Marriage and the Depressed Spouse

Depression strikes millions of people around the world every year. It is widely recognized as a disease that in most cases is readily treatable. Yet when it strikes in your own home, it can cause great damage to a marriage. Your ideas about who your spouse is and what you can do to help may vary and change from day to day. You may begin to feel some of the same hopelessness that your depressed spouse may exhibit. But the situation is far from hopeless.

Today, depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness. It can be either a temporary and once in a lifetime condition or a lifelong battle with a recurring state of mind. Either way, depression is debilitating to the person suffering from it as well those who care about the sufferer. If you suspect your spouse is suffering from depression, you should do what you can to educate yourself on the condition to have a better understanding of what to expect and how to handle your own feelings.

Depression manifests in different ways for different people. The symptoms are broad and can vary from person to person and even from incidence to incidence. It can be difficult to identify. You may need to go over the most common symptoms and see which ones apply. Do not be discouraged if you have a hard time fitting your spouse’s behavior into a particular mould of depression sufferers. Simply start with what you know and go from there to find the nearest support group and professional help available to you.

You may feel powerless to relate to the experience, so it is important that you communicate with your spouse and really make an effort to understand their symptoms. Ask them to tell you about their feelings and thoughts, but be careful not to judge. If your spouse is thinking very negative or self-destructive thoughts, do not chide them or make them feel wrong for thinking this way. Simply listen and do your best to let them know they are loved.

Some common symptoms of depression surround the basic functions of daily living. Most people suffering from depression find that their eating habits are disturbed in some way. They may overeat excessively, using food as a form of comfort and escape. The food may take the form of the only way a depressed person can feel joy or excitement. However, a depressed person may also avoid food, feeling a significant loss of appetite. Encourage your partner to eat, but do not become angry at their lack of appetite.

Sleep is often disturbed in a depressed person. They may find it extremely difficult to fall asleep at night, tossing and turning with morbid or anxious thoughts. On the other hand, some depressed people retreat into sleep as an escape from the real world. Try to accommodate your partner’s sleep needs by quieting the house down at a certain time if they have trouble falling asleep. If your partner is sleeping excessively, refrain from criticizing this behavior. The criticism will not result in any changes as this is a symptom of an illness, not a choice to be lazy.

The fatigue that goes along with most depressive states is visible in the person’s ability to be alert and participatory in their day. If you notice that your spouse is often drifting off and unable to pay attention, this is a common symptom of depression. Again, avoid criticism and try your best to be patient. Remember that your spouse’s behavior is not a reflection of their love or respect for you, but a symptom of a larger illness that is beyond their control.

Apathy may also be present, wherein the depressed person seems to not care for things previously important to them. Often, depressed people, rather than feeling sad or angry, simply feel nothing at all. Of course, an overriding sense of sadness or negativity is also a sign of depression. If your partner makes comments of a fatalistic or pessimistic nature on a regular basis, you may want to ask about their feelings. Often depressed people see the world as a fruitless endeavor and begin to see their lives as an endless stream of disappointments. If your spouse expresses suicidal thoughts, seek professional help immediately.

It is vital that your partner is diagnosed by a professional who can then begin some form of treatment for depression. But you too may need to consult a counsellor in order to deal with the feelings that arise from living with someone with depression.



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