Depression is considered to be the most common disability that affects work productivity, family stability and personal happiness. Understanding how depression affects your relationship with your spouse will enable you to recognize the signs and get needed medical attention for your loved one.

The following is a list of five common symptoms associated with depression. Each has questions to ask that will help you determine if there are problems with your spouse in this area. For a comprehensive discussion on the subject, see the website of the American Psychiatric Association.

Emotional numbness

  • Is your spouse turning a cold shoulder to your efforts at expressing love and affection?

  • Is there a lack of caring about you and other members of the family?

  • Are there pleasurable activities that your spouse engaged in previously that no longer seem to be enjoyable?

  • Do household chores and financial responsibilities remain undone while time is spent on electronic gaming and television viewing?

Thinking in extremes

  • Is your spouse making comments such as "I'll never be happy again," "You and the kids would be better off without me," and "I'm always wrong"?

  • Are their thought processes being manifest as feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, loneliness, and despair?

  • Is it evident that your spouse is catastrophizing, using black and white thinking, and making assumptions?

Changes in appetites and passions

  • Are there changes in your spouse's eating habits, either significantly more or less?

  • Are there feelings of emptiness that just can't be satisfied?

  • Has their desire for sexual activity increased to the point of physical aggression?

  • Has the question of unworthiness become a reason for decreased sexual activity?

Social isolation

  • Has your spouse sought isolation from loved ones or friends for fear that others will judge harshly or make inappropriate comments?

  • Is personal hygiene slacking?

  • Has answering the telephone or door bell become an undesirable chore to the point that it is avoided?

  • Are there excuses made in an effort to decrease the social activity of your family?

Inability to make decisions

  • Does your spouse vacillate back and forth for irrational reasons when trying to make important decisions?

  • Are there concerns about not measuring up, fears that others do not understand, or concerns about not having adequate resources?

  • Have decisions been made that seem to be excessively selfish, or not showing concern for the needs of the family as a whole?

Although each of these questions in and of themselves does not signal a problem, the overall cumulative effect of issues in all areas simultaneously may indicate that depression is present. If symptoms persist for two weeks or longer, seek medical assistance.

Start with your general practitioner. Request a complete physical for your spouse with you present. Depression can be the result of many common medical conditions. Once physical problems are ruled out, obtain a recommendation for a course of action.

If anti-depressants are prescribed, become familiar with possible side effects and their course of treatment. If your spouse is referred to a psychologist, counselor or therapist, assist in following through with appointments and assignments.

Depression can wreak havoc on the relationship between you and your spouse, as well as cause major problems in your family. Don't wait until the damage is irreparable. Act now if your spouse is showing signs of distress. Get needed medical help. Seek the support of extended family and friends for you and your children. It is well worth the effort!

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