If you are married to a person that struggles with depression, it may feel like there is nothing you can do to help. The more you try, the more it may feel like you are only making things worse, or that you are responsible for their depressive episode. You’re not. However, there are some things you can do to help your spouse through a depressive episode, supporting them and their mental health.

Your Spouse’s Depression is Not Your Fault

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious mental illness that can impair your spouse’s life and strain your relationship.  As a mood disorder, depression can make it difficult for your spouse to regulate their emotions, causing them to feel uncontrolled anger, sadness, or hopelessness. These emotions may be triggered by things you do or things that occur in your home. But your spouse’s depression is not your fault. You need not feel responsible for your spouse’s mental health, but there are things you can do to help your spouse through a depressive episode.

Get Help for Your Spouse’s Depressive Episodes

Talk to a psychotherapist today about supporting your depressed spouse.

How to Tell Your Spouse is Depressed

Your spouse may tell you they are feeling depressed, but even if they don’t, there may be signs. Some of the external signs of depression include:

  • Changes in eating patterns (loss of appetite or eating more than usual)
  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or hypersomnia (increased sleeping)
  • Withdrawing and avoiding contact
  • Engaging in solo hobbies instead of group behaviors
  • Compulsive behaviors, including spending
  • Increased use of alcohol or other substances
  • Angry or crying outbursts
  • Reduced sexual interests

Different people experience different sets of symptoms as part of their depressive episodes, so your spouse may not experience some, or even any of these symptoms. However, if you do notice your spouse experiencing these symptoms, they may need some additional support from you and the rest of your family.

Ways to Support Your Spouse During a Depressive Episode

Educate Yourself About Depression

One of the hardest things for people who struggle with depression to do is to ask for help. You can relieve them of this struggle by reading, watching videos, or talking to other people with depression on your own. The more you understand about the mental illness and the symptoms your spouse is experiencing, the better you will be able to help them.

Listen and Offer Support

While doing your research, you may have ideas about what your spouse should do to feel better. But it is not always helpful to offer unsolicited recommendations. Instead, you should make it clear that you are willing to listen to your spouse when they are experiencing depressive symptoms. Offer physical comfort and invite them to tell you what they believe you can do to help.

Make a Supportive Home

As much as your spouse’s depression isn’t your fault, it isn’t their fault either. There are some ways you can improve your family’s home environment to support your spouse and help manage and reduce depression symptoms:

  • Make healthy food available and get your spouse involved in meal planning
  • Plan daily exercise that you can do together with your spouse
  • Developing routines around chores, medications, and preparing for the day
  • Remove stressors where possible
  • Make plans for positive events like movies, board games, or get-togethers with friends
  • Give positive complements and reinforcement of your spouse’s strengths

Encourage Your Spouse to Seek Treatment

If your spouse’s depression is undiagnosed or untreated, the best way to support them is to encourage them to seek treatment including medication or psychotherapy. Your spouse may not realize their sadness, mood swings, and other symptoms are signs of depression. Depression often comes with self-blame and feeling of reduced self-worth. Your spouse may feel like they should be able to pull themselves out of it on their own.

The truth is that depression seldom improves without treatment. While a specific depressive episode may pass, depression itself cannot be cured. However, treatment can reduce your spouse’s symptoms and provide strategies to better cope. This, in turn, can improve their quality of life and your relationship with them.

David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. He helps individuals and couples learn strategies to deal with depression and other mental health disorders within their relationships. Contact David Stanislaw to get help today.