Depression goes beyond normal, acute sadness; it’s an all-encompassing disorder that affects the sufferer’s daily life – it makes the world seem hopeless, and is heartbreaking to the sufferer’s loved ones who are watching it happen.
Here are some behaviors that may signal your significant other or spouse is suffering from clinical depression:
- Reduced (or eliminated) social interaction: he/she wants to be alone all the time, doesn’t see his/her friends anymore, ignores texts and calls, and (if applicable) goes cold-turkey on social media when he/she is normally an active user.
How to help: don’t push him/her to do things if not ready, but let him/her know that you’re happy to spend time around friends with him/her whenever ready.
- Calling out of work or school (often disguised as being sick) at an alarmingly often rate and/or constantly running late to work or school.
How to help: offer to give him/her a ride (if possible) to work or school.
- Loss of interest in things he/she used to enjoy: whether it’s hobbies, events, sports, or even weekly date night.
How to help: suggest doing an activity with him/her, especially if it’s one that you know he/she likes that you don’t usually like to be a part of – this will show that you’re really making an effort.
- Less energy (laziness): tired all the time, binge-watching shows regularly (not just a typical lazy Sunday!), and simply not moving from the couch or bed.
How to help: don’t criticize laziness. Instead, offer to simply sit with him/her – your presence communicates that you’re there for the person.
- Decrease in hygiene and/or self-grooming: not bathing daily, skin breaking out, and not caring about appearance. For females, this may also take the form of (if applicable) no longer wearing makeup, not getting her nails done, not doing her hair, and not dressing in the same way she used to.
How to help: offer to join your spouse to the hair salon, nail salon, or to the store to buy a new outfit.
- Uptick in bad habits: drinking more coffee, smoking more cigarettes (or picking the habit back up), having an extra (or more) glass of wine or beer at dinner, biting nails, picking skin, pulling hair, and so on.
How to help: don’t nag about the habits; instead encourage things that will distract from doing them. For example, if you see your spouse pouring a 3rd cup of coffee within an hour, ask him/her, “would you like to go for a walk with me?”
- Appetite change: either a total loss in it, or an increase in consumption of food as a coping mechanism, which is usually in the form of excessive takeout (big tip off: excess takeout containers everywhere)
How to help: don’t say “you need to eat better,” but do offer to cook a homemade meal.
- Lack of focus: does your spouse completely space out when you’re having a conversation? Or perhaps it’s showing in their work or odd things being forgotten around the house.
How to help: do not become accusatory or aggressive, such as saying “how could you forget?!” – be gentle in your reminders instead: “do you remember we spoke about this yesterday over dinner?”
- A short fuse: depression can affect the part of the brain that regulates emotional expression, which leads to increased irritability, frustration, crankiness, and tension.
How to help: do not respond with more anger and frustration. Recognize that the anger is not directed toward you, it’s simply being projected at you because you’re the available outlet.
- Low confidence: depression can make a person only see the negative things and downplay achievements, leaving him/her to feel hopeless and worthless.
How to help: highlight accomplishments by letting him/her know that you are proud, grateful to be a part of his/her life, and so on.
- Changes in sleep patterns: not sleeping at all or sleeping too much only makes depression worse, but it’s unfortunately one of the most common indicators of depression.
How to help: try to reduce stimulation at least 2 hours prior to bedtime – suggest playing a boardgame or card game at night instead of watching TV; join your spouse for an evening yoga class, or even an evening walk after dinner.
Remember: as a spouse, you are a supporter, not a fixer.
It’s important for you, as the spouse, to set boundaries for yourself regarding what is emotionally possible for you to take on. It’s heartbreaking to watch a loved one suffer, but it’s important for you to be able to maintain autonomy from the depression so that you can be the best version of yourself – that’s the version that can help your spouse the most.
If you believe you or your spouse is suffering from depression, call us today so we can discuss treatment options as well as coping and communication strategies to help maintain a healthy relationship through the process.