8 Min Read
- How Depression In Women Can Differ From Depression In Men
- What Your Wife’s Depression Is Doing To You
- How You Can Help Your Depressed Wife
- What To Take Away
See if any of this sounds familiar:
- "I don’t feel up to it.”
- “You guys go without me, I’m not much fun right now.”
- “I just don’t feel like myself, nothing sounds fun.”
- “I don’t know why I feel this way.”
- “I’m tired. Just let me sleep.”
If these statements sound like lines read from your wife’s daily script, she’s likely depressed. And since depression in a spouse is a shared affliction, chances are you’re struggling as well.
When your wife is depressed it can mean all the mechanisms that keep your family going come to a grinding halt. This is because depression doesn’t just affect her, it affects you and your entire family too – deeply.
Many men feel lost and helpless when faced with their wife’s depression. Some can even feel like they’re pushed to their own breaking point.
Seeing your wife suffer, trying to care for her, and maintaining family harmony can be overwhelming. So much so that some men whose wives are depressed feel like they just can’t take it anymore.
So, what can they do?
A Note About Depression
Like all mental health issues, there are differing levels of depression. None, however, should be brushed off or taken lightly.
Helping someone suffering with depression is complicated. Telling them to
- “Cheer up”
- “Just get over it”
- “Look on the bright side.”
will not work.
In fact, those platitudes can actually make things worse. There’s also a difference in the way men and women handle depression. So, for a husband who thinks his wife is depressed, knowing what to do to help her, his family, and himself, can be particularly difficult.
To really help your wife with her depression and take care of yourself as well, it’s important to know the basics about what you’re facing, as well where your resources are. Anyone suffering with depression will benefit from the help of a professional counselor, and spouses dealing with a depressed partner may need that support too.
How Depression In Women Can Differ From Depression In Men
One of the problems with helping someone suffering from depression is recognizing that they’re actually depressed.
Depression manifests in different ways and can be mistaken for other problems, or even hidden by the sufferer so that only the most observant would realize that there’s something wrong.
Before we can really discuss how a husband can help his depressed wife, we should consider the differences in depression between men and women.
To begin with, women are more prone to developing depression than men. The reasons for this are the subject of another article. But because women are often seen as more emotional and/or moody than men, true depression in a woman can be overlooked for a long time.
So, how does a man know if his wife is truly depressed and not being moody, hormonal, or is just upset with him?
If you’re concerned your wife may be depressed there are some common behaviors that can indicate depression in women. Below is a list of these behaviors and how they differ from common indicators of depression in men.
Women’s sleep patterns become erratic when they’re depressed.
They may sleep more than normal or at inappropriate times. I knew one woman who would nap on and off all day rendering her incredibly unproductive, only to stay up until the wee hours of the morning watching TV.
Men on the other hand often feel restless and unable to sleep.
Women often turn to food for comfort.
Ever hear the term, “eating your emotions”? Women are more prone to emotional eating when they’re depressed. This mindless eating can be an attempt to fill a void, seek temporary comfort, or create a short-lived dopamine rise. Unfortunately, the result is generally weight gain and deeper depression.
Little or no attention to her appearance.
Every woman’s standard of personal care is different. Not all women put on make-up and style their hair each day. But if your wife’s personal care habits take a drastic turn, especially for the worse, she may be depressed.
In men this can occur as well.
For a man, however, it tends to be that his grooming habits stay the same, but his energy level and motivation dip to the point of his becoming a fixture on the couch.
Withdrawal from friends and family.
Women may feel sad, lack energy, become withdrawn and self-isolate.
Men can do this too, but are also prone to unpredictable anger and constant irritability.
Women assume they themselves are the problem. Men typically look outward and blame others for their problems.
Chronic and debilitating boredom.
A depressed woman may lose interest in, well, everything. She may become apathetic and stop parenting, become anti-social, or stop doing the things that she once enjoyed.
Men will often find things that distract them from their feelings, like avoidance projects (didn’t that sink need to be replaced?), escaping online, or fanatical sports watching.
Women tend to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings without finding solutions. They may struggle with intrusive thoughts, finding themselves in a cycle of negative thinking and unable to break it.
Men are more likely to ignore and avoid uncomfortable thoughts whenever possible.
Women are more likely to talk to friends about how they feel.
They may not identify themselves as depressed, but they might say they don’t feel well, like themselves, or feel unable to perform day-to-day responsibilities the way they should.
Men won’t typically talk about anything that they think could make them seem weak.
This is not a comprehensive list of depression symptoms in women, but it is some of the most typical. If you’re seeing any combination of these things in your wife, it’s quite likely she’s depressed.
Be aware there can be crossover in these symptoms. They aren’t unbendingly gender specific. So, if a man you care about is experiencing any of these symptoms don't discount them simply because they seem like something “a woman would do” when depressed.
It also should be noted that there are different types of depression, especially for women.
If your wife has had a child within 18 months prior to the symptoms, she may be experiencing post-partum depression. Although men can experience their own version of post-partum depression, it can be much more severe in women and is dealt with differently than general depression.
A midlife crisis can also cause depression in both men and women.
There are specific considerations to take into account before assuming that your wife is experiencing a midlife crisis, however. Take time to familiarize yourself with a midlife crisis before determining that’s truly what’s going on (click the links above).
What Your Wife’s Depression Is Doing To You
If your wife is depressed you’re probably struggling with how to help her or make it go away.
Stop here and take a moment to understand that you can’t just fix her depression. You can’t joke her out of it, tease her out of it, or gift her out of it.
What you can do if you’re not careful is make the situation worse by neglecting your own care.
One thing that gets overlooked by the partner of someone depressed is the need to take care of themselves as well.
- See friends
- Eat healthy
and practice other forms of self-care that keep you strong. You’re in a much better position to help your depressed wife when you’re healthy.
Many husbands also take their wife’s depression personally, assuming they have somehow caused it.
It can be an easy thing to do, especially if your wife has lost interest in the things you used to enjoy together, is no longer affectionate and happy, or doesn’t want to be intimate anymore.
Husbands can mistake these things for disinterest in the marriage or feel that their wife has fallen out of love with them.
Still other men find themselves exhausted by their wife’s depression.
Her lack of enthusiasm or willingness to participate in family or social responsibilities can make things difficult. You may feel like the weight of managing both your lives and your family falls all on your shoulders.
This can put strain on a marriage and leave a husband feeling,
and potentially facing depression of his own.
Indeed, it has been shown that spouses with a depressed partner are more likely to experience depression themselves.
If a wife’s depression goes untreated for a long time, the alienation that a husband will feel can leave him feeling trapped in a loveless, sexless, unhappy marriage. Sadly, these feelings can make a marriage vulnerable to other problems, like emotional affairs, cheating, or eventual separation and divorce.
If you’re silently nodding “yes” to any of these, you’re perfectly normal. All of these responses are common when your wife is depressed.
But be careful. Woe-is-me isn’t an excuse for hurting your wife through,
- Insensitive comments
- Mean behavior
- Ignoring the problem
- Looking outside the marriage for escape or connection
or otherwise making things worse.
Instead, consider these feelings a call to action and reason to seek help> for your wife and/or yourself.
How You Can Help Your Depressed Wife
The next question men typically have is, “How can I help my wife with her depression?”
Helping someone with depression isn’t easy. Often the person who needs the help doesn’t recognize they’re depressed or that there’s even a problem.
This means you must,
- Get them to acknowledge there’s something wrong
- Realize they need help getting better.
Dr. Kurt has worked with many people battling depression. It can be a difficult process. He shared these thoughts on the subject,
A depressed person is typically going to reject any attempts to help them. This can go a step further to becoming hostile and even abusive toward a partner trying to help. While getting blamed and attacked isn't uncommon between spouses, it's still discouraging and hard to help your wife when she pushes you away, yet this response is typical with depression. So, having realistic expectations of how much you can actually change the situation is important. Your objective should be to influence her, not change her. You want to motivate her to want to deal with her depression. If there's anything you can change about yourself that could help with this, be willing to give it a try."
The primary thing you need to do when you think your wife is depressed is to be there for her.
This means supporting her, being patient, and communicating your love for her. Depression is infinitely worse when the depressed person feels alone and that they’re responsible for the unhappiness of those around them.
Helping your wife get over depression ;and healthy again requires patience. What it doesn’t require is for you to have all the answers.
You can, however, pave the way for her to get better and encourage her through the process. Below are some tips to get your started doing this:
- Ask questions and show interest. If your wife is depressed she may not be forthcoming with all her thoughts, especially if they are dangerous. You’ll need to be willing to ask her how she’s feeling, if there’s anything specific that’s upsetting her, and if there’s anything you can do to help.
- Let her know she’s not alone and that you’re in this together. She may resist and claim that this is her problem, but don’t let her forget that you’re a team, and her health is important to you.
- Be ready to talk to your kids. If you have children and your wife is depressed, they will be affected. Determine an age-appropriate way to explain in simple terms that mom isn’t feeling well. If you don’t know the right way to do this, see number 5.
- Don’t blame her, yourself, or get angry. Most people don’t want to be depressed, so getting angry and trying to assign blame isn’t helpful or healthy. Depression can be triggered, or it can just happen, but it should be understood that you’re dealing with a mental health issue and not simply an emotional response.
- Seek help. Although some people will come out of depression on their own over time, many will need help. Working with a professional counselor can be a good place to start. Counseling can also help provide the needed tools for managing depression now and if it happens again. If she will not go herself, then go on your own for guidance on how to help her.
What To Take Away
Depression is a serious issue, and it can, if you’re not careful, pose a serious threat to happiness and satisfaction in a marriage.
Even with the best of intentions, being married to a depressed spouse can be frustrating, painful, and isolating.
If you’ve been saying to yourself, “I know my wife is depressed,” and you’re feeling at your wits, keep the following in mind:
- Depression is hard on everyone in a family, not just the person dealing with it.
- You’re not alone. Others have gone through this and there’s help available for both of you.
- You must take care of yourself and seek your own support if you’re going to help your wife through her depression.
Remember that depression’s the enemy – not your wife. Understanding, empathy, and support are crucial when your wife is depressed.
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