Marriage (or Deciding to Divorce) When Your Spouse Suffers from Depression
According to the ADAA, more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, suffer from persistent symptoms of depression. What is depression?
Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general. When these feelings last for a short period of time, it may be a case of “the blues.” But when such feelings last for more than two weeks and when the feelings interfere with daily activities such as taking care of family, spending time with friends, or going to work or school, it’s likely a major depressive episode. Major depression is a treatable illness that affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions. (Source)
Much has been written about the challenges persons with depression face. Less has been said about the unique challenges faced by individuals who are not depressed themselves but find themselves married to a person who is struggling from depression.
What are the signs my spouse is suffering from depression?
Depression has a wide variety of symptoms and can manifest differently in men and women. Here are some symptoms to look for that may indicate your spouse is suffering from depression:
- Insomnia or other significant changes in sleep patterns. Persons suffering from depression may also start sleeping excessively during the day.
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed. It’s normal for interests to shift as we grow but a more sudden loss of interest in one’s normal hobbies or activities may indicate depression.
- Isolation as the depressed person withdraws from family and friends. Someone who isolates themselves from their social circles may be suffering from depression.
- Increased negativity and criticism. A depressed person may become more negative and critical of themselves and others. They may be openly hostile when attempts are made to reach out to them.
- Irritability. If a once pleasant and kind person becomes irritable and angry, depression may be the root cause.
What can I do to save my marriage and care for myself if my spouse suffers from depression?
- Offer unconditional love. Depressed people need to feel loved, and though they often won’t reciprocate the way a non-depressed spouse would, they need it even more desperately. Let your spouse know you love them and are there for them.
- Set boundaries. Showing love doesn’t mean being a doormat. If your spouse says something negative or hurtful to you, it’s ok to let them know that they have hurt you and ask them to be more considerate. Being depressed is not an excuse to hurt other people. If you need time away from them to care for yourself and recharge your own battery, take it.
- Get professional help. If you can, insist that your depressed spouse see and qualified and licensed counselor, psychologist, or LCSW. Regardless of whether you are able to get your spouse to see a professional, it’s a good idea to seek out professional support for yourself as well. Having a depressed spouse means you probably aren’t getting the reciprocal emotional support that is common in marriages. You need a support system too, and talking to a professional counselor on a regular basis is an excellent way for you to receive the support you need.
Divorce when your spouse is suffering from depression
In some cases, a person with a depressed spouse eventually comes to the conclusion that they wish to end their marriage. In some cases, spouses suffering from depression absolutely refuse to seek help, sometimes for years. They may start acting out in other ways or suffer from substance abuse issues, or even become abusive. In any case, deciding whether or not to divorce your depressed spouse is an intensely personal decision that only a person in that situation can make for themselves. The choice to stay and the choice to leave are both right for different people.
Do you have a divorce or family law question?
Call our office today. John A. Bledsoe is Orange County’s premier divorce attorney and a certified family law specialist. Our firm offers a confidential initial case evaluation. Call (949) 363-5551 to learn more.
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