Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Depression Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

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 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.

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 depression.

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 spouse.

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 other.

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 relationship improved.

"The last time I talked to them," she reports, "they were doing well."

1 | 2 | 3
Reviewed on December 17, 2009

Today on WebMD

Male patient in session with therapist
Article
Depressed looking man
Article
 
mother kissing newborn
Slideshow
Hands breaking pencil in frustration
Quiz
 
Woman taking pill
Article
Woman jogging outside
Feature
 
man screaming
Article
woman standing behind curtains
Article
 
Pet scan depression
Slideshow
antidepressants slideshow
Article
 
pill bottle
Article
Winding path
Article