Depressed Spouse: What Causes Depression And How To Deal With It

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Kaira was feeling dejected, weak and disinterested in everything. Her husband, Steve, observed this for a week and decided to talk to her. Nothing much came out of the conversation but Steve had realized that Kaira is depressed for some reason, and needed help… his help.

It’s painful to see a depressed spouse struggle with their problem. You want to do everything possible to bring them out of depression. But what can you do? How can you support them?

MomJunction helps you in identifying the signs of depression and being of help to your spouse.

What Are The Signs Of Depression?

If you think your spouse isn’t their normal self but is dull and disoriented, then look for these signs of depression (1):

  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling low
  • Persistent outbursts of anger
  • Blaming everyone
  • Social withdrawal
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt and helplessness
  • Aches or pain
  • Digestion problems
  • Frequent headaches
  • Lack of interest in anything
  • Flat affect
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of vitality

These signs are generic. But they might indicate depression if they are there every day for at least two weeks. (and with depression, usually longer).

If you identify these symptoms of depression in your spouse, you might want to know the reason behind it.

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What Causes Depression?

Depression can occur due to several reasons. A few of them are:

  • Prolonged or severe stress at work or home
  • Financial problems
  • Quarrels with family members
  • Parenthood
  • Health conditions
  • Death in the family
  • Genetic susceptibility

Depression impacts not only the person but also their family, marriage, and other relationships.

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How Does Depression Affect Your Marriage?

When your spouse is depressed, your marriage automatically suffers. Here’s how it impacts your marriage:

  • You (the non-depressed spouse) may have to take responsibility for all the household chores.
  • Taking care of a depressed spouse can take a toll on your health.
  • You are reluctant to tell anyone about your depressed partner.
  • It increases the chances of you going into a depression.
  • As the depression continues, your spouse might resort to alcoholism, violence, abuse, and even suicide.
  • It diminishes emotional and sexual intimacy between you.
  • Depressed couples have higher chances of divorce.
  • Other components of the relationship and partnership can become neglected due to the various shifting needs of the depression

The relationship can become isolating, bitter, loaded with negativity, guilt, and anger. You might want to escape from the situation while your spouse might feel you are doing nothing to help them.

Though it can seem impossible to navigate a relationship with a depressed spouse, it is possible.

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How To Deal With A Depressed Spouse To Save Marriage?

Take these measures to save your marriage when your spouse is depressed:

  • Accept that there is a problem. A denial will only aggravate the problem and ruin your marriage as well as your lives.
  • Don’t let depression invade your marriage.
  • Tackle it as a team: Treat depression as an intruder into your marriage. Help your spouse in getting better.
  • Fix depression before fixing your marriage. Depression ruins your marriage. You might want to fix the trivial things first, for example, ask your spouse to communicate better, be responsible, and help you.
  • This will only frustrate the depressed person. Hence, you need to continue addressing their depression before expecting them to contribute to the relationship.
  • Too much hiding or concealing of an issue can also contribute to a scarier environment for children. Talk to your partner and counselor about this: what can we communicate to the kids? (Mommy or Daddy aren’t feeling well, they’re getting help, it’s a bit harder but we’re dealing with it, can all be more grounding ways to address what’s going on in the house than hiding it.
  • Identify a good counselor: The entire family is affected due to depression. Therefore, go for couple’s counseling sessions and some individual sessions too.

While trying to insulate your marriage from your spouse’s depression, you also need to help your partner get out of the illness.

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How To Help Your Depressed Spouse?

Depression is real and it is an illness. You need to take it seriously and seek professional help.

If your partner is going through depression, provide them with all the help they need. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Watch out for changes. Depression doesn’t happen overnight, it comes on gradually. You may take some time to realize that depression is the cause of your spouse’s behavioral issues. But once you realize, do not waste any time.
  1. Don’t leave your spouse to be sucked into depression. It becomes difficult to treat a long-term depression and might lead to suicide. Don’t let that happen to your spouse.
  1. Your spouse certainly needs your love and support, but these are not enough to cure their depression. They need professional help and maybe medical intervention too.
  1. Be gentle yet firm. If you suspect that your partner is depressed, approach your partner with empathy and affection. Encourage them to see a doctor, and remind them you will support them in their treatment. Your spouse may not accept that they need medical help but be firm on it.
  1. Go to the doctor together. Make an appointment with the doctor and take your spouse to the clinic. Be with them, explain the situation to the doctor, and make a note of what the expert says.
  1. Support your spouse in treatment and recovery. Your spouse will recover sooner with your support. Make sure they are taking the medications on time, take them for counseling if required, (this is true in extreme suicidal cases, but it is not a good general rule), and try not to allow them to brood on things that make them sad.
  1. Understand and learn about depression. Read everything you can about the condition and its treatment option. The more informed you are, the better you can deal with it.
  1. Be careful about relapses. There is a risk of relapse in depression cases. Both partners should stay alert on the signs of relapse.
  1. Love them unconditionally. That’s what they need – an assurance that you love them and you need them. It can be difficult for you to deal with things sometimes but you need to persevere as the healthier of the two.
  1. Support and stand by them even when they push you away. Your spouse may misunderstand your love and care. They might think you are treating them condescendingly. But that cannot deter you from doing what you should. Tell them you will stand by them even if they don’t want you to.
  1. Understand when to give them their space. Standing by them doesn’t mean suffocating them with intrusion and interference. Your spouse needs some personal space, and you are obliged to provide that. So, draw a line between withdrawing from them and being too interfering.
  1. Create a safe and secure environment at home. Once you know about the reason behind your spouse’s depression, take every care to remove it. Make them feel safe at home. Let them believe that they belong to that place, and nobody can harm them there.
  2. Practice extra self care (see next section)

Taking care of a depressed spouse can be overwhelming, and you may feel emotionally drained out. You need to be healthy to bring your spouse back to normal.

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How To Help Yourself?

You might be so involved in helping your spouse that you would ignore your health. But remember that you need to be healthy enough to take care of your spouse and the kids.

Hence take care of yourself before you take care of your spouse.

  • You cannot ignore your basic needs. Eat well, get enough sleep,and be physically active.
  • It’s not easy to live with a depressed spouse, take care of the household responsibilities, and sacrifice the best moments of your marriage. Take time for yourself and practice yoga, meditation or other self care for your body and mind.
  • It’s not selfish to engage yourself in interests and hobbies. You will feel happy and rejuvenated after the break and can take care of your partner better.
  • Seek help from family and friends. Talk to them if you are feeling sad or depressed, and ask them to stay with you for some days as a support system.
  • Define your boundaries with your partner. For example, if your husband’s depression is due to unemployment but he does nothing to get a job, or your wife doesn’t take medicines or attend counseling sessions in spite of your multiple requests, then there is little you can do to help them.

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Depression is not a tantrum that your spouse would throw but an illness that needs proper treatment mixed with love and care. Be there for them as they need you but do not ignore your well-being. Remember, you can serve them only if you are healthy.

Do you have any experience to share? Let us know about it in the comment section below.

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Kalpana M

Kalpana Nadimpalli graduated in English Literature and Psychology. Her fascination for the corporate world made her do a Masters in Business Administration. Being a mother of two boys, she could naturally fit into the shoes of a writer at MomJunction. She wrote articles on new parenting and relationships. Previously, Kalpana worked as a product information specialist and technical writer. During her... more