Depression and Divorce
How does depression affect marriage and relationships?
Getting Help for Depression in Marriage: What Works?
If a couple decides that professional counseling is needed, the depressed
partner may want to go alone first, Jones says. Or, he has found that some
nondepressed partners try to persuade the depressed person to get help and the
partner won't go.
Seeing a therapist together can give a couple valuable perspective, he says.
"The therapist mediates," he says. "It's not a blaming session, but rather the
therapist helps the depressed person recognize they are contributing to [the
problem]. If they improve the depression, they could improve the marriage."
In a study, Italian researchers reviewed the data on whether couple therapy
was a better way to treat depression in one partner and found no difference
between couple therapy and individual therapy on the symptoms of depression.
But couple therapy better reduced "relationship distress," they report in the
journal Psychiatric Quarterly.
Often, talking about the depression -- whether alone or with a partner in
therapy -- brings up other issues in a marriage that, when addressed, help ease
the depression, Sherman says.
Combining Talk Therapy With Antidepressants for Depression
If depression doesn't improve with behavior or talk therapy, a physician may
decide to prescribe an antidepressant, or may prescribe it along with the
Antidepressant medications can help, Clayton says. "Medications and therapy
are often very useful." If the depression is milder, one or the other may be
enough, she says; if it is more severe a combination treatment may be
In a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, Stanford University researchers compared medication alone, talk
therapy alone, or a combination in 656 patients with chronic depression. They
concluded that the combination produces a faster, fuller remission of chronic
Like many medications, antidepressants can interact with other medicine, and
cause side effects. Patients should always tell their doctors about the
medicines they take, and call the doctor if they notice side effects. Another
class of antidepressant may be prescribed.
Depression and Relationships: Prognosis?
Sometimes, the partner of a person with depression will feel responsible,
and stick with the marriage even if they’ve become more of a caretaker than a
But more often, if the depression continues for years, the partner does get
tired of it and seeks divorce, Ahrons says.
Which couples are most likely to stay together? Those who acknowledge
depression as a problem, try to relieve it, and keep talking with each
Remember the young couple at the beginning of this story? The new mother and
her husband actually strengthened their marriage once they acknowledged the
depression and sought treatment, Sherman says.
When she counseled the couple, the wife acknowledged she had ambivalence
about becoming a mother. Her husband took issue with her housekeeping and his
displeasure only grew worse when motherhood reduced available time to clean.
The marital dissatisfaction may have contributed to her depression.
So they worked on those issues. He eased up on housekeeping standards. She
talked through her ambivalence about motherhood. It was mainly rooted, Sherman
found, in her lack of confidence.
"Her depression lifted once they started talking," Sherman says. Their
"The last time I talked to them," she reports, "they were doing well."