“I’m soooodepressed”is a phrase we overuse to describe any version of unhappiness we may be experiencing.  We can be sad, overwhelmed, in a bad mood, angry, frustrated, disillusioned, or lethargic. But being depressedis very different from feeling down in the dumps.

A major depressive disorder is usually caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain which leads to an overwhelming feeling of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, most of the day; fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day; feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day; diminished ability to think
or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day for a period
of two weeks.

These symptoms can have a profoundly negative impact on the life of the person experiencing them and can wreak havoc on their relationships. I have counseled many spouses suffering from their loved ones depression. Because depression negatively distorts a person’s perception and makes satisfaction with an otherwise healthy relationship more difficult, a depressed person may tend to be withdrawn, uncommunicative, disinterested, or needy of constant affirmation from their partner. They may become unusually critical or demeaning of their partner, finding fault with everything they do.

Anita H. Clayton, MD, professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville addresses the issue of depression in marriage. “The non-depressed spouse will often think: ‘How can he/she be depressed? We have a happy marriage’. This leads to feelings of trying to “talk” the spouse out of his/her depression by reminding them of all the wonderful things in their life. When this approach doesn’t yield the desired results, the spouse may become vulnerable and angry, wondering whose problem is this and how do we fix it.

Terrence Real, author of I Don’t Want to Talk About It,advises that the most important thing to remember is that you can’t change your depressed partner. It has to start with him [or her]. He has to recognize the problem and seriously start treatment. You can’t do that for him but you should take care of yourself.

Studies have found that both individual and couple’s therapy were equally beneficial, but couple’s therapy better reduced “relationship distress”.

Mozelle Forman is a clinical social worker working with individuals and couples for 20 years.
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