Most people have heard of depression and have a basic understanding of what it is. Yet when it sneaks into a marriage, some spouses have a difficult time recognizing that their husband or wife is depressed. That's because depression doesn't always look the same. After all, people don't generally walk around saying "I feel sad and hopeless." Everyone is unique, which means your spouse may display the symptoms of this disorder in different ways.
Common Signs of Depression in Your Spouse
As the most common mental disorder in the United States, the stigma around depression has grown less in recent years. However, most people still feel the need to put on a brave face and hide what's going on inside. In a marriage, signs of depression may manifest as part of their relationship with you. To find out if your husband or wife is one of the almost seven percent of adults who have experienced a depressive episode at least once in their life, here are some of the signs to look out for:
- Loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure: Unfortunately, this doesn't just mean a loss of interest in hobbies or activities. Your spouse could actually lose pleasure in their relationship with you. That doesn't mean she doesn't love you. Engaging with another person and meeting their needs requires effort and energy she may be unable to muster up. One of the early signs of depression you may notice is your spouse spending more time on their phone, surfing the web or watching TV, as these are activities that require minimal effort or interaction.
- Change in sleep patterns: A more obvious sign that your spouse is depressed may be that their sleep patterns begin to change. They may have difficulty falling asleep or insomnia that keeps her up most of the night. You might notice them leaving the bedroom to watch TV or walk around the house. However, depression can also manifest in excessive sleeping as the disorder can cause fatigue and lack of energy.
- Eating changes: Another place depression can reveal itself is at mealtime. Changes in eating can go either way, causing your spouse to gain or lose excessive amounts of weight. You may notice your spouse overeating, usually in an attempt to cope with the symptoms of depression. Yet the disorder can also lead him or her to lose interest in food or struggle with digestive issues that make eating difficult.
- Negativity: This side effect of depression may be hurtful. You might be excited or optimistic about something only to be met with a "downer" response. When your husband or wife says these things, it may feel calculated and cruel. However, they're not trying to make life difficult. These utterances stem from their own depressive thoughts.
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts: One of the most serious effects of depression is that it can cause people to think about or attempt self-harm. If your husband or wife has mentioned that they think about dying or that he or she doesn't think it matters if they live or die, take these statements seriously. This is usually an indication that their depression requires immediate professional intervention.
How to Help When Your Spouse Has Depression
The above signs are just a few indications to look out for. Other signs could include irritability or drastic changes in mood, difficulty concentrating, excessive anxiety, a loss of self-confidence and feelings of guilt. If your husband or wife is showing signs of depression, you may be tempted to take responsibility for your loved one's recovery. This likely won't help them, and it could put a huge strain on yourself and your relationship.
Think of your job as more one of providing compassionate support, which includes:
- Listening without judgment: While you are not directly responsible for your spouse's recovery, you can offer support and provide a listening ear. Even if you've never experienced the hardships they're living through, listen actively and empathetically as they explain their reality. This can help to reduce some of the feelings of isolation your spouse is likely experiencing, which can be helpful in lessening the overall effects of their depression.
- Responding to emergency situations like suicide attempts: Sometimes, a bit of space can be needed for your spouse to work through their depression. However, if you witness any signs of self-harm or if your loved one makes comments about suicide, take those signals seriously. Get help quickly by contacting a suicide hotline, mental health professional or 911 if necessary.
- Being sure to care for yourself: Addressing depression can be difficult for loved ones as well. Offer your support and assistance as much as possible, but remember to take care of yourself. Be sure you get enough sleep and take the time to do the things you enjoy. Stress and burnout can affect how much you're able to support your spouse. It can also be helpful to set healthy boundaries — offer comfort and reassurance for your spouse, but try not to take on your husband or wife's feelings as your own.
- Encouraging your spouse to get the help they need: Depression can be extremely difficult to overcome without the help of a professional. Try doing a little bit of research to determine some available options, and discuss them with your spouse — but be careful to avoid pressuring them. If they are not ready to take part in therapy or in a specific program, ask if there is someone in their life that they would be comfortable talking to. Remind them that seeking outside help to get better is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Brookhaven Retreat Can Help Women With Depression
If you believe your wife has severe depression, then we can help. Brookhaven Retreat is a residential women-only mental health facility located in the beautiful Tennessee foothills. In this safe and comfortable environment, your spouse can get the help she needs to find positive ways to cope with her depression and find her way to longlasting recovery. We invite you to contact us to find out more about the compassionate services offered at Brookhaven Retreat.