How To Support A Depressed Spouse

Written by Harini Natarajan

Millions of people around the globe suffer from some form of depression. From a medical perspective, depression is caused due to a chemical imbalance in the brain (1). A holistic look at depression would reveal that marriage with a depressed spouse can often end up being unhappy.

Your spouse’s depression can have a negative impact on your mental health as well. This makes it important for you to identify the early signs of depression and learn how to help a depressed spouse. In this article, we will throw light on all that you need to know in this regard.

Signs Your Partner Is Dealing With Depression

Most people fail to identify the early signs of depression in their spouses because they do not even notice them. You need to realize that, unlike any physical ailment, the signs of depression are very subtle and often get lost in the humdrum of everyday life. Here are some signs that you should look out for:

1. Sudden Change In Sleep Patterns

As a spouse, you are intimate with your partner, making it a major advantage in detecting the early signs of depression. If you see your partner sleeping considerably lesser or more than normal, then it is probably because of depression.

2. Unexpected Reckless Behaviour

If you find your cautious partner taking a reckless approach to life, it may be an initial sign of depression. Reckless behavior includes rough driving, a sudden interest in adventure sports, gambling, or unprotected sex. Since such behaviors pose a threat to you and your partner, it is best to consult a mental health professional for the appropriate course of treatment.

3. Unplanned Substance Abuse

If your partner has suddenly taken to marijuana, alcohol, cigarette, drugs, or any other form of drug abuse, you may be living with a depressed spouse. Regular experimentation with illicit substances may be a manifestation of depression.

4. Changes In Communication Patterns

Do you see your partner pulling away from you? Perhaps they are always on edge or snapping at the smallest excuses. These changes in communication can all be traced to depression. If your partner has become abusive, controlling, or extremely sensitive to criticism, then you need to exercise caution.

5. Physical Aches And Pain

In some situations, depression manifests itself as physical symptoms like recurrent headache, backache, digestive disorders, sexual dysfunction, etc. Physical ailments that are symptoms of depression are psychosomatic and do not respond to normal treatment.

Now that you know how to identify the signs of depression, the next step is coming to terms with it. It is not easy knowing that your partner is going through a tough time. However, with proper guidance, you can learn your way around dealing with a depressed spouse and help them manage their mental health.

Strengthening Your Relationship With A Depressed Spouse

Life as the spouse of a depressed person is never easy. Your partner is already fighting an internal war, so it is up to you to steer the relationship in the right direction. Here are some steps that you can take:

1. Encourage Professional Help

With timely help, depression is highly treatable. Encourage your partner to visit a therapist and talk about what is bothering them. Be very gentle about how you present your ideas to your partner.

Chances are your partner has not noticed the onset of depression, and you will have to break it to them. Begin with phrases like ‘I noticed…’ or ‘I happened to see…’ and list the symptoms. Offer to accompany them to a therapist while ensuring that you are not upset with them for feeling this way.

2. Work As A Team

You need to function as a team to help your partner get through this depressive episode. For example, if your spouse needs to go through therapy as a part of their treatment, try to accompany them for the initial sessions.

Realize that your spouse needs you more than ever before and offer them your unconditional support. Communicate with their doctor and be in the know about your partner’s medication and lifestyle changes.

3. Take Care Of Yourself

Practicing self-care is necessary to avoid ending up in a situation where both spouses are depressed. Make it a practice to take time out for yourself and do things you enjoy, like reading a book or going for a bicycle ride.

Understand that you can nurture your married life only when you are mentally healthy yourself. Hence, you must not feel guilty about putting your mental well-being ahead of everything else.

4. Do Not Take It Personally

When your spouse acts out on you, it is not because they love you any less. Frustration and anger are a result of depression. Being assertive in your communication and giving your partner a sense of security and support can make all the difference.  While dealing with depression, your partner needs unconditional love from you.

The foundation of your marital relationship can be shaken when your partner is going through mental health problems. Continue reading to know what to expect when living with a depressed spouse.

Living With A Depressed Spouse

Although depression is treatable, living with a depressed person may not be the easiest experience. While you are pulling with all your strength, your depressed spouse may want a divorce or be too dejected to think straight. Thus, you need to be the strong one and not let their pessimism rub off on you.

At the same time, a depressed person is capable of harming themselves. To avoid any untoward incidents, you need to be on your toes and look out for red flags. Some of the biggest red flags include the following (2).

  • Your partner is preoccupied with thoughts of death or the afterlife.
  • They talk of suicide or arrange means to commit suicide. Procuring a gun or a high dose of cleaning fluids or sleeping pills are some examples.
  • You notice a generic social withdrawal or a lack of interest in things that they loved.
  • Your spouse has extreme mood swings where they are happy for a few hours, followed by overwhelming grief sessions.
  • They express a sudden desire to get affairs in order, giving away belongings, or randomly saying goodbyes.

If you notice such signs, understand that your partner may be trying to end their life. In such situations, seek professional help at the earliest.

Identifying the above red flags is the key to figuring out how to live with a depressed spouse. Other than that, it is all about having faith in the treatment and loving your partner through the roughest of times.

Taking The Necessary Steps To Help Your Spouse Out Of Depression

It is indeed a helpless feeling to see someone you love fall prey to depression. Not knowing how to cope with a depressed spouse can take a toll on your relationship and may even cause you to drift apart. Here are some steps that you can take to ease the journey of your spouse.

  • Step 1: Read About Depression

Your journey of coping with a depressed spouse begins with reading about this medical condition and understanding the recovery journey. Even if you or someone you know may have been depressed at some point in your life, you should spend time understanding your partner’s condition. Realize that each journey is unique, and you can help your partner only when you are educated on their condition and progress.

  • Step 2: Be Available

When your spouse is depressed, the thing they need the most is for someone to listen to them patiently. Make sure that you are available when they need to talk. Try to be empathetic and acknowledge their feelings, even when you feel they are speaking in a loop. Be polite and ask them to spell out their expectations from you.

  • Step 3: Set Realistic Goals

Tackling depression often seems like a monumental task to the patient. As a spouse, you can make things simpler by setting small, achievable goals. The tasks may be as simple as making the bed or taking a timely shower. As your partner gets comfortable with achieving these daily goals, you can gradually increase their magnitude.

  • Step 4: Focus On Exercise

People are often unsure of what to say to a depressed spouse and end up contemplating how to spend quality time together. An easy solution to this is focusing on exercising together. Schedule a daily walk, run, or workout together. Depression often causes people to neglect their physical health, and your dedication to exercise will help your partner recover faster.

  • Step 5: Concentrate On Healthy Eating

Depression causes loss of appetite in some people, while others end up binge eating unhealthy food. To avoid either situation, concentrate on your partner’s diet. Encourage cooking healthy meals together and keep a tab on the family’s daily nutritional intake.

  • Step 6: Offer Emotional Support

Depression often causes people to be harsh on themselves and suffer from low self-esteem. Make a conscious effort to point out the strengths of your partner and offer positive reinforcement wherever possible. Create a haven at home where your partner feels comfortable expressing their emotions.

The above steps tell you what to do when your spouse is depressed. However, every journey is unique, and being patient in your efforts is the only way forward.

That said, watching a loved one struggle with depression can certainly take its toll on you. Read on to know when it is appropriate for you to walk out of the relationship.

Depression In A Relationship: Saying Goodbye

You must leave no stone unturned when dealing with a depressed spouse and trying to nurture them back to good health. However, if you see no positive outcome even after years of effort, then it is time for you to bid adieu to the relationship.

While it is possible to treat and manage depression, there is no point for you to stay in a relationship out of sheer duty or guilt. Attempting to do so will only compromise your mental health and may even push you toward depression.

The Takeaway

Early detection of depression can help your partner get treatment faster and manage their condition better. Thus, spouses should be on the lookout for the symptoms of depression. Once detected, start helping your depressed spouse by gently breaking the news to them and guiding them to the right mental health professionals. Throughout the process, it is important to remain calm and assure your partner that you are by their side. Remember that it takes time for people to recover from depression, and it is important to be patient with them.

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As Chief Editor, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She has over 14 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media. She specializes in the areas of Beauty, Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness and is proficient in Medical Sciences (Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biochemistry). Her background in Biomedical Engineering helps her decode and interpret the finer nuances of scientific research for her team. Harini is a certified bibliophile and a closet poet. She also loves dancing and traveling to offbeat destinations.