How to Help Your Partner

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

Signs that your spouse is depressed

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

“You may notice that they eat or drink differently, behave more moodily, or become isolated. They can avoid contact with you. Some people engage in solo activities or hobbies, or even compulsive behaviors, like buying cars or spending a lot of money, ”he says.

Suddenly, your partner may start to:

  • Cries or seems very angry often
  • Lack of energy or interest in activities
  • Losing focus or focus
  • Sleep more often or very little
  • Drink more alcohol than in the past or use drugs
  • Losing interest in sex

Avoid the vicious circle

If your depressed spouse withdraws from you or has temper tantrums all the time, it’s easy to feel hurt and alienated and react with similar behaviors, says Jacques Barber, PhD, Dean of the Gordon F School of Psychology. Derner from Adelphi University in Garden City. , NY.

“It can create a vicious cycle and make the depressed spouse even more depressed, alienated, angry and withdrawn,” he says.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

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

“It is important not to be accusatory. It is more important to observe and let them know what you have noticed. Say, “I’ve seen you look more sullen and miserable. Talk about the changes you’ve seen, ”he says. You can also share your feelings and let your spouse know that you are hurt by specific behavior changes. “Tell them, ‘We’re not having sex anymore. You don’t spend time with me. ”

They can deny the problem

A depressed spouse may deny having a problem, says Ben-David.

“A lot of people with depression or mental health problems don’t want to be ‘fixed’. They may just want to be heard. If you are listening to your partner, if you hear things that are too hurtful for you, then call a professional for help, ”he says. “Your spouse may not identify his behaviors as depression. If they are acting with sex, alcohol, drugs, or food, they may say, “I need this. It relieves my stress. ”

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

“Psychotherapy and medication have been shown to be more effective against depression than medication. Taking medication without talking won’t help, ”says Barber, who adds that medication may be more appropriate for treating people with severe depression.

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Some couples choose to undergo therapy together, especially if the depression has led to sexual problems in the marriage, such as an affair, Ben-David says. Your depressed partner may prefer to do solo therapy. If they’re struggling with an addiction, they need to treat it before they tackle their depression, he says.

“There is no miracle solution. Some people may take just one medicine for depression, and it doesn’t work, or they go to therapy and it doesn’t work for them. You have to be persistent, ”says Ben-David.

Stay positive and be active

What if your partner 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 continue on therapy and / or medication for a few months, up to 90% of people with depression improve with treatment.

“What is important is to give them affection. You may 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. Invite your spouse for a walk or go to the beach if you have one nearby. “

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Whether or not your spouse accepts therapy, there are some things you shouldn’t do in response to their anger or denial, says Ben-David.

“Avoid blaming or attacking them for their behavior. Don’t keep saying, “You did this, and it hurt me.” Negotiating with them is usually not helpful either. Taking an all-or-nothing approach doesn’t work, ”he says. Instead, suggest healthy activities that you can do together or with trusted friends. Go to an outdoor concert or listen to music you both enjoy. A behavior that I sometimes prescribe to couples is to read to each other. It has a nurturing quality and can help bonding. “

Practice self-care

It is important to take care of yourself while helping your depressed spouse. You may choose to start therapy to express your thoughts about your marriage and find ways to cope.

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

  • Get enough sleep
  • Regular exercise
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Check out self-help books for partners of depressed spouses

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

“It may seem very personal to you. If your partner takes action, these behaviors may sound like an attack on you. You may feel like you have to take responsibility for it. It’s important to bring in a mental health professional if you blame yourself for your spouse’s depression, ”says Ben-David. “Sometimes both people in a relationship can get depressed. You might both need to resolve multiple issues. “

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Jothi Venkat

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