Ho Do I Help When He’s Depressed?

Ho Do I Help When He’s Depressed?

Q: How do you tell someone you love you think they would benefit from anti-depressants? My husband has been very stressed at work and home the past 6 months and it has taken a major toll on his attitude. He seems distant, unhappy, unmotivated, and basically not his usual self. He is short with our kids and is not as physically affectionate (not just sex but in multiple ways) as he typically is. I need some advice on how to help him through this, and how to make sure our relationship is good as well.

She: What is not clear in your question is what you have done to address this with him? This seems like a major change in your relationship and in the energy in your home. How many times have you had the conversation with him about your concern? High functioning couples tell each other everything. They communicate deeper feelings in a soft and loving way; they are each other’s primary support system. If you are not talking about this issue regularly (from a loving and problem-solving approach) then you are part of the problem…. I’m sorry to say that.

Now let’s talk about anti-depressants… Anti-depressants are a little bit of a mixed bag. They certainly are a positive for many people- and have been a life changer for some. But not for all. Anti-depressants, overall, don’t have a great rate of effectiveness for people experiencing mild to moderate depression (about 50% experience positive improvements in mood). Not to mention, most people have to try at least two different brands before finding the one that works for them. If you keep in mind that it takes about 3-4 weeks for any antidepressant to reach its full therapeutic potential, you’re possibly looking at months before your husband experiences any kind of relief from his depression.

Secondly, you mention that your sex life has been suffering (a major symptom of depression). A sense of closeness in your relationship is definitely important for helping him get through his depression, and sex is a major way that men feel close. You have to know that the number one side effect of anti-depressants is a reduction in sexual drive… so expect this problem to get worse, not better.

All this being said, I am certainly not discouraging medication, I am just pointing out that it is not a quick fix. I prefer anti-depressants to be a last step, when other methods to manage depression have been ineffective or not effective enough. Has he been seeing a therapist to talk about stress, and/or any deeper issues that have been coming up for him? Has he been diligent about exercise? Have you guys been making a solid effort to ensure that you are connected and communicating? Has he been focusing his energy on things that make him happy, and having fun? Setting goals? What about meditation? These are all things that organically address depression and should be a first line of defense.

As I said before, if you are beating around the bush with addressing his depression… STOP IT! You are a family, you affect each other. As parents, it is your responsibility to take care of each other and to make sure that you are creating a safe and nurturing environment for your kids to grow into happy, healthy adults. Depression is a very narcissistic emotion. Depressed people have a hard time getting out of themselves enough to consider how they are affecting other people. Your husband needs you to step up right now and to help him get out of this dark place, not be a passive observer. You’re a team, and right now it is your time to be the team leader.

He: You may not want to suggest medication yet. Six months is a pretty short time span to make the assumption that your husband is depressed- particularly if he hasn’t shown this behavior in the past. You describe him as being distant, unhappy and unmotivated, which are symptoms of depression in the long-term. But you also say that he is not his “usual self” which indicates that these symptoms are short-term, and probably more stress related (all of the symptoms you named, including lack of physical affection can be symptoms of stress as well). That being said, this can be dealt with by eliminating the stressor or learning to manage the stress better.

It sounds like work is the biggest stressor for him, as it is for most of us. And since most of us don’t have the option of leaving the rat race to open up a bed and breakfast or a llama farm, we have to learn to manage the stress in our lives. Some of these things are pretty intuitive and accessible, such as getting more exercise, getting away for the weekend, finding new hobbies and pastimes, etc. Other techniques might take some time and guidance to achieve, such as mindfulness exercises, meditation, learning to communicate feelings, etc.

If your husband recognizes that the symptoms you described are affecting his life, he may be motivated enough to learn and engage in these stress management techniques on his own. If not, it may require some very direct feedback from you and the help of a therapist to get him to recognize this and work toward a change.

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for eleven years (currently happily). They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California. Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to coastalcounseling1@gmail.com.  

Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.


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