How to Help a Depressed Spouse: 8 Best Steps

Watching while a spouse battles depression1 from the sidelines might be hopeless. You could experience confusion, irritability, and overwhelm. You can feel your spouse rejects you or ignores every effort you make to “help” them.

You could even start to feel somewhat accountable for your partner’s sadness. You are not alone.

Depression is a solitary condition that harms relationships and makes loved ones feel powerless and terrified.

In addition to being sad, discouraged, disappointed, or down, serious depression can also entail continuous rage.

Blaming people and having angry outbursts are frequent. Depression is characterized by a loss of interest or pleasure and social disengagement. Family members note that sad persons no longer appear interested in experiencing joy.

Depression: What Is It?

How to help a depressed spouse
Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

A serious medical illness that affects human mental health, sometimes known as depression, is a significant medical condition that frequently affects people’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

Thankfully, it is also curable. Often, feeling low on energy and losing interest in doing things are symptoms of depression. This condition can affect your ability to function properly at work2 and at home.

Depression symptoms:

Physical Symptoms of Depression

From moderate to severe, depression symptoms might include:

  1. Experiencing sadness or unhappy mood
  2. Loss of enjoyment or interest in before hobbies
  3. Appetite alterations, losing weight, or increase unrelated to diets
  4. Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
  5. Energy loss or increased tiredness
  6. A spike in pointless motion (such as hand-wringing, restlessness, or an unwillingness to remain quiet) or slower speech or mobility
  7. A sense of worthlessness or shame
  8. Having trouble focusing, thinking, or making judgments
  9. Suicidal or death-related ideas

For such a mental health diagnosis, symptoms should continue for at least 2 weeks and, therefore, must indicate a shift from your pre-existing level of functioning.

Additionally, medical issues like thyroid, brain tumors, and vitamin deficiencies can mirror the symptoms of sadness, so it’s crucial to test out any general medical diseases.3

Different mental health conditions: Sadness or Grief

The loss of a parent or a family member, the termination of a job, or the dissolution of a romance are all trying events for an individual to go through.

It is common for people to experience melancholy or grief in reaction to such circumstances. People who have lost something frequently label themselves as “depressed.”

But being depressed isn’t just about feeling sad. The mourning process is normal, particular to each person, and shares certain characteristics with depression.

In addition, they differ in many key ways:

  • When someone is grieving, unpleasant emotions frequently come in waves and are blended with pleasant recollections of the departed. For almost two weeks, mood and enthusiasm (pleasure) are diminished in serious depression.
  • Self-esteem is typically preserved during mourning. Hopelessness and self-hatred are frequent in serious depression.
  • When contemplating or daydreaming about “joining” the departed loved one, ideas of death may come to mind. Due to feelings of worthlessness, undeserving life, or inability to handle the anguish of melancholy, thoughts of suicide are common in serious depression.

In what ways is depression treated?

Depression and its treatment

One of the most manageable mental illnesses is depression. Most depressed patients—between 80% and 90%—finally benefit from therapy. Almost all patients have some symptom alleviation.

A healthcare provider should complete a diagnostic assessment that includes a medical examination and a conversation before making a diagnosis or starting therapy.

In rare instances, a blood test may be performed to ensure that a health problem like a thyroid issue or a vitamin deficit is not the cause of depression.4

The examination will highlight particular symptoms and investigate the family’s medical background and cultural and ecological aspects to arrive at a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan.

1. Visiting a mental health professional

Helping diagnose the depression of your partner leads to a healthy relationship. If you feel helpless and your family cannot understand your condition visiting a relevant, experienced therapist for professional help is the right choice.

When treating moderate to severe depression, therapy, often known as “counselling” is occasionally used alone; when treating severe depression, therapists are frequently combined with antidepressants.

Psychotherapy may include the patient, but it may also involve others. Therapy for families or couples, for instance, can assist in addressing problems within these tight bonds.

In a safe atmosphere, group therapy draws people with related disorders, and it can help the connection with the provision of how others handle similar circumstances.

The length of treatment depends on how severe the depression is. It may take a few weeks or much more. In many instances, 10 to 15 sessions are sufficient to achieve noticeable progress.

2. Medication

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Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

An individual’s neurochemistry may influence overall depression and how they are treated. Antidepressants may thus be administered to assist alter one’s chemistry of the brain.

These drugs are not tranquillizers, sedatives, or “uppers.” They do not become habits. Antidepressant drugs often don’t have any stimulating effects on persons who aren’t depressed.

The full effects of antidepressants may not become apparent for two to three months after starting treatment. However, they may start to show some progress after a week or two.

After many weeks, if a patient has made little to no progress, the patient’s doctor may adjust the medication’s dosage or add or remove another antidepressant.

After difficulties have eased, psychiatrists typically advise patients to take their medicine for another 6 months or longer.

For some individuals at risk, relatively long management therapy may be advised to lower the risk of further episodes.

How to help a depressed spouse?

What will you do to support your depressed husband or wife, and how would you recognize if they are depressed?

There have been some constructive methods to assist your spouse deal with depressive episodes, such as encouraging them to talk about their feelings and seek counselling.

It might be challenging to know how to support a depressed partner due to all of these variables.

Your help, however, is crucial for suicide prevention and makes them feel supported. Although you can’t treat your partner’s depression, you can aid in their rehabilitation.

1. Learn the reasons for the depression of your depressed partner

The signs that the spouse is depressed: Sometimes, the partner’s symptoms are not visible, but you need to stay positive in this tough time and not make it such a big deal as it might affect your health.

You could see that they’re behaving more sulkily, eating or drinking differently, or distancing themselves.

They could try to stay away from you. Some people devote themselves to solitary pursuits, hobbies, or even obsessive actions like automobile purchases or extravagant spending.

Suddenly, your spouse could begin to:

  • often cry or appear quite furious
  • lack of enthusiasm or energy for activities
  • lose attention or concentration
  • Sleep less or more seldom, consume more alcohol than usual, or take drugs.
  • become bored with sex

2. Be there for your partner

The most important thing one could do for your spouse is frequently to turn up. You may think that the best approach to be supportive is to locate the finest therapy available in your region, join support groups, or speak to other individuals dealing with depression to find out what “works,” but this isn’t always the case.

While it’s acceptable if you may not have all the solutions, how much you can do is sit and listen. You may be there, provide hugs, and hold your partner’s hand. You can answer with words of encouragement:

  1. “Tell me how much I can help, please.”
  2. “You matter to me,” I said.
  3. “I am always there for you.”
  4. “Around each other, we will get over this.”

3. Encourage the treatment process

Most people who struggle with mental illness or depression don’t want to be “cured.” Perhaps all they want is to be heard. Speak to a wellness professional for assistance if you hear things that are too upsetting for you to manage while listening to your spouse.

Your partner might not recognize depression in their actions. They can claim, “I need this,” if they act inappropriately with food, sex, alcohol, or drugs. It lessens my anxiety.

Motivate your partner to visit a mental health expert for assistance and a diagnosis. If necessary, patients can begin with talk therapy before moving on to prescription medicine.

Some married couples decide to go to counselling jointly, particularly when depression has resulted in sex problems in the marriage, such as infidelity.

Just do the foregoing steps to encourage your spouse to get a diagnosis:

  • Describe the symptoms you have seen.
  • Describe your worry.
  • Declare your readiness to assist, including scheduling and getting ready for appointments.
  • Talk about what you’ve discovered about depression.
  • Discuss various forms of treatment, such as counselling, medications, and dietary modifications.

4. Create a welcoming atmosphere at home.

It’s critical to keep in mind that nobody is to blame for your spouse’s despair. Even if you can’t improve everything, your encouragement will assist your spouse get through this trying period.

Making healthy decisions can be challenging for depressed people since depression can sap one’s vitality and impact eating and sleeping. Alterations to one’s way of life can significantly impact the form of therapy which helps keep a positive reinforcement. You may support:

  • Pay attention to eating well. To promote healthier eating choices, include your spouse in the preparation of nutritious meals that you will both eat.
  • Working out together Your mood might be improved by regular exercise. To motivate yourself to start exercising again, schedule a daily walk or bike ride.
  • Encourage your companion to remain in the program.
  • Initially on, in psychotherapy, it can be emotionally draining. Support is beneficial. Drive to appointments together again and wait in the lobby whenever feasible.
  • Make a relaxed atmosphere. Routines might provide depressed individuals with a sense of more control over their daily life. Think about making a daily routine for tasks, food, and medicine.

5. Focus on modest objectives

Depression seems to consume you sometimes, both you and your partner. Even the simple act of getting out of bed might seem like an enormous chore for someone sad.

You may support your spouse by establishing modest goals and praising minor accomplishments throughout the day. Your spouse can restore every day activities by dissolving larger tasks (such as applying for new jobs) into smaller ones (such as updating their résumé, writing a cover letter, and researching job opportunities).

Focus on getting up in the morning, showering, and eating a nutritious meal for folks who find it difficult to do so daily. With therapy, your spouse should get better, but you’ll need to be sympathetic and patient with them as they go through a depressed episode.

6. Engage in self-care

Even when you are supporting your depressed partner, it’s crucial to look after yourself. Practice self-care to keep your mental health conditions right while helping out your spouse.

To communicate what you think regarding your relationship and learn coping mechanisms, you may decide to begin counselling.

Here are some pointers to help you maintain both your physical and emotional well-being:

  • Obtain adequate rest.
  • Regular exercise
  • Consume a balanced, healthful diet.
  • Consult self-help publications for mates of depressed spouses.
  • Ben-David advises not to see your spouse’s despair as criticism of your value as a partner or people.

Depression can occur in a relationship sometimes for both members. You may both have to cope with several problems.

7. Avert the Evil Circle

Feeling wounded and estranged is simple if your depressed spouse decides to withdraw from you or frequently snaps at you and responds with comparable actions.

This can lead to a vicious cycle and cause the depressed spouse to become even more isolated, resentful, and reclusive.

You must understand that living with depression is challenging and that your partner isn’t acting maliciously.

You want to be furious back when someone is often upset with you! Just keep in mind that depression is not contagious. This can be cured and can’t go on forever.

8. Know the warning signs of suicide

Major depressive illness is usually associated with a higher risk of suicide. It’s critical to recognize the warning signs and seek prompt medical attention:

  • discussing suicide
  • acquiring a suicide weapon, such as buying a pistol or gathering drugs
  • erratic mood changes from euphoric one day and depression the next
  • Preoccupied with death-related ideas
  • observable modifications to ordinary everyday activities
  • being overcome by a sense of hopelessness
  • acting in a dangerous or damaging manner, such as abusing drugs or alcohol or driving recklessly
  • giving things out
  • Leaving the scene

It’s emotionally demanding for the caretaker to care for a depressed spouse. Exercising self-care and expanding your network of supporters is critical during this period.


Inform the patient’s psychiatrist and seek help from several other family members and friends or a support network if anybody thinks a loved one is contemplating suicide and having regular suicidal thoughts and is not in imminent danger.

A spouse who is depressed might benefit from your emotional and financial support as they go through their recovery.

Looking for somebody with a mental health illness may be gratifying, but it’s often difficult. Caregivers should regularly engage in self-care to protect their mental health. Hence always help your partner with depression in their difficult time.

  1. Sbarra, David A., and Robert E. Emery. “Coparenting conflict, nonacceptance, and depression among divorced adults: Results from a 12‐year follow‐up study of child custody mediation using multiple imputation.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 75.1 (2005): 63-75. ↩︎
  2. Nussbaum, Martha. “Nature, function and capability.” (1987). ↩︎
  3. Zammit, Christopher, et al. “Obesity and respiratory diseases.” International journal of general medicine (2010): 335-343. ↩︎
  4. Van Praag, H. M. “Can stress cause depression?.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 28.5 (2004): 891-907. ↩︎

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Parinita Sehrawat

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