Over the last few weeks or months, you’ve noticed changes in your spouse’s behavior. They seem melancholy and they’ve lost all interest in things they once enjoyed. Your spouse may even lash out in anger for no reason. You begin to suspect your spouse is depressed, but you’re unsure how to handle the situation.
To help a depressed spouse, you first need to know the signs and symptoms of depression. This allows you to help them cope more than hinder their progress. You should also encourage your spouse to get treatment and learn to identify when they may be in a suicidal state.
This article will outline the possible signs that your spouse is depressed. We’ll also provide tips for you to cope with and help overcome your spouse’s depression. If you’ve found yourself in this delicate and difficult situation, we think this article will be of great help.
The Signs of a Depressed Spouse
When your spouse struggles with depression, it can affect every part of your life all at once. You can all too easily get swept up in their mood swings and their unexplainable suffering. You may begin to feel like you’re along for their extreme ride.
The following are some of the more common symptoms of depression to look for in your spouse. It’s important to remember everyone’s experience is different. You may be the one person best able to see changes in your spouse’s habits, moods, and thought patterns.
Loss of Enjoyment or Interest in Normal Activities
People who suffer from depression can lose interest in the things they once enjoyed. These include hobbies, their social life, or even their sex life. Your spouse may feel like they don’t identify with who they once were.
A person can withdraw under the weight of their depression. They’ll do anything possible to avoid social interactions and responsibilities.
Mood Swings, Agitation, or General Anxiety
Depression can cause mood swings that aren’t related to the challenges of a given situation. These personality changes can represent the most extreme of emotions. One can go from feeling empty and numb to aggressive and angry in a matter of minutes. It’s important to observe your spouse’s shifts in mood over the course of days or weeks. Compare this to how you’ve known them to be in the past.
Chronic Feelings of Hopelessness or Sadness
Being depressed leaves some feeling unable to overcome their suffering. Those who struggle with depression may also experience shame, worthlessness, self-hate, guilt, and disappointment. These emotions make it difficult to get motivated and engaged with life.
Changes in Appetite, Including Weight Loss or Gain
Depression can spread into every last aspect of someone’s life. Their natural appetite can even change in some way.
If your spouse is depressed, they may overeat in an attempt to deal with their feelings. Oppositely, they could avoid eating as they lose interest in maintaining their own health.
Keep an eye out for shifts in how your spouse eats and relates to meal times. Take note of any significant weight loss or gain as well.
Disturbance in Normal Sleep Patterns
Depression and overwhelming thoughts can make it difficult for a person to sleep. They may start to develop insomnia, making it even harder to deal with the weight of their depression each day.
This isn’t always the case. Sometimes, depression can lead to excessive sleep. Constant feelings of exhaustion may make it hard to find the energy to keep going. Track your spouse’s sleeping habits and watch for changes from the past.
Suicidal Thoughts or Actions
Not everyone who suffers from depression has suicidal thoughts. Those who do use it as a way to end their suffering and hopeless feelings. Generally speaking, suicide is a topic that most people tend to avoid. That lack of open communication can lead depressed people to feel even more isolated.
The slightest hint of suicidal thoughts from your spouse should be taken seriously. Seek professional help at that point.
Coping with a Depressed Spouse
Depression can put a heavy strain on your marriage. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. It can feel difficult to live with a spouse who’s unhappy, critical, or negative. Adding to your frustration may be your spouse’s reluctance or refusal to get help.
As much as you want to help your spouse, you’ll also need to be able to cope with their depression yourself. This lets you combat the illness as a team. Here are some simple ways you can learn to cope.
Remember You’re on the Same Side
Work with your spouse to address their depression rather than let it put a strain on your marriage. Actively think of ways to help your spouse day-to-day. You and your spouse should work together against their depression. Don’t allow it to pit the two of you against one another.
Don’t Fall Victim to Angry Feelings and Stigma
Your spouse’s struggles with depression can evoke feelings of resentment and anger. You could find yourself constantly making excuses for their social absences. Household responsibilities may shift more to you. This puts more on your plate and adds to your own stress levels. Also, your sex life may even suffer if your partner is withdrawn or unaffectionate.
As tough as it is, try to think of life through your spouse’s current perspective. This may help you avoid angry outbursts.
Be Receptive to Your Spouse
Make yourself a strong source of encouragement for your spouse. Let them talk about what they’re feeling, acting, or thinking. Listen to them without passing judgment and let them get everything out in the open.
Your spouse may say something that calls their love for you into question, so keep that in mind. Significant marriage decisions should be deferred until the depressive episode passes.
Be Patient with Your Spouse’s Treatment
Treatment for depression involves a degree of trial and error. Doctors can help your spouse function and feel better through therapy and medication. Their depression can lift with treatment and time. It’s important to have patience with the treatment process and your spouse. Don’t become discouraged if you experience small setbacks.
Understand Depression Is Episodic
Your spouse will go through good and bad periods when battling depression. These periods could be long or short, as everyone’s experience with the disease is different. Just because your spouse seems to be feeling better doesn’t mean that they no longer have depression. If you become overwhelmed by your spouse’s emotions, turn to a professional for your own support.
How to Help Your Depressed Spouse
Watching your spouse struggle with depression can sometimes feel like a helpless experience. Everything you do to try and help them is rejected or outright ignored. This can cause you to feel confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated. You may even feel a sense of responsibility for your spouse’s depressed state.
Depression is an isolating disease that has profound negative effects on close relationships. Major depression often leaves its victims feeling hopeless, sad, or discouraged. It can also include constant anger and casting blame on others.
The different elements of depression may leave you at a loss as to how to help your spouse. While you can’t cure them, you can be a quiet presence at their side on their journey towards recovery. Check out these ways to show your support and help out.
Educate Yourself About Depression
People who suffer from depression can have several good days before falling back into it. Depression is a disease that ebbs and flows in a way that loved ones can find hard to understand. The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person as well. To make matters more confusing, symptoms can also change over time and manifest with different intensity from day to day.
Understanding depression is an important step in helping your spouse. Asking questions and listening to their responses lets you understand their experiences. Being aware of the signs and encouraging them to get treatment is also important. It’s possible that with treatment, your spouse can reignite their motivation, enjoyment, and engagement with life.
Create a Supportive Environment at Home
Keep in mind your spouse’s depression is no one’s fault. You will not be able to fix everything. That said, your support will go a long way towards helping your spouse get through their difficult days and nights.
Making lifestyle changes at home can make a big difference. Depression can sap your spouse’s energy, ruin their sleep, and affect their appetite. These factors may make it hard for your spouse to make healthy choices. Here’s how you can help.
- Exercise daily together. Plan something simple such as a daily bike ride or walk. Regular exercise can help boost your spouse’s mood.
- Maintain a daily routine at home. This makes your spouse to feel more in command of their life. Create a daily schedule and focus on small goals each day.
- Help your spouse stick to their treatment. Drive with them to appointments and sit in the waiting room with them. Therapy can be emotionally tiring, and your support will help.
- Put a focus on eating healthier. Get your spouse involved with planning and cooking dinners whenever possible. This inspire you both to make better eating choices.
- Make plans with your spouse. People suffering from depression tend to avoid social interaction, so set aside time for a weekly date night. Start with small plans to help your spouse socialize. Rent a movie, go hiking, or play a board game or two.
Encourage Your Spouse to Get Treatment
As mentioned, depression manifests itself differently in each person who suffers from it. The symptoms can cause severe issues with school, work, and relationships. Other people are unable to recognize they are depressed at all. They believe they must work through it because they don’t understand the signs.
Since it’s a mental health condition, a person’s depression will rarely improve without some form of treatment. If your spouse is suffering, you can help by encouraging them to seek outside help. Make time to go with them to their appointments and be there to support them in every way you can.
Here’s what else you can do:
- Share with your spouse any symptoms you’ve noticed.
- Make your concerns clear as well as your willingness to help however you can.
- Discuss with your spouse the things you’ve learned about depression.
- Talk about different treatment options available, from lifestyle changes to therapy.
Know the Red Flags of Suicide
Suicide risk is always higher during struggles with depression. It’s vital to understand the warning signs and get immediate help if necessary.
Be on the lookout for:
- Preoccupation with death
- Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness
- Total social withdrawal
- Engagement in self-destructive or risky behaviors
- Getting personal affairs in order and saying goodbye
- Extreme mood swings and personality changes
- Openly talking about suicide
Doing your part to care for a depressed spouse can be emotionally taxing on you. Don’t forget to practice self-care during this difficult time. Establish your own emotional support network or increase it if you need extra help.
What to Say (and Avoid Saying) to Your Depressed Spouse
Sometimes the most effective thing you can do for a spouse suffering from depression is just be there. You may not know what to say or how to show your support. It’s okay to not have all the answers. At the same time, you don’t want to say something to worsen their depression when you intend for it to help.
Let’s start by what you should say.
What to Say to Your Depressed Spouse
The best thing you can do for your spouse is sit and listen without passing judgment. Hold their hand, give them a hug, and just be present with them. Respond to what your spouse tells you with these statements of encouragement.
- “We’re going to get through this together.”
- “You’re the most important part of my life.”
- “I’m always here for you.”
- “Thank you for opening up to me.”
Perfect answers don’t exist when talking about supporting a spouse with depression. Asking empathetic questions can sometimes be as helpful as reinforcing positive statements. These questions allow your spouse to open up and be vulnerable with you. Check out a few of these examples.
- “What can I do to help you get through this time?
- “Do you want to talk more about it?”
- “Can I keep you company at all today?”
- “Is there anything I can do to understand why you’re feeling better?”
What to Avoid Saying to Your Depressed Spouse
There are things you can say with the intentions to help that worsen your spouse’s depression. Make sure to avoid the following statements at all costs:
- “Just get over it already.”
- “All you need to do is stop thinking about it.”
- “Things could be a lot worse.”
- “I know exactly how you feel.”
These statements will cause your spouse to feel misunderstood and ashamed. Telling someone to get over their depression does nothing to cure it. They can’t will their depression away by not thinking about it. Saying you know how they feel only serves to minimize their pain.
What do I do if my depressed spouse is making me depressed? Your spouse’s emotional turmoil can become your shared burden as well. This can cause both of you to become depressed. Contagious depression can be highly problematic to a marriage, but you can combat this in several ways.
For one, practice better communication with your spouse. Make decisions together that benefit both of you. Work to decrease negativity and resentment in your home. If you need to, seek professional help together.
How can I help my depressed spouse when they refuse treatment or help? Depression can trap your spouse in a prison within their own mind. Outside influences can sometimes have little to no effect. People who are depressed can sometimes be resistant to treatment due to feelings of shame.
Don’t get frustrated. Encourage your partner to go to treatment and offer to attend the sessions with them. If they’re still not comfortable with the idea of treatment, find a local support group in your area. That might be the way to ease them into seeing a therapist or psychiatrist.
Nicole Malczan is a content marketing writer and freelancer. She's applied her knowledge of marketing and SEO to many clients over the years, ranging from food service to facilities management and currency exchange. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, and music.