Maybe you’ve noticed something different in your partner. He or she may be acting sadder than usual, may not be taking pleasure in the things that he or she usually enjoys, or may even be talking about death a lot. It could be your partner just down in the dumps, or these symptoms could be pointing to something much more serious – depression.
While it’s normal to be sad, especially when there’s loss involved, depression is a different thing altogether. Aside from feeling extreme sadness, there may also be feelings of helplessness (i.e., there’s nothing the person can do to change the situation), hopelessness (i.e., no matter what the person does, nothing will change), or worthlessness. In such a case, it may be depression, a medical condition that can be treated.
According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 121 million people worldwide who suffer from depression. When someone is depressed, all aspects of their lives are affected including work, family, and social life. Depression will definitely reduce their quality of life, and at its worst, it can even lead to suicide or suicide attempts.
It’s no wonder then that couples with one depressed spouse are nine times more likely to divorce than other couples.
While there is no single cause for depression – it can indeed be triggered by loss, either through the death of someone significant, or a work-related one. Transitions – such as moving, having a baby, or getting married – can also trigger depression. Finally, conflicts in a significant relationship can also bring on a depressive episode.
The good news, however, is that depression can be treated. Not many seek treatment, but when they do, the odds are very high (up to 90%) of getting some relief.
If you suspect that your spouse or partner is depressed, waiting for him or her to get over it is not the best approach. While some types of depression dissipate after a few weeks, more stubborn depressions can exist for many months or even years. How can you tell if your love one is depressed? A diagnosis of depression is given if your partner has at least five of these which he or she experiences almost every day.
- Depressed mood most of the day
- Lack of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Lack of concentration
- Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Lack of interest or pleasure in all activities
- Persistent thoughts of death or suicide
While it may not be so easy to spot these symptoms, it would help if you can observe even small changes in your partner’s thoughts or behaviors.
Depression is insidious; it can creep up so slowly no one will ever notice until it’s in full swing. When your partner is undergoing some stressful events – loss, transitions, or relational conflicts – pay attention to small changes in how your partner thinks, speaks, or acts. Often, they would not notice (or admit) that something’s wrong; it would take your gentle support for them to admit they need help.
Encourage your partner to seek help immediately once you notice symptoms
The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be for your marriage and for your family. Depression affects everyone, and the longer it remains undiagnosed and untreated, the harder it will be to treat. Suicide or suicidal attempts are a very real risk for people suffering from depression.
Be gentle when you talk to your partner about it
While your partner may not admit that what they’re feeling is depression, you need to get your concern across without making them feel defensive, or resistant. Be firm about your desire that they seek the help of a mental health professional; even offer to attend an appointment with them, as it may provide a lot of comfort to know they have an ally in you.
Know that you alone cannot cure your partner’s depression
While it’s true that your love, care, and support is invaluable, there are other things your partner needs that you can’t provide. Use your love to encourage them to get help and to continue with the treatment.
Take care of yourself while you’re dealing with your partner’s depression
It can be a lonely, scary, and emotionally draining task when a partner is battling depression. You may feel guilty for some reason, or you may also feel helpless. You may even feel like giving up, which is why divorce rates are so much higher for couples with depression.
It would be a good idea for you to also find support. Talk to someone – your therapist, family member, or a trusted friend. Accept any help they may offer, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Let them take the kids to school or bring you meals once in a while. This lets you know that you aren’t alone in caring for your partner, and can help give you the support you need to in turn provide it to your partner.
Depression can be a pretty tough challenge to face, but with your support and timely professional help, recovery from this mental illness is highly possible. If you suspect that your partner has depression, contact us today. We can help.