20 Mar Coping With A Depressed Partner
“Is your marriage at stake? Are you having problems coping with a depressed partner?”
Depression in the marital partner can put a strain on the marriage as a whole. Coping with a depressed partner who is often unhappy, critical, and negative isn’t easy, and at the same time, it may also be hard to persuade a husband or wife to get help. You may be overwhelmed by extra household chores that your partner is too lethargic to finish, resentful because your spouse won’t just come out of it, or feel that you’re somehow to blame for the illness itself. You may feel alone yet unwilling to tell anyone there’s depression in your household, or you may simply wonder when the sparkle and joy, the humor and fun seeped out of your relationship. The longer a non-depressed spouse lives with a depressed partner, the higher his or her own risk for developing depression. The deeper a depressed spouse sinks, the tougher it may be to finally treat the depression—and the greater the risk for alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide.
Depression results from shifts in brain chemistry that influence mood, thoughts, sex drive, sleep, appetite, and energy levels — all factors that could affect a marriage, as well as disrupt home and family life.
Here are some ways to help in coping with a depressed partner:
- Be alert to small changes- It’s not possible for the depressed patient to recognize his/ her problems in such a state so it is upon the non-depressed spouse to take the lead. They may feel too lethargic or withdrawn or may think they can fix it alone.
- Be on the same team- You being the sensible spouse have to understand the problems of your depressed spouse you must always keep in your mind that the illness is the enemy and not your spouse. E.g., many patients complain that they lose their temper while dealing with the patient but it’s not the solution and you are only worsening the situation.
- Don’t wait till the condition becomes worse- Long-term depression is harder on your marriage, tougher to treat, and more likely to recur, and it leaves its victim in despair. The most chilling risk: It leaves open the very real possibility of suicide. About 60 percent of people who attempt suicide have major or minor depression or another mood disorder—and depressed men are four times more likely than depressed women to take their own lives.
- Break the ice gently yet firmly- If you suspect your partner is depressed, don’t blurt out a layperson’s diagnosis: “You’re depressed!” In order to begin the process of healing, approach your spouse with concern and with an action plan. You must try ways by which you can make your spouse feel better. You must show that you are concerned
- Get a diagnosis- Dozens of health conditions—including heart disease, diabetes, lupus, viral infections, and chronic pain—can trigger the same symptoms as depression. So can scores of prescription medications, including some birth-control pills and drugs that treat acne, herpes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer. The doctor can rule out underlying causes and decide whether or not it’s really depression.
- You must remain optimistic- The success rate of depression treatment is as high as 90 percent. Usually, the road back is relatively simple: antidepressants, counseling, or a combination of the two. That said, recovery may take time and patience. There may be an initial trial-and-error period while you try various antidepressants or see whether various therapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal counseling, are helpful. The results are worth it.
- Find a mental-health counselor- Depression affects both you—and your whole family. You may have issues dealing with individuals as the depressed person, and the two of you may have issues to deal with that stem from coping with depression.
- Be alert for relapses- About half of all people who suffer a bout of major depression will have a relapse; 75 percent of those will have another relapse, and 90 percent of those will have yet another. Once a first episode passes, many doctors prescribe a maintenance dose of antidepressants to prevent a relapse. Both spouses should also stay alert for signs that the illness is returning.
Coping with a depressed partner can be lonely, overwhelming, and emotionally draining. You may blame yourself, feel helpless, grow pessimistic, lose your sense of humor, and even consider leaving. It’s easy for the non-depressed spouse to become angry and frustrated with an irritable, lethargic mate who’s pessimistic and critical, who can’t unload the dishwasher or get the kids ready for bed anymore—ask how you’re doing, or acknowledge that you’ve been holding things together for weeks, months, or years.
What can you do to keep yourself together?
There are thousands of men and women who have lived through this struggle or are in the midst of it right now. They have a lot of insight and share their painful stories in face-to-face support groups as well as online communities.
- Take care of yourself- When depression strikes and you find yourself living with a distant stranger, it’s only natural to focus first on your partner. It’s easy to lose sight of your own needs and gradually undermine the health and inner balance you need to get through the crisis. The obstacles are huge since your partner is right there and depression is now part of your life. It’s important to keep your own life going, get out of the house as often as you can and spend time on the things that help you relax.
- Seek help- There’s so much stress in living with depression that you should reach out for support. Perhaps you have caring friends you trust enough to confide in, or can find a support group, online communities, or perhaps individual counseling.
- It’s not your fault- Depression is the cause of the problem, not you. Nothing you’ve done could have brought on the ugly transformation of your partner – whatever accusations they might throw at you. Nor is it possible for you to fix the illness.
- Learning more about depression and the impact it can have- Will prepare you to recognize the many ways it can alter your partner’s behavior. You should realize, though, that what you’re learning is just a small part of an evolving field of research. It’s easy to jump to conclusions about exactly what’s wrong and what can be done about it. Consulting a mental health professional is a good way to get further insight into your partner’s illness.
- Offer love and support– Understand the needs of your partner which would even help you to feel better.
- Be tolerant of yourself- You probably can’t stop the emotional roller coaster all at once or persuade your partner to get help or take perfect care of yourself. Expecting too much too soon can only lead to more frustration and reduced self-esteem. You already have enough of those to deal with.
- Break the Cycle- One way to keep from being dependent on your partner’s moods is to look closely at your reactions to each of them. What are the worst, most painful moments for you – the ones that trigger your most intense feelings? What does your partner do to set you off? What is the feeling that wells up in you – anger, fear, hopelessness? And what do you do in response – meet attack for attack, hold your feelings in, leave? How do you feel about your own reactions afterward? It can help to track these reactions on paper at first to help you recognize the triggering events. That tactic could make it easier to interrupt your usual reaction, restore a sense of emotional independence and break the cycle that’s hurting you in so many ways.
Depressed partners have to know when you can’t take anymore, or they cross a line that can’t be crossed. Remind them about what’s at stake and what you are really feeling. A depressed person is ill, yes, and probably wouldn’t choose to act hurtfully when well, so simple blaming is not appropriate. But there are supportive ways to remind them of your limits and insist that they get treatment. It is advisable to consult a counselor to help couples cope with the situation.
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