When a loved one is in pain, the vulnerability and emotional pain you go through can be debilitating. The feeling of helplessness can be all-consuming, paralyzing you into inaction. In those situations, great courage and fortitude are required to push through those feelings of helplessness and instead focus on being supportive and present for our loved ones.
The same goes when the loved one who is in pain is your husband, and the trial they are going through is battling depression. We’ve learned a lot about depression and other mental health concerns over the last few decades, and so there are a lot of things you can be aware of and do to be supportive of your depressed husband.
Know what depression is and isn’t
Firstly, it’s of great importance for you to get informed about what depression is and isn’t, which can help you in dispelling any unhelpful myths or ideas you may have about the disease. Depression isn’t something a person can simply power through via sheer willpower, though for many men that is precisely the kind of mistake they make.
Depression is a mood disorder that impacts all aspects of a person’s being – physically, mentally, and emotionally; it also affects their behavior. Day to day activities become burdensome and difficult to do; even the things a person used to enjoy, like hobbies, lose their appeal.
Depression is a widespread mental health issue. Here in the United States, about 19% of adults have experienced a mental illness. Around 7.1% of adults (17.3 million people) have had at least one major episode of depression in their lives.
Women are twice as likely to have depression than men, but one of the symptoms of depression – having suicidal thoughts – tends to result in death more frequently in men. While women are more likely to attempt to commit suicide, men are four times as likely to succeed because they use more lethal means in their attempts.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly three hundred million people (about 264 million) across the world suffer from depression. This includes men and women, the young and the old, and people from every possible background including different cultures and ethnicities, religions, and social classes.
Having depression is not a sign of weakness. It can be caused by one or several factors, including genetics, trauma, illness, poor nutrition, and brain chemistry, among others.
Signs of a depressed husband
To better understand the question of depression, you should be informed about what depression looks like in men, and how that will impact your husband and your family. There are symptoms of depression that are common for both men and women, and these include the following:
- feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
- aches, pains, and digestive problems
- sleeping too much or too little.
- feeling restless and agitated
- lack of concentration on work or tasks
- struggling to fulfill family, work, or other obligations
- difficulty remembering details
- eating too much or too little
- unintentional weight gain or loss
- being unusually indecisive
- having suicidal thoughts or making suicide attempts
- losing interest in hobbies and things that were once exciting
Some other symptoms of depression are more specific to men, and these behaviors often hide depression. These include:
- Compulsive behaviors, such as increasing intake of alcohol, gambling, or substance abuse.
- Seeking isolation by avoiding family or social situations
- Reckless behaviors, such as unprotected sex, sex with strangers, or reckless driving
- Becoming overly sensitive, getting easily irritated, losing one’s sense of humor, getting angry quickly or with scant provocation, becoming more verbally or physically abusive of loved ones, or more controlling in relationships.
It is important to help your husband to get a proper diagnosis. For it to be diagnosed as depression, the symptoms must persist for at least two weeks. It is important to seek help from a trained professional to get this proper diagnosis. Your doctor or healthcare provider can perform a series of tests to determine whether your husband has depression.
These may include a physical examination and some blood work to eliminate other possible sources of the symptoms. There is no single simple test for depression, but your physician can make a diagnosis based on the symptoms they observe and a psychological evaluation.
In most cases, they’ll ask questions about these areas to determine if your husband suffers from depression:
- sleep patterns
- level of activity
Treatment options for your depressed husband
There are various treatment options available for your depressed husband, and your husband and doctor need to proceed with a treatment plan that works for him. For the various possible treatments for depression to be effective, one key element is willing buy-in from the person suffering from depression. They must have ownership of the process.
They do need help, though. The people around them, who comprise their support team, can be there to encourage and stand in the gap where they can. For wives, this may mean being aware that more of the load may fall on you as your husband deals with the depression.
We mentioned earlier how the family may be affected negatively in various ways by a depressed husband and father. Giving them support, understanding, and accountability during their treatment will provide a more conducive environment for recovery.
When someone is diagnosed with depression, there are various strategies for treatment and coping with it. With mild depression, there are strategies they can implement to cope and manage it, and these include:
Finding support from friends and family through sharing feelings with people close to you helps you to feel less isolated and it makes those feelings feel less overwhelming. These cheerleaders can help you stay on the path to recovery. This support network can help with chores, driving to and from a doctor’s appointment and so much more.
Pursuing simplicity by breaking down huge tasks into smaller tasks.
Postponing big decisions until you’ve recovered. Discuss important decisions with trustworthy people.
Avoiding alcohol and other addictive substances may boost your mood and creates room for you to address your situation soberly.
Creating structure by making a daily routine can make each day feel a little easier with fewer decisions you have to make.
Eating and sleeping well by keeping up with good nutrition and getting good sleep helps you make progress toward better overall health.
Exercising or practicing mindfulness through meditating, and exercising by walking, running, or doing yoga may reduce stress and support overall well-being.
These coping strategies are supplemental to the treatment plan a licensed medical professional may create for your husband; they are certainly not a substitute for it. The trained psychotherapist may recommend medication or talk therapy, or a combination of both depending on the circumstances and the severity of the depression.
Medications such as antidepressants may be prescribed to help to cope with depression and get the body and mind back where they need to be. Usually, there are some side effects from the medication, and so the psychotherapist will likely adjust the type of medication and its dosage to meet the client’s needs.
Don’t expect immediate results, as the medication may only begin to have positive effects on a person’s mood or overall disposition after a few weeks. This process of finding the right medication and dosage can take a few months, so don’t lose heart, or begin doubting the process.
It is important for a person suffering from depression to keep taking their medication even when the outlook begins improving. Taking the foot off the gas prematurely because some of the symptoms of depression are lifting can set their progress back and potentially trigger a relapse with worsened symptoms.
The treatment plan, which includes taking medication, only stops in consultation with the psychotherapist who determines whether sufficient progress has been made.
Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is another powerful component of the treatment plan. This can take several forms, but its main aim is to provide a person with space to talk through the situation with a trained and licensed mental health professional.
This process can unearth various issues in the relationships around the person struggling with depression, including your own. Psychotherapy also assists people suffering from depression to accomplish various goals, including:
- helping them identify and replace negative beliefs and thought patterns with positive ones
- finding adaptive and creative ways to solve problems
- creating, setting, and maintaining realistic goals
- learning how to cope with a crisis
- developing capacity and a deeper ability to tolerate stress and distress
- digging into their relationships and experiences to forge positive connections
- learning to recognize the issues that contribute to depression
Your loved one doesn’t have to walk the journey through depression alone. With you and your family’s loving support and the knowledge possessed by trained psychotherapists and other professional caregivers, your depressed husband can work through his depression and gain the tools he needs to deal with this season of struggle.
“Sad Face”, Courtesy of PDPics, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Hope or Despair”, Courtesy of geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Depressed”, Courtesy of talipozer, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Down”, Courtesy of Peggy_Marco, Pixabay.com, CC0 License