness that requires treatment just like any other medical condition. If your spouse is suffering from depression, there are things that you can do to help. Helping your spouse get treatment, supporting your spouse during treatment, and taking good care of yourself are all important ways that you can help your spouse recover from depression. Keep reading to learn more about how to help your spouse with depression.
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Take Care Of Yourself
If your partner refuses to seek help, you should treat the illness the same way you would an alcohol or drug problem and step up the intervention. You may need to go so far as to threaten to move out if your partner doesnt get help. Thats especially appropriate if you have children, since research has shown that one of the most significant factors in raising mentally healthy children is to have mentally healthy parents. Often, that understanding alone can compel a spouse to get help.
Another important step along the way is to take care of yourself. Be sure to get enough sleep, exercise and eat healthfully. If you detect you may be suffering some symptoms of depression yourself, follow the same advice you would offer your spouse: seek help from your family physician or a counselor.
You may also benefit from reading some good self-help books. Feeling Good by David Burns is particularly helpful. It focuses on changing thought processes and patterns that accompany depression, such as avoiding all-or-nothing thinking, perfectionism, taking things too personally, dwelling on negative things from the past and overgeneralizing.
Prognosis for depressed spouse is promising
The prognosis for depression is good, once its diagnosed. Though it can take three to six months to achieve significant improvement, 80 to 90 percent of cases can be effectively treated, usually with a combination of medication and counseling.
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Check For Underlying Conditions
Dozens of health conditionsincluding heart disease, diabetes, lupus, viral infections, and chronic paincan trigger the same symptoms as depression, Walfish notes. So can scores of prescription medications, including some birth-control pills and drugs that treat acne, herpes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer. Your family doctor can rule out underlying causes and decide whether or not its really depression.
Tips For Coping With Depression In A Relationship
If you are in a relationship with someone who has depression, you are likely struggling with a mix of emotions and hosts of questions.
What’s it really like to feel depressed? What can you do to help them through hard times? How will their symptoms and treatment impact your relationship? While every person’s experience with depression is unique, here are a few things you can do to help your loved one and yourself.
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Ask Them What They Need From You
To show further understanding and support, ask the person what they need. They may need:
- reminders to take medication
- company when visiting the doctor or attending therapy
- home-cooked meals
- encouragement to socialize or exercise
- a hug or a hand to hold
- to be left alone sometimes
Helpful questions to ask include:
- What can I do to help?
- Would it be helpful if I ?
What To Do If A Spouse Is Depressed
If theres depression in your marriage, its time to actfor your partner and yourself, Walfish says. Waiting increases the chances that your relationship wont last couples where one or both partners are depressed are significantly more likely to divorce than couples who arent depressed, according to a study published in BMC Public Health. And trying to fight or make peace with this often misunderstood illness on your own raises risks for both of you. The longer a non-depressed spouse lives with a depressed partner, the higher his or her own risks for depression, the researchers found. The deeper a depressed spouse sinks, the tougher it may be to finally treat the depressionand the greater the risk for alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide, according to the Department of Health and Human Services . The stakes are high, but the odds are that things will improve.
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Tips To Strengthen Your Relationship
Having a spouse with depression may translate into unique challenges for your relationship.
If your spouse is irritable or experiencing bouts of anger, you may find it hard to respond or be supportive in the moment.
Maybe they arent as responsive as they used to be, or they may say things about you or themselves that hurt you.
This could be especially true in situations where your spouse is in denial about their symptoms, says Beurkens. It can also lead to a lot of communication issues, a lot of frustration, resentment, arguing, she adds.
In some scenarios, you may even feel like your spouse doesnt love or care for you. Keeping in mind depression is a mental health condition, could help you in these occasions.
But, how can you deal with ongoing friction?
Beurkens suggests the following:
Focus On Small Things
In the midst of all this, its important to remember that your spouse is still the same person theyve always been and will appreciate little things like a hug, kind words, or just listening to them without judgment. When you focus on the small things, it can help remind both of you that there are good moments even in the darkest times.
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Remember To Help Yourself As Well
Caring for a partner with depression can be emotionally draining. Its important to practice self-care and increase your own support during this time. It is extremely important for partners of those with a depression to take care of themselves. These tips will help you cope:
- Dont give up your own life and interests. Engage in your outside interests and hobbies for a break from the stresses of your daily life.
- Maintain a support system. Having friends and family to confide in ways your partner cannot is important for your overall emotion well being.
- Seek professional help for yourself, if needed. The recovery process can be stressful for partners of those struggling with mental health illnesses. Your well-being is just as important as your partners. If you need someone to talk to, or if you think you may be suffering from symptoms of anxiety or depression, contact your doctor or consider visiting a mental health professional or joining a community group.
Dont Wait For Your Spouse To Hit Bottom
Letting a depressed person sink low before offering help is an old-school approach borrowed from the early days of alcohol and drug addiction treatment. But the reasoning behind it is flawed and dangerous. Long-term depression is harder on your marriage, tougher to treat, and more likely to recurplus, it leaves its victim in despair, Walfish says. The most chilling risk: It leaves open the very real possibility of suicide. About 60 percent of people who attempt suicide have major or minor depression or another mood disorderand depressed men are four times more likely than depressed women to take their own lives, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Dont miss these 14 signs of suicide.
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What If My Partner Threatens To Commit Suicide During The Breakup
Sometimes, your partner may threaten to commit suicide if you leave them. This is a serious situation, one that requires immediate attention, but the right kind of attention. The threat of suicide during the breakup should not compel you to stay in the relationship.
You cannot be the one who makes your partner decide whether or not they want to live or die. That is up to them. Attempting to save your partner by staying with them can only make the relationship more dysfunctional and could ultimately result in you resenting them.
My Husband Is One Of You
Youre straining to understand. To empathize. And juggle all the balls. To explain to your kids that mommy still loves them, she just needs to sleep today.
You get frustrated, angry, annoyed. But are you allowed to show those emotions? Do they matter? Do you matter?
You see, my husband is one of you. Im a wife struggling with depression.
There have been days I couldnt get out of bed. A few weeks ago, I had a panic attack during church, and my husband had to take me home. He left our kids in the hands of good friends until he could pick them up.
At home, I went right to bed. My safe place. My comfort zone.
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Loss Of Interest In Activities
A depressed patient of mine found himself without any interest in sex, and felt very ashamed that he couldnt perform, any longer. This made it very difficult for him to speak to his wife about his depression, afraid judgement, and hurting his wifes feelings since she worried about her attractiveness. The shame and worry he was feeling made his depression worse. Loss of interest isnt limited to sex, of course. A loss of interest in hobbies, sports, sex or work can be an indication that your partner has become depressed.
Take Charge Of Admin And Finance
People with depression find even mundane tasks, such as opening the post or going to the shops, impossible. Often, they keep their finances hidden, says Dr Cain. It can feel quite shameful for them to say: Im finding it difficult to stay on top of it. This can be stressful for their partners. As Dr Antonis Kousoulis, a clinician and an assistant director at the Mental Health Foundation, says: Being the main source of support for a partner with depression can add a lot of pressure. But it is still better than not knowing whats happening with your partners finances or admin. So, to maintain your own mental health and avoid unnecessary stress, it may be easier to have an agreement with your partner that, when they are ill, you will be in the admin driving seat. And when they feel able, they will sort it out.
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If You Think Your Partner May Be Depressed Your First Step Is To Pay Attention To The Clues To Get The Right Diagnosis And Treatment Here’s What To Look For And How To Take Action
When one spouse is depressed, a marriage is depressed, says Fran Walfish, relationship psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, CA, author, and co-host of Sex Box TV. This illness erodes emotional and sexual intimacy and suffuses a relationship with pessimism and resentment, anger and isolation, she explains. Even the sunniest, most capable partner can be pulled into depressions strong undertow. For example, you may be overwhelmed by extra household chores that your partner is too lethargic to finish, resentful because your spouse wont just snap out of it, or feel that youre somehow to blame for the illness itself. You may feel alone yet unwilling to tell anyone theres depression in your household, or you may simply wonder when the sparkle and joy, and the humor and fun seeped out of your relationship. A challenging marriage can worsen depression, but it doesnt in and of itself cause it.
Depression Is Widely Misunderstood
Major depression is a widely misunderstood illness. It is a biologically based disorder that appears in a variety of disguises before being diagnosed. It can appear as irritability, moodiness or changes in personality and may manifest itself differently in men and women. In men, depression often includes increased anger, irritability and alcohol and drug use. In women, symptoms may include withdrawal, tearfulness, lack of energy and an inability to concentrate.
Many of the behaviors associated with depression arent under the sufferers direct control. You cant tell them to snap out of it any more than you can people with diabetes or other biological illnesses.
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Ernest H Rosenbaum Md
Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, Comprehensive Cancer Center Adjunct Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine, Stanford University Medical Center Director, Stanford Cancer Supportive Care Programs National/International, Stanford Complementary Medicine Clinic, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California. More
Ernest H. Rosenbaums career has included a fellowship at the Blood Research Laboratory of Tufts University School of Medicine and MIT. He teaches at the University of California, San Francisco, Comprehensive Cancer Center, was the cofounder of the Northern California Academy of Clinical Oncology, and founded the Better Health Foundation and the Cancer Supportive Care Program at the Stanford Complementary Medicine Clinic, Stanford University Medical Center.
His passionate interest in clinical research and developing ways to improve patient care and communication with patients and colleagues has resulted in over fifty articles on cancer and hematology in various medical journals. He has also participated in many radio and television programs and frequently lectures to medical and public groups.
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How Do I Deal With The Fears Of My Family And Friends
Even if your own fear is under control, well-meaning friends or family members can communicate their fears to you. Unless you are prepared for this, you might find your reserves of emotional energy drained and a depression coming on.
The only way out of this situation is to either hide the fact of your cancer or make sure your family and friends understand your disease and treatment. You may even want to include some of them in your consultations with your doctor so they can become part of your informed support team. This may also help your doctor, for, from the doctors point of view, many of the problems in communication come from the family the husband or wife, the sister or brother, the cousin or friend, who has heard about a cure somewhere or about someone whos had better treatment. By making sure that all interested parties are kept informed, everyone can focus their energies and efforts on the most constructive channels.
When Should The Spouse Start Expressing Some Concerns
Its not always easy to know how to help a spouse with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. But you can take some steps to help.
As soon as you feel there might be a change in your spouses emotional well-being, you can express your concerns in a thoughtful, supportive, and non-judgmental way.
Here are a few ideas of ways to do this.
- Start the conversation. Ask your spouse how theyre doing.
- Tell them what you notice. Let your spouse know that you see theyre not sleeping or eating well and want to know how theyre feeling.
- Say youre worried. Ask them what theyre experiencing or feeling.
- Promise to listen. Give your spouse the space to express what theyre going through.
If youre not sure if your spouse is going through PPD or PPA and dont know how to talk to them directly, you can speak with a family doctor or a mental health professional. They may be able to provide support.
to help prevent perinatal depression and anxiety. Ideally, this support is reciprocal, with spouses helping each other.
Here are ways to support your spouse during their experience of PPD or PPA:
- encourage them to talk about their feelings and seek professional help
- seek help from family and friends for childcare, meal prep, and housework
- demonstrate emotional affection by expressing love and care for your spouse
If your spouse has postpartum, youre more likely to live with the symptoms as well.
There are a few ways you can look after yourself:
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