When you are concerned that a loved one is struggling with depression, it is natural to want to help. When the sufferer is your husband, it can be more difficult. Depression can put a strain on your marriage. You likely have seen firsthand your husband’s recent irritability, difficulty sleeping and a gradual withdrawal from people and activities. You may have even noticed a decreased sex drive in your spouse. You know the issue needs to be addressed but are not certain what to say, how to say it, or if you should be the person to broach the subject. Before traveling too far down the path of addressing your concerns with your husband about his depression, it is important to know that men handle depression differently. Many men do not realize they have a problem with depression and may be unwilling to acknowledge it. Although all forms of depression can be caused by genetics, hormones and/or stress, the symptoms of depression in men can be different from symptoms in women.
Symptoms of depression in men can include:
- Sleep problems
- Backache or unexplained tension or pain in other areas of the body
- Stomach problems
- Changes in eating habits
- Memory trouble
- Difficulty concentrating
Approaching the Subject
Depression impacts relationships. It can make communication difficult, which can be made even more difficult if you are asking your spouse to address a problem with depression. Because depression occurs as a result of changes in brain chemistry that affect thoughts and moods, it is important to approach the topic of depression gently and lovingly. One thing to remember when talking with your husband is that you are on his side. He may react in ways that are hurtful to you, but know that the enemy is the disorder. Keep this in mind as you strive to support your husband in tackling depression. When you are ready to discuss your concern, you can connect with your husband by saying:
- “I have noticed that you have been having a hard time. I am here to help you.”
This will help to open up the dialogue in a loving way. This also may help open his eyes to the reality that something may truly be wrong and he needs to address it. Tell him you want to help him break the cycle of depression.
- “I know this is hard for you. I am sorry.”
Help him recognize that you are aware of the difficulty that he is facing and show concern.
- “I understand what you are going through.”
Humbly let him know that he isn’t the only person who has gone through the situation. This may help him to see that you aren’t coming to him from an angle of judgment. At the same time, be careful to not make him feel like you know exactly how he feels because everyone experiences difficult situations and depression differently, and this could be an area of sensitivity.
- “There are ways to get through this.”
Offer to help him find professional help, along with your support. Reassure him that the step to seeking professional assistance to help him to overcome the problem will truly make a difference. Remind him that many other men have experienced depression and that it isn’t a sign of weakness to accept help. The overall goal when approaching your husband about his depression, is to be supportive and caring. Also, be open to his state of mind. Your kindness and understanding can make a huge difference. Sources: National Institute of Mental Health: Men and Depression Health: Depression in Men