How to help a depressed spouse
When you married your partner, you agreed to love and support them for better or for worse, through sickness and in health. You now find your vows being put to the test.
Dealing with a depressed spouse can be challenging. Some days your partner is happy and productive, and other times they’re unable to tap into their sense of vitality. Your partner is suffering, and as a result, you feel the tension in your marriage.
Marriages in which one of the partners is depressed are nine times more likely to end in divorce, but don’t think your union is destined to fail. You can have a joyful, fulfilling union with your partner. By learning how to help a depressed spouse, you can go from living in a state of frustration to sustaining the vibrant marriage you know you’re both capable of.
Understanding mental health
Before you can understand how to support your partner, you have to have an understanding of what’s affecting them. Depression symptoms can vary and range in intensity depending on the person, but your partner is most likely depressed if they feel sad or anxious most of the time, have an irregular sleep cycle, have lost passion or energy to contribute to things they once loved or talk about feeling worthless or hopeless. Abusing substances to cope is another telltale sign of depression.
There’s no lab test to confirm that your spouse has depression, but if you suspect that they are suffering from this mental health condition, encourage them to speak with a medical health professional.
While the exact cause of depression is not entirely known, medical professionals believe that it can come as the result of genetic, environmental or psychological factors. That is to say, your spouse could be depressed because it’s simply in their DNA or they could be reacting to trauma or a rough period they’re going through. Whatever the cause of your partner’s depression, it’s crucial that you let them know that you’re there for them and want them to be healthy and happy.
Discuss the gender divide
When someone as close to you as your husband or wife is experiencing depression, it can feel isolating. You might feel like you’re the only person on the planet dealing with this struggle. The truth is, roughly 16 million Americans deal with depression every single year. Depression can affect anyone, no matter their age, gender or previous experiences with mental health.
There are universal ways to support your spouse when they’re going through a bout of depression, but there are also some things to know specifically about how gender affects depression.
Depression in women
Did you know that women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men? There are some biological reasons for this, including changing hormone levels before and after pregnancy as well as before and after menopause. There are also cultural things that contribute to depression in women, like dealing with added stress from workplace bias, harassment or pay discrimination.
There are many societal pressures placed on women to not only hold excellent careers, but also to do the majority of domestic tasks all while appearing happy, beautiful and young. If you suspect your wife is dealing with depression, talk about how she’s feeling. Is she feeling overloaded at the office or at home? Is she dealing with something like postpartum depression after the birth of your new baby? Is she feeling the pressures of wanting to be perfect? There could be many reasons why your wife is dealing with depression. Speak with her candidly about what she’s experiencing and help her feel supported and loved.
Depression in men
Learning how to help a depressed husband can be quite different. Sometimes men express their depression through bouts of anger or aggression, which can lead to them being undiagnosed as we often think of depression manifesting in the form of sadness. Culturally, men are less encouraged to assess and discuss their feelings, so your husband might be having a hard time expressing what he’s feeling. If that’s the case, assure him that you’re inquiring about his health from a position of concern, not judgment.
The American Psychological Association reports that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Pair that with the notion that because men often rely on their wives to maintain and nurture social connections, husbands can often feel lonely and isolated later on in life. Many men forget to create and sustain powerful friendships and, as a result, their depressed state can feel extremely solitary.
Realize that depression is bigger than you or your partner; depression is a mental health issue that can take time and treatment to overcome. Talk to your spouse about meeting with a medical professional. After working with someone who knows the ins and outs of depression, there are a few things you can do at home to empower your partner and strengthen your marriage.
- Recognize symptoms of depression
If your partner has been going through depression for a while or is showing signs of a depressive episode, take notice! Reach out to them. Let them know you’re here to help and support them however they need.
- Encourage communication
When was the last time you really communicated with your partner? Beyond talking about how your day was or making plans to pick up dinner, when was the last time you connected? Remember that some people, especially men, have a harder time expressing their thoughts and feelings. Create a safe, judgment-free environment for your spouse to connect with you in. Also encourage your partner to connect and socialize with friends. Human connection is key for depressed individuals.
- Get physical
Changing your partner’s physiological state can have an incredible affect on their mood. If your spouse is having a hard time committing to working out on their own, join them. Whether it’s going to fitness classes or taking walks around your neighborhood, these acts can lift their mood and strengthen your bond.
Understand that depression is a part of life
Until recently, there was stigma surrounding mental health in America. People were afraid to be seen as different or broken if they admitted to having a mental health concern. The culture has changed and many now recognize that depression, and other mental health issues, are a natural part of life. Everyone is affected by mental health to some degree. When you feel isolated in dealing with your spouse’s depression, know that you’re not alone, you can sustain an incredible marriage and you have all the resources you need to live in a beautiful state.
Depression is serious. With all the resources out there, just knowing where to start can be overwhelming. If you’re thinking about ending your life, call one of the suicide hotlines: 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) and 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). If you have a plan to commit suicide, go to the emergency room for immediate treatment. The information and other content provided in this article, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. See full disclaimer.
Take steps now to help your spouse
Helping someone you love through their battle with depression is extremely difficult. To begin to understand how to help them reframe their mindset and adopt empowering beliefs, read Tony Robbins’ Limiting Beliefs guide.