assist your associate

How do you know if your spouse is depressed and what can you do to help? There are some healthy ways to encourage your partner to seek therapy, open up to their emotions, and work together to help them manage depression.

Signs your spouse is depressed

Sudden changes in your spouse’s daily habits or behavior can be early signs of depression, says Rabbi Mischa L. Ben-David, LCDC, life coach and pastor at Neshama Counseling and Coaching in Austin, TX.

“You may find that they eat or drink differently, behave more surly, or isolate themselves. They can avoid contact with you. Some people get into solo activities or hobbies or even compulsive behaviors like buying cars or spending a lot of money, ”he says.

Suddenly your partner can start:

  • Do you cry or appear very angry often?
  • Lack of energy or interest in activities
  • Lose concentration or focus
  • Sleep more or very little
  • Drink more alcohol or use drugs than you used to
  • Losing interest in sex

Avoid the vicious circle

When your depressed spouse pulls away from you or has constant angry outbursts, it’s easy to feel hurt, alienated and respond with similar behaviors, says Dr. Jacques Barber, Dean of the Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY.

“This can create a vicious circle and make the spouse with depression even more depressed, estranged, angry, and withdrawn to themselves,” he says. “You need to realize that depression is very difficult to deal with and that your partner is not doing anything malicious. It’s the depression. If someone is mad at you all the time, you want to be mad back! But remember: depression is not contagious. This won’t last forever and can be treated. It’s easy to blame yourself. But most couples survive. “

Should you plan to intervene with other friends and family members to bring up your depressed spouse about their problems? Be careful before you take this step, says Ben-David.

“It’s important not to be accusatory. It’s more important to watch and let them know what you noticed. Say, “I saw you look grumpier and more unhappy.” Talk about the changes you’ve seen, ”he says. It’s okay to share your feelings as well and let your spouse know that certain behavior changes are hurting you. “Tell them, ‘We don’t have sex anymore. You don’t spend time with me. ‘”

You can deny the problem

A depressed spouse can deny having a problem at all, says Ben-David.

“Many people with depression or mental health problems do not want to be ‘fixed’. You might just want to be heard. If you are listening to your partner and hearing things that are too hurtful to you, turn to a professional for help, ”he says. “Your spouse may not identify their behavior as depression. When playing with sex, drinking, drugs, or eating, they can say, “I need this. It relieves my stress. ‘”

Encourage your spouse to get help and a diagnosis from a psychologist. They can start with talk therapy and, if they need it, prescription medication, Barber says. Make an appointment with a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or family doctor to make a diagnosis and begin therapy.

“Psychotherapy plus medication have shown that they work better on depression than medication alone. Medication without speaking won’t help, ”says Barber, who adds that medication may be better suited to treating people with major depression.


Some couples opt for therapy together, especially when depression has led to sexual problems in the marriage, such as an affair, says Ben-David. Your depressed partner may prefer solo therapy. If you’re struggling with addiction, you need to treat it before battling your depression, he says.

“There is no quick fix. Some people may be taking a drug for depression and it doesn’t work, or they may go to therapy and it doesn’t work for them. You have to be persistent, ”says Ben-David.

Stay positive and get active

What if your spouse refuses to go to therapy? You may feel hopeless, but try to stay positive because depression is often treatable, says Barber. Although your spouse may need to stay on therapy and / or medication for a few months, up to 90% of people with depression will improve with treatment.

“The important thing is to show them affection. You can feel rejected. But it’s situational and their behavior is only part of the depression, ”he says. “Be encouraging. Invite them to do more fun activities together. Do something active like exercise. Depression often causes lethargy. Ask your spouse to go for a walk or go to the beach in case you have one around. “


Whether or not your spouse agrees to therapy, there are some things you shouldn’t do to respond to their anger or disapproval, says Ben-David.

“Avoid blaming or attacking them for their behavior. Don’t keep saying, “You did this and I felt bad.” Negotiating with them is generally not helpful either. An all-or-nothing approach doesn’t work, ”he says. “Instead, suggest healthy activities that you can do with friends or with friends you trust. Attend an outdoor concert or listen to music the both of you enjoy. One behavior I sometimes dictate to couples is reading to each other. This has a nourishing quality and can help with retention. “

Practice self-care

It is important to take care of yourself while helping your depressed spouse. You can begin therapy to express your views on your marriage and find ways to deal with it.

Here are some tips to help you stay emotionally and physically healthy:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Do sports regularly
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Read the partner self-help books for depressed spouses


Don’t see your spouse’s depression as a negative reflection of your worth as a partner or as a person, says Ben-David.

“It can feel very personal to you. When your spouse is acting, these behaviors can feel like an attack on you. You may feel like you need to take responsibility for this. It is important to consult a psychologist if you hold yourself responsible for your spouse’s depression, ”says Ben-David. “Sometimes both people in a couple can get depressed. There can be several issues that you both need to deal with. “

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