Depression can be a debilitating disease, and when it begins to affect a marriage or relationship it can sometime cause irreparable damage. It’s estimated that 16 million adults in our country have experienced at least one major depressive episode. If you feel your partner or spouse may be experiencing depression it’s important that you take action.
Where Do I Start?
The first step is for you to learn about depression. Chances are that your partner or spouse may not even know that he/she is depressed. Depression can show itself slowly, with more than just feelings of sadness. Symptoms of depression can include; feelings of guilt, loss of pleasure, lack of interest, irritability, changes in sleeping or eating habits, feelings of sadness, self-blame, anger, feelings of being punished, frustration, difficulty concentrating, lack of self-care, isolation, and even thoughts of suicide.
If your partner or spouse is experiencing even just a few of these symptoms, it’s time for a supportive and heartfelt conversation. Lovingly let your partner know about the behavior changes you have noticed and that you are aware that it’s not his/her fault. Acknowledge the pain that your partner or spouse may be feeling and that nobody chooses to be depressed. Being accusatory or making it about you will only cause your partner or spouse to pull away even more.
How Can I Help?
Come up with a game plan to assist your partner or spouse in getting help. Oftentimes when a person is depressed, even the simplest task can seem overwhelming. In addition to offering to find a therapist, offer to accompany your partner or spouse to the first session. Find out from the therapist how you can be supportive and help your partner reach small goals. Pulling out of depression is no easy process and can sometimes require a combination of therapy and medication. It’s important that a psychiatrist become involved if this is the case.
Although getting out and socializing, eating well, exercising, and getting involved in new activities are the very things that can help a person out of depression, when a person is feeling depressed, attempting these very things can seem impossible. In support of your partner or spouse, offer to do these things together. You can go for a walk, cook some healthy meals, and organize short outings like a movie or a bicycle ride. Remember to keep goals small and reachable. Taking your depressed partner or spouse to a large party may prove too overwhelming for him/her.
Lastly, it is important to be aware of the signs of active suicidal thoughts such as talking about suicide, acquiring the means to attempt suicide, preoccupation with thoughts of death, noticeable changes in daily routines, excessive feelings of hopelessness, risky or self-destructive behavior, giving away belongings, or getting affairs in order. If you feel your partner or spouse is suicidal, notify their therapist or take him or her to the hospital immediately.
Remember, nobody chooses depression and pulling out of depression can seem to be extremely overwhelming. By getting involved in a compassionate way, you can help your partner break free from the debilitating grips of depression.