How to Help Your Spouse With Depression


It is difficult to watch a loved one struggle with depression. While sadness is a natural part of life, if your spouse or partner goes through an intense unhappy period that lasts for more than a few weeks, it may be a sign of depression. There are things you can do to help, as well as taking good care of yourself during what is going to be a challenging time for both of you.

  1. 1
    Recognize the symptoms of depression in your spouse. Some symptoms include:[1]

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    • daily or near daily sadness that lasts for more than 2 weeks
    • loss of interest in hobbies, friends and/or sex
    • excessive fatigue
    • abnormal eating or sleeping habits
    • trouble concentrating and making decisions
    • irritability
    • feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness
    • weight loss or gain
    • thoughts of suicide.
  2. 2
    Encourage your spouse or partner seek help if they haven't already. Your spouse's depression may be so debilitating that it makes him/her unable to ask for help. He or she may also be embarrassed about their condition. If you suspect your spouse has depression, encourage them to consult a doctor, psychiatrist or religious leader.
    • Arrange for your spouse to get a thorough evaluation. Ask your spouse or partner if he or she wants you to be there for moral support.
    • If your spouse or partner refuses to be evaluated, call a healthcare professional to seek advice.
  3. 3
    Educate yourself. Understanding depression, its effects and treatment will allow you to better understand your spouse and help him or her to make informed decisions. Ask questions, read books and visit reliable websites about the diagnosis and treatment of depression. It is also helpful to read books written by people who have experienced supporting loved ones through depression.
    • Speak to your spouse's physician about concerns you may have. Be sure to share what you've learned with your spouse.
    • Learn about laws which might affect your spouse including informed consent laws and disability law as it applies to the mentally ill.
  4. 4
    See if you can get them to let you back in.
     See if you can get them to let you back in.
    Talk to your spouse or partner as much as you can. Encourage them to open up to you. Talking openly about depression as a real illness with real consequences to be taken seriously often brings relief to depressed people, since it demonstrates that someone cares and is willing to help. [2]Avoid over-complicating things when talking to your spouse; keep to single topics and avoid making judgmental statements.
    • Listen. Allow your spouse to tell you about his or her feelings. This is equally important as talking about depression as a real illness; good listening often makes depressed people feel better. Listen without reacting, without defensiveness, and without trying to take over the conversation or ending sentences for them. Be patient even though it might be excruciating sometimes.
    • Consider the situation from your spouse's point of view. As you read up on depression, learn what it feels like. Learn common myths about people with mental illness. Find out what depression really is.
  5. 5
    Participate in your spouse's or partner's recovery. While you may not understand the reasons for your spouse's depression, it is important that you support him or her during the treatment process. Make sure your spouse is taking his or her medications. Sit in on some counselingsessions, if possible or desirable (but don't force your spouse or partner to agree to this though; it's a very personal matter). And seek to minimize all situations that can instill distress, anxiety, fear, and stress for your spouse or partner. This may mean taking over some of the tasks your spouse or partner used to be responsible for, such as paying bills, talking to people who knock at the front door, dealing with neighborhood disputes, etc.
    • Help your spouse or partner research resources online and in books so that he or she can learn more about their illness.
    • Encourage them to read biographies of people who have experienced depression, as this will help them to realize it affects people in all walks of life, as well as learning about other people's ways of coping with and conquering depression.
    • Be aware that you may have to do a lot of the thinking and decision-making for your space. Reach a place of acceptance rather than struggling against this; it won't be forever and it is just something that someone needs to do, and that happens to be you for now. This will also include verbally guiding your spouse or partner through some of the thinking processes needed to overcome blackspots in their thinking processes.
  6. 6
    There may be some days when your spouse can't get out of bed.
     There may be some days when your spouse can't get out of bed.
    Provide your spouse or partner with hope in whatever form they can accept. Hope can come in many forms including faith in God, love for their children and any other reason they want to go on living. Learn what works best for your spouse or partner and remind them of it during the times they don't think they can hold on any longer. Tell them that bad things pass even if it seems impossible right now, that you'll be there for them through it all, and that he or she is very important in your life.
    • Make sure your spouse understands how much you love them and that you will support them through this difficult time no matter what. Tell them that you know it's not their fault and that they aren't weak, worthless or crazy. Make sure they know that you are frustrated with their illness, not with them.
    • Make sure they know that you understand if they can't meet certain household obligations. Your depressed spouse isn't lazy, but ill. Things that you consider normal everyday tasks such as feeding the dog, cleaning the house or paying the bills might be overwhelming to them. Expect to have to pick up the slack for a while, as if they have the flu and aren't up to it.
    • Always talk about the illness creating the thoughts in your spouse or partner, and that it is the illness that causes him or her to think things are terrible, impossible, unfixable, etc. Explain that things that seem really bad are no big deal, that they can be fixed, and that you'll fix them together.[3]
    • Encourage your spouse or partner to do the things they used to enjoy. Ask them along to the movies or for walks. Keep asking, but don't push too hard, since he or she may not be able to cope with many activities at once.
    • Encourage him or her to participate in activities designed to lessen depression, such as exercise or relaxation.
    • Praise your spouse or partner whenever they're doing something that benefits them and makes them feel better.
    • Plan fun things to do. It's good for everyone in a family to have things to look forward to. Mail yourselves promises of outings together on set dates, and stick the invitation on the fridge and make sure to follow through on the promised outings. These will be beneficial for not only your depressed spouse or partner, but also for you and for any kids, as a change in environment will give you all a break.
  7. 7
    Recognize the serious signs. Depressed people do sometimes commit suicide when the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness become too much to bear. If you spouse talks about suicide, take it seriously. Don't assume they won't act out on their thoughts, especially where there is evidence that they have a plan. Be on the lookout for the following warning signs:
    • Threats or talk of suicide
    • Statements implying they don't care about anything or won't be around anymore
    • Giving away their stuff; making a will or funeral arrangements
    • The purchase of a gun or other weapon
    • Sudden, unexplained cheerfulness or calm after a period of depression
    • If you observe any of this behavior get help right away! Call a health care professional, mental health clinic or suicide hotline to get advice about what action to take. If it's an emergency, do not hesitate to call the police. In addition, do your best to intervene by talking, and even asking them directly about it. Ivanka Palmer says that we tend to be afraid of the direct questions but in the case of suicide, these are vital as they can give you an indication of the time you have to intervene (immediate action or more monitoring) and the intensity of their emotions.[4] She also says that you can do a deal with them to stay alive for a set period of time, buying time for the really negative period to die down, such as "you need to be at your daughter's graduation ceremony".[5]
  8. 8
    Look after yourself. It's easy to forget about your own needs when your spouse is in pain, but if you're unable to function properly, then you won't be able to help. In fact, feelings of depression can spread throughout a family. That's why you should be sure to get enough sleep, eat well, keepexercising, and keep in touch with family and friends for emotional support. Set aside some alone time to step away from the situation. Consider getting therapy or joining a support group since this may help you cope better with your spouse's depression.
    • Give yourself permission to feel upset, angry or frustrated. These feelings are a natural and valid response to what is going on in your life. This is why it is good to join a support group or talk to friends and family since it allows you to vent your feelings rather than keep them inside.
    • Equally, however, do your best to keep your frustration and anxiety out of sight of your spouse or partner. Showing this can increase their anxiety, fear, and stress which can stall their progress or even bring about a relapse. [6] Instead, talk it out with others, work it out in exercise, and leave it out of the calm household atmosphere as much as possible. If you can make a personal space for yourself within the home that you can go to when you just can't take it anymore, this would be an excellent option, as it will give you calming down space and a break.
    • Reduce your stress at work and other situations. Having too many sources of stress will wear you down.
    • If you have kids, ask friends, neighbors, and family for babysitting breaks so that you and your spouse or partner can have time apart from the strain of kids being around all of the time. You'll also need to deal with the impacts of your spouse's or partner's depression on your kids; seek advice from your doctor and other health professionals in charge of caring for your kids' well-being.

originated by:Farimk, Nicole Willson, Teresa, Writelf (see all)

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