Husband or Wife Depressed? You May Not Feel So Good, Either
The couples were asked to evaluate how strongly they were experiencing 33 different negative feelings, labeled as "burdens." The sources of burden receiving the highest scores by spouses were:
- concern over the patient's feeling of worthlessness,
- fear that their partners would develop serious depression again in the future,
- their own emotional strain,
- anxiety about the patient's constant worrying, and
- worry over the patient's lack of energy.
Wives ranked male patients as more burdensome in terms of the emotional and physical strain and money worries, and said they became upset more easily and were more critical of their partners. The husbands rated their partners' crying as more upsetting than the women did.
The researchers also found that while male patients tended to show deeper depression, wives of male patients showed more symptoms of distress than their male counterparts.
Hoffman, the Atlanta psychologist, says this is consistent with what she has learned from treating couples. "Often, when a man is struggling with depression, he is very reluctant to talk about it," she says. "He will distance himself, which then makes the wife feel there's something wrong with her or the marriage."
Marsha Sauls, PhD, a clinical psychologist who also practices in Atlanta, agrees. She tells WebMD that women are more apt to feel that the depression is due to their inability to satisfy their husbands. Also, she finds that women are more likely to take things personally and then worry and start developing incorrect ideas about what's actually going on in the relationship. "[She] may try all kinds of ways to resolve it, meet resistance from her spouse, and things spiral out of control," she says.