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Depression and Divorce

How does depression affect marriage and relationships?
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Unraveling the Roots of Depression

Some depression is transient, such as when a partner loses a parent or other family member. Within a few weeks, typically, the person feels a bit better.

Other times, the depression might continue or reoccur several times. Having a history of depression makes it more likely to have another episode, says Clayton. "With the first depression, we can usually link it to some event," she says, such as job loss, or a serious medical problem. "We can identify a trigger."

"The more episodes you have, the less likely it is linked to an event," she says, perhaps because of underlying brain changes.

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 therapy.

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 better.

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