This weekly post is less spiritual than most but hopefully will provide information and ideas to reduce your risk of depression and depression relapse, as well as information and ideas for family members who have a loved one struggling with depression.
Basic facts for spouses in particular:
- Lack of support from a spouse predicts an increased risk for and onset of a major depressive episode.
- Criticism of depressed persons by spouses (and family members) predicts relapse in depression
- Spouses of depressed persons tend to hold negative views of them even when they are not depressed
- Having a spouse who has poor relational skills is associated with significant marital distress, increasing depression in the other spouse.
Source: Davila, Stroud, and Starr. “Depression in Couples and Families.” Chapter 20 in Handbook of Depression. Edited by Gotlib and Hammen. Guilford Press, 2009.
Ideas for ways spouses in particular can be of support when the affected person has symptoms:
- If the affected person does nothing but criticize or complain don’t engage by arguing or criticizing back. It will only serve to reinforce their negative ruminations.
- When possible reinforce depression is an illness that will pass with proper treatment and support the treatment. Support treatment! Do not poo-poo it or act as if depression is a sign of weakness.
- Show affection (when the affected person can accept it)
- Reinforce your commitment to stand by the affected person
- Notice when the affected person does something well or something that contributes to the family (doing dishes included) and say, “Thank you!”
- Engage in pleasant conversations, whenever possible
- Do things you both (all) enjoy doing. Yes, the person affected by depression may not be able to do this but when there’s a window of willingness, go for it!
- Reminisce details of good times you have had together and if you can, recreate them in the present. Again, only do this if there is a positive window of opportunity. If you try to do this while the person is in the middle of a negative bout of thoughts, you’ll only receive a negative response back.
- When depression is in remission, make a plan in anticipation of a potential relapse (the illness is cyclic).
If you are the one affected by bouts of depression. Here are some simple suggestions for relapse prevention:
- Be sure you have a professional network—-therapist, doctor if you are on medication, spiritual guide
- Notice when a family member compliments you, reminds you of good times, gives you a gift, or does a chore for you. Say, “Thank you.”
- Remind yourself that no one has perfect motives, and find the positive motives behind a family member’s nice gesture rather than coming up with negative ones
- Notice when you are contributing to the wellbeing of the family (dishes included). Pat yourself on the back, especially if family members don’t notice. Better yet, keep a journal of all these things. Put date, times, and what you did.
- When you are well build a store of positive memories. Write them down.
- When you are well, become socially active (church related or not church related), engage in a workout routine, and find a gratifying hobby. Incidentally, if you have these things and suddenly lose interest in them, it is a sign of relapse—get yourself back into therapy.
None of these things will assure a cure, but it will definitely lessen the likelihood for relapse, along with consistent medical, psychological (skill-building), and spiritual help.
Picture by US Government, public domain, retrieved on Wikimedia Commons