How to Live With a Severely Depressed Spouse

Major depression can occur as a single episode or repeat throughout a person’s lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The symptoms of major depression can differ between men and women, and one person’s irritability, low mood and inability to function in everyday life can place enormous strain on a marriage. Living with a depressed spouse is a two-fold obstacle of doing what you can to help your depressed partner while also maintaining your own well-being.

Learn about the signs, symptoms and treatments for depression. The Mayo Clinic recommends reading about depression and talking about it with people who have had it or helped others. An understanding of depression will help you effectively communicate with your spouse, and it will help you make the distinction between your spouse’s personality and the symptoms of his depression.

Encourage your depressed spouse to seek help. Assist her with finding treatment, if needed, by calling mental health providers and providing her transportation to an appointment. Suggest an appointment with her general practitioner if she is not comfortable seeing a therapist, and offer to attend an appointment with her if it will ease her discomfort.

Watch for warning signs of suicide, and seek immediate help if your spouse is in danger of harming himself. Warning signs include self-destructive behaviors, gathering of pills or lethal items, talk of death or of harming oneself, or a sudden calmness and focus on organization of personal items. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you see these signs, and take all threats seriously.

Care for your own mental and physical health. Seek outside support, eat nutritious foods and exercise often. This will help you relieve stress and cope with the situation. It also models healthy activity that your spouse can choose to participate in as she works toward recovery from depression.

Help your depressed spouse with small tasks, when possible, and try to maintain a structured home environment. The Mayo Clinic notes that organization and scheduled tasks can minimize stress, which will benefit you and your partner.

Maintain communication by listening to his concerns and sharing your own thoughts and feelings. Communication with a depressed person can be difficult, but it’s important that communication goes both ways. Contact a marriage counselor if you need assistance with this.

Encourage your spouse to join you in healthy activities, such as social gatherings or a weekly walk outdoors. Remember that personal well-being is an individual responsibility—you cannot force her to join you, but you need not feel guilty for taking care of yourself and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Major depression can occur as a single episode or repeat throughout a person's lifetime