Clinical studies and surveys of married couples indicate that the single largest problem in most relationships is depression in one of the partners. We are not talking about a bad mood or PMS; we are talking about depression so severe that it causes personal and relationship problems.
Depression is a recognized disease, and is much more than just moodiness. People who are clinically depressed are so down that their thoughts are often of suicide. Depression can be caused by a number of things: a hereditary tendency to be moody, emotional or unbalanced; a severe emotional trauma like a death in the family; poor self-esteem and a lack of self-worth; drug or alcohol addiction; career problems or upsets, or a number of other potential contributing factors.
According to the “DSM-IV”, the manual used to diagnose mental disorders, depression occurs when someone has five or more of the following symptoms at the same time:
- A depressed mood during most of the day, most evident in the morning
- A feeling of fatigue and lack of energy every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt nearly every day
- Inability to concentrate
- Indecisiveness, even regarding simple decisions
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
- Noticeably diminished interest in normal activities
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Restlessness, psychomotor agitation or retardation of activity
- Significant weight loss or gain of more than five percent in a month
If five or more of these signs are apparent for more than two weeks it is considered to be clinical or major depression. None of these symptoms should be attributable to drugs or other medication to be considered part of the depression. Also, if these symptoms occur within two months of the loss of a loved one, they usually won’t be diagnosed as depression.
Minor attacks of depression will usually be characterized by some or all of the following symptoms. The severity, frequency and duration of the attack will vary from individual to individual:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details or making decisions
- Decreased energy and fatigue
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Loss of interest in hobbies or other formerly pleasurable activities
- Apparent loss of pleasure in life in general
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Frequent and persistent aches and pains
- Digestive problems
The last type of depression is bipolar or manic depression. Bipolar 1 occurs when someone has at least one manic – extremely high or elated – episode. Bipolar 2 occurs when someone has at least one hypo-manic – mildly high or elated – episode. Both sexes experience the same symptoms of this misunderstood affliction.
One of the biggest mistakes made in relationships is not dealing properly with a depressed partner. Sympathy and understanding are crucial. It’s important to engage the depressed partner in some form of pleasurable physical activity as this promotes an improved feeling of self-worth.
Most depression is treated with drugs; antidepressants or mood levelers like Prozac are often prescribed. Some feel, however, that there is a tendency in Western medicine to just medicate a person’s symptoms instead of treating the underlying causes of the disorder. In these cases, there are some natural remedies like St. John’s Wort and Omega-3 fatty acids that can be good alternatives to standard pharmaceuticals.
If your partner shows symptoms of depression for any noticeable amount of time, encourage them to seek medical treatment. Be gentle with them and encourage them to seek activities involving interaction with other people. Try and reassure them that you are not the cause of their depression, though they may try to blame you or other outside sources for their problem.
If it is within your control, try to remove any possible causes of your partner’s depression. Sometimes a change in location will help. Try a pleasurable vacation spot, or someplace that evokes fond memories.