How To Cope With A Depressed Spouse – After 30 years of marriage to his wife, Jeff Zuckerman began battling bipolar disorder and depression. In the spring of 2015, he had his first monthly manic episodes. Immediately thereafter, he fell into a severe depression. A health crisis disrupted the couple’s marriage.
“You have to understand that for him, depression wasn’t sadness, it was emptiness,” said Mr. Zuckerman, 68, a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis. When his wife’s depression was at its worst, she would lie in bed for months with the curtains drawn. He got out of the shower and barely spoke.
How To Cope With A Depressed Spouse
“This woman was very active and took care of our family. She was a mother, she worked, she went through everything, and then she fell into a deep depression,” Mr Zuckerman said. He wrote Unbroken: A Bipolar Story about loving a mentally ill spouse.
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The partners of millions of Americans are prone to depression. About 21 million adults in the United States experience at least one episode of major depressive disorder, and in some parts of the country, as many as 10 percent suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a syndrome that occurs in the fall and winter due to shorter periods of daylight.
Experts say there are ways to support and care for yourself as you help your partner cope with depression.
Knowing some of the physical and emotional symptoms of depression can help you determine if your partner is just upset, exhausted, or depressed. Common symptoms include loss of interest in normal activities, changes in appetite or sleep, or unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches or back pain that last at least two weeks, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Knowing more about what depression is and how it affects people can help you protect yourself emotionally and respond more compassionately instead of taking your partner’s behavior personally.
Helping A Depressed Spouse
“If the other partner is unaware that their partner is depressed, they may mistake things like loss of interest in romance or sex for personal rejection,” says Xavier Amador, a clinical psychologist and co-author of When Your Loved One Is Depressed.
When your partner is distressed, you may feel the need to dig in and tell them what you think is happening. But try to channel the questions, says Dr. Amado. Ask your partner how they are feeling. Tell them you want to know more about what they are going through.
If your partner is defensive, Dr. Amado recommends a strategy called “reflective listening.” For example, if you ask your loved one how they’re feeling and they tell you they’re fine and there’s nothing wrong with you, you might respond with something like, “You tell me there’s nothing wrong, is that true? Can I tell you what I’ve noticed?” Dr. Amador explains.
Your partner is more likely to feel heard and valued, rather than judged, if you try to guide issues rather than rush to share your point of view, she says.
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To help your loved one receive diagnosis and treatment, you can call potential providers and schedule an appointment or create a list of doctors you need to contact. However, experts say it is important to remember that no one can be forced to help and that pushing too hard could backfire.
“It’s a balancing act,” says Lily Brown, director of the Center for Anxiety Treatment and Research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Of course, you want to be able to talk to them and advise them how they can help, but if you over-direct, someone struggling with depression can feel even more helpless and hopeless.”
Partners who take on too much caregiving responsibility often experience guilt and shame when dealing with the problem, she added.
You shouldn’t be your partner’s only support, especially in situations where they may be in danger. Remember that depression increases your risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides resources to find help for loved ones in crisis.
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Romantic partners can affect health and health-related behaviors in good or bad ways, and Dr. Amado points to studies showing that symptoms of depression can be contagious.
“If you live with someone who is depressed, helpless and often doesn’t want help, then you feel depressed and helpless,” explains Dr. Amado.
Both Dr. Amador and Dr. Brown emphasize the importance of supporting your mental health. If you have symptoms of depression, please contact your healthcare provider for evaluation. But even if you’re not, you may find it helpful to see a therapist or join a peer support group.
Mr. Zuckerman is a Volunteer Coordinator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an organization that provides support to families and partners of people with mental illness. This helped him connect with a group of people who understood what he was going through. Every other week, Mr. Zuckerman and about 10 to 15 other partners discuss survival skills; help each other ease feelings of grief or guilt; and provide a safe space to share challenges and successes.
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In addition to reaching out to a therapist or support group when necessary, it’s important to find other ways to prioritize self-care. Dr. Brown says it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. When you’re stuck with your partner, getting out of the house a little bit and making time for activities you enjoy can help protect your emotional health.
Spend time in nature, participating in activities, or moving your body. For example, studies have shown that daily jogging for 15 minutes or less, such as walking or gardening for an hour, can have a protective effect against depression.
“Date, date, date—whatever works for you,” advises Dr. Amador. “It’s really important to have social support and release.” You can encourage your partner to make an effort with you to get out and exercise or connect with others, but remember that loss of interest in normal activities or hobbies is a sign of depression.
Zuckerman’s wife, who has allowed her husband to tell her story but only on the condition of anonymity, has been sober for three years and said the relationship between the couple is “good.” They go to the movies, to concerts, to dances together. They cook, spend time with their grandkids, and go to synagogue.
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But Mr. Zuckerman also reminded himself that it’s not selfish to prioritize self-care.
“We really love our partners and spouses and we know in our hearts it’s an illness. We know you can’t blame anyone for being sick,” Mr Zuckerman said. “But what we’ve been through as a result may have gone too far.”
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts call or text 988
A version of this article appears on page 3 of Part A of The New York Publication under the heading: Here to Help; How to Help a Partner Suffering from Depression. Repeat Order | Paper Order Today Support from family and friends can play an important role in the treatment of mental health problems. Ways to help a partner with depression include knowing what to ask, understanding the situation, and more.
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Adults in the United States each year. Depression can negatively affect relationships, leaving loved ones feeling helpless, frustrated, or scared.
In this article, we explore how people can support a depressed partner’s journey to recovery.
To understand the severity of a person’s depression, it may be helpful to consider how symptoms affect their life.
Avoid asking questions that seem judgmental or accusing the other person of being depressed. They may already be berating themselves for their symptoms and need support rather than further judgment.
Protecting Relationships From Depression
Understanding depression can make it easier to support patients. Knowing about these symptoms can often help people recognize them in their loved ones.
Symptoms range from mild to severe and can change over time. However, the American Psychiatric Association states that symptoms must persist for at least two weeks before a doctor can diagnose depression.
It is very important to listen to people with depression and express empathy, which is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. One way to express empathy is this
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