Depression and Divorce

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Depression and Divorce

Postby dandelion » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:35 am

Depression and Divorce
How does depression affect marriage and relationships?
By Kathleen Doheny
WebMD FeatureReviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

The 20-something couple, married just a few years, was eagerly looking forward to the birth of their first baby.

Labor and delivery went fine, and the baby was born healthy. But problems began when the new mom, overwhelmed by motherhood, suffered depression.

"The husband had to take care of everything," recalls Joan R. Sherman, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Lancaster, Pa., who saw the couple in counseling. When he was at work, he worried that his wife was so depressed she wasn't paying needed attention to the baby. He became so worried he secretly set up a "nanny cam."

She got more and more depressed; he got more anxious, angry, and resentful.

As this case history suggests, depression that affects one partner has an effect on the other partner, the relationship and ultimately the entire family. Nearly 15 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, is affected with a major depression in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Statistics about how frequently depression affects one partner in a relationship are elusive, say Sherman and other experts. But mental health counselors like Sherman say depression often leads couples to seek counseling, fearful the depression will lead to divorce.

Depression and Divorce: Inevitable?
The depression itself doesn't lead directly to divorce, experts say. Rather, it is the consequences of not addressing the depression.

"I don't usually hear, 'I got a divorce because my wife was depressed,'" Sherman tells WebMD. Much more typical: "My spouse became distant and had an affair."

"Depression can lead to other problems," agrees Constance Ahrons, PhD, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and an author and speaker based in San Diego who has researched and written about divorce. Affairs aren't the only problems, she says. Often, one partner may get so depressed he stops working, and that can lead to a cascade of other problems.

But there's hope, mental health experts say, if couples address the depression. Try to understand how it affects each partner, determine its roots, keep communication open, and get professional help if needed.

Depression: Partners in Agony
Depending on the extent of the depression, the depressed spouse often tunes out and gives up on life. A depressed person may sleep too much, or too little. Depressed people often stop eating much, or overeat, and may have difficulty concentrating and conversing.

"The depressed person often feels responsible, but they feel like they can't do anything about [their inertia]," says Ahrons. "Many of them don't even know why they are depressed."

Meanwhile, the other partner feels compelled to pick up the slack, especially if there are children. They may be very understanding and sympathetic at first, say Ahrons and Sherman.

How Depression Can Lead to an Angry Marriage
But as exhaustion and frustration increase, the feelings of the unaffected partner may turn to anger or resentment. If the depressed partner doesn't enjoy engaging in activities the couple used to do together, that's another source of irritation, Ahrons says. "The other partner either has to do things on their own or stay home, too," she says.

If a partner has never been depressed, he or she may have a hard time understanding the mood disorder. That can be difficult if you're a very upbeat type, Ahrons says. She says she often hears an upbeat partner say of a depressed spouse: "Why can't he just pull himself up?"

The partner who isn't depressed may also feel cheated, says Dan Jones, PhD, director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. That's understandable, he says, because the depressed partner is typically not much fun.

"Most people fall in love because they are enjoying each other's company and having fun together," he says.

"The depressed person will [often] give the impression he doesn't care," he says. "It's hard to feel intimate with someone [who looks like he does not care]," he says. There is often a loss of interest in sex by the depressed person, which further strains the relationship.

If the depression persists for months, or years, both partners can feel the distance between them widening. The non-depressed spouse will often think: "How can he be depressed? "We have a happy marriage," says Anita H. Clayton, MD, professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. But sometimes, one has nothing to do with the other. Other times, the depression is due to marital dissatisfaction.

Unraveling the Roots of Depression
Some depression is transient, such as when a partner loses a parent or other family member. Within a few weeks, typically, the person feels a bit better.

Other times, the depression might continue or reoccur several times. Having a history of depression makes it more likely to have another episode, says Clayton. "With the first depression, we can usually link it to some event," she says, such as job loss, or a serious medical problem. "We can identify a trigger."

"The more episodes you have, the less likely it is linked to an event," she says, perhaps because of underlying brain changes.

Getting Help for Depression in Marriage: What Works?
If a couple decides that professional counseling is needed, the depressed partner may want to go alone first, Jones says. Or, he has found that some nondepressed partners try to persuade the depressed person to get help and the partner won't go.

Seeing a therapist together can give a couple valuable perspective, he says. "The therapist mediates," he says. "It's not a blaming session, but rather the therapist helps the depressed person recognize they are contributing to [the problem]. If they improve the depression, they could improve the marriage."

In a study, Italian researchers reviewed the data on whether couple therapy was a better way to treat depression in one partner and found no difference between couple therapy and individual therapy on the symptoms of depression. But couple therapy better reduced "relationship distress," they report in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly.

Often, talking about the depression -- whether alone or with a partner in therapy -- brings up other issues in a marriage that, when addressed, help ease the depression, Sherman says.

Combining Talk Therapy With Antidepressants for Depression
If depression doesn't improve with behavior or talk therapy, a physician may decide to prescribe an antidepressant, or may prescribe it along with the therapy.

Antidepressant medications can help, Clayton says. "Medications and therapy are often very useful." If the depression is milder, one or the other may be enough, she says; if it is more severe a combination treatment may be better.

In a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Stanford University researchers compared medication alone, talk therapy alone, or a combination in 656 patients with chronic depression. They concluded that the combination produces a faster, fuller remission of chronic depression.

Like many medications, antidepressants can interact with other medicine, and cause side effects. Patients should always tell their doctors about the medicines they take, and call the doctor if they notice side effects. Another class of antidepressant may be prescribed.

Depression and Relationships: Prognosis?
Sometimes, the partner of a person with depression will feel responsible, and stick with the marriage even if they’ve become more of a caretaker than a spouse.

But more often, if the depression continues for years, the partner does get tired of it and seeks divorce, Ahrons says.

Which couples are most likely to stay together? Those who acknowledge depression as a problem, try to relieve it, and keep talking with each other.

Remember the young couple at the beginning of this story? The new mother and her husband actually strengthened their marriage once they acknowledged the depression and sought treatment, Sherman says.

When she counseled the couple, the wife acknowledged she had ambivalence about becoming a mother. Her husband took issue with her housekeeping and his displeasure only grew worse when motherhood reduced available time to clean. The marital dissatisfaction may have contributed to her depression.

So they worked on those issues. He eased up on housekeeping standards. She talked through her ambivalence about motherhood. It was mainly rooted, Sherman found, in her lack of confidence.

"Her depression lifted once they started talking," Sherman says. Their relationship improved.

"The last time I talked to them," she reports, "they were doing well."

©2005-2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
In the hopes of reaching the moon, men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.
- Albert Schweitzer

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Postby crystalgaze » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:45 pm

I do wonder about something like this. One of the messages is clear: Don't give up!

I'm not exactly digging myself out of the hole but creating a tunnel to get out another way. Throwing dirt from one end of the pit to the other isn't going to get me anywhere. Instead, I'll create my own path.

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Postby dandelion » Sun Feb 07, 2010 9:06 pm

((((((((((((( crys ))))))))))))))

yep yep, never giver up!

In the hopes of reaching the moon, men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.

- Albert Schweitzer


Postby kennymevrick » Sat Aug 21, 2010 2:56 am

Well Yes I also agree that Depression can lead to other problems, If you are in depress at that time you don't care about your life and all that then the problem will be created.

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Postby Obayan » Sat Aug 21, 2010 3:30 am

How true that is....


Postby stanelyshane » Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:52 pm

That's true depression is effect to the life in all way. There is also require to come out from the depression. I am thankful to share the valuable information. It is helpful to save the relation.

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Postby Obayan » Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:08 pm

One trick i use is I carry a picture of my family around with me at all times. When I get angry, or upset, before I speak, I look at that picture and ask myself "are these really the people I want to hurt?" and the answer is always no. It helps me to curb my anger and my actions when dealing with those I love.


Postby Ahorse » Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:41 am

Generally I think it is a very good summary of how things go, for long term depressions in particular.

I'll comment on the one part I disagree with first as it's minor. The author says depression may be transitory, such as loss of a loved one etc and may resolve in a few weeks.

Agree with that process but it is not depression. It is simply grief, the normal emotion we feel after any loss. This is whay the criteria for diagnosing depression states one major symptom that is necessary is that you must have been depressed for at least 2 continuous weeks. In other words the diagnosis manual seeks to exclude grief as being diagnosed as depression. While the feelings may be very close etc we do recover from grief regularly. Depression? Not so readily.

That said though the rest is very close to my own experience. I had a marriage breakup and divorce, lost my two kids to her and lived a nightmare for some time.

On the other hand I have had a different partner for 19 years now and she has carried me through my worst times, along with docs. She too though now has depression and is treated for such. It's not as hellish as that sounds, both of us with depression though as we have good and bad days. Mine are mostly OK these days if I stick with my treatment. WHich I do.

This is often though the result for the non depressed partner. They live with someone like me and, over time, they too descend into depression. To me it seems inevitable as one cannot keep up a cheery and positive front with a partner who is suicidal etc. I was, for about a year.

There is no inevitable result though for each relationship. It may dissolve, it may not. I think it depends on the degree of commitment one really has. If someone just seeks good times then they will fly away fast.

If someone really wants to help and tries their heart out to no avail they too may leave to save themselves. We, the sufferers, tend to push everyone away and cannot describe what we need. It's actually very simple. We need peace, understanding and a mind that can be stilled at will by ourselves. As per CBT.

If our thinking is rabid then misery reigns and partners get nothing at all except perhaps abuse. It's like "I love you so much, go away and leave me alone". No one knows how to respond to that.

Nothing is set, predetermined and so on. It's up to the people involved but it's a matter of how much pressure we can take.

I know of a bi polar guy who has a long term relationship. When he has been in hypomania he has often said to his partner things like "You'd better catch up as I'm way ahead of you". That can be devastating and is in fact what many bipolars do. They leave while high and try to come back when they crash. Doesn't work, no one can deal with that up and down life.


Postby Mikka » Sun Aug 03, 2014 3:44 am

Well, The depressed person often feels responsible, but they feel like they can't do anything about [their inertia].. Many of them don't even know why they are depressed.!


Depression solution

Postby TrevorDuncaner » Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:46 am

The depression may solve with good mental control and healthy exercise.

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Re: Depression and Divorce

Postby NylaLyla » Wed Mar 04, 2020 11:43 am

My wife and I have been married for 11 years. We have two charming daughters of 8 and 4 years old. All the time we lived in friendship and harmony (although there were quarrels, too, as in all normal families). Recently, the wife was diagnosed a depression. She doesn’t want anything, there’s no sex, she believes that she doesn’t live her own life. She asks to let her go and even wanted to file a divorce online here, when I got emailed from this website. I tried talking to her, but she keeps saying that all the problems are only in her head and she is tired of everything. I asked if she might have somebody else, but she replies that she does not need another man, she just wants to be alone. I love my wife very much and do not want to disagree with her. Thank you for this article, I think I have just came to several conclusions and that would be helpful for our marriage.

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Postby fummymeasle » Tue Mar 24, 2020 5:24 am

Mikka wrote:Well, The depressed person often feels responsible, but they feel like they can't do anything about [their inertia].. Many of them don't even know why they are depressed.!

Is this the condition where the person blames himself for the consequence of an event that happened that probably involved him? is this what you meant by 'feel responsible'?

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