Annie thought she might be living with a depressed husband, but she wasn’t sure. Her husband was usually mild-mannered, a pastor, and incredibly benevolent with everyone who knew him. But a few months into his new pastorate he was starting to act differently, especially at home. This is when Annie wondered if something in him had changed.
It’s important for loved ones, especially spouses, to know the signs of depression. Has your husband’s mood changed? Does he seem like he is more irritable than usual, short-tempered, impatient, and easily agitated? He might be suffering from depression.
Most adults, as noted by Christian Counselors, have been touched by depression at some point in their lives. Whether you have experienced it yourself or not, it’s important to know that the signals of depression can be different for various people.
For example, common signs of depression in women aren’t necessarily the same in a depressed husband. Women often exhibit signs of sadness; they may cry more easily, feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks, and struggle to get out of bed in the morning. These are certainly signs of depression. But they may not be prevalent in a man’s struggle.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think, and behave. It can contribute to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Some depression is marked by sadness that doesn’t go away and a loss of interest in hobbies or activities that a person once enjoyed. Depression isn’t something a person can just snap out of when they try hard enough to enjoy life, be grateful, or pretend what they’re feeling isn’t there.
What are common signs of depression?
Other symptoms of depression can include sleep disturbance or a change in sleep patterns. Sleeping too much or not enough can both be clues that your husband is depressed. Certainly, anyone can suffer from disruptive sleep if they’re under stress. But specifically, you want to look for patterns in combination with sleep issues.
Some of those patterns in men include:
Feeling hopeless about the future.
This can be accompanied by anger at the world around him, a feeling of restlessness when it comes to how to respond to negative events, and/or a generalized emotion of unhappiness that lingers over time.
Blaming others for personal issues.
Some men find it difficult to take ownership of their negative emotions. Therefore, they look for others to blame. Often, society communicates that men who experience negative emotions aren’t supposed to share those with others and need to be strong.
This can lead to outrage, sudden outbursts of anger, and a man’s inability to take responsibility for his actions. Men aren’t generally taught how to respond to fear, sadness, or sudden change, and it can contribute to depression.
Increased use of drugs, alcohol, food, or other numbing pursuits.
Men who experience depression quite often won’t see it in themselves. It is easy to avoid negative feelings by turning to distractions.
Even increased phone usage or gaming can signal a man’s refusal to deal with something negative that’s causing him emotional pain. So while it may not be a destructive hobby, watch for this pattern of excessiveness in a depressed husband.
Feelings of being trapped, being a burden on others, or worthlessness.
These are also signs of depression among men. These can be expressed lightly – through work scenarios, for example – or in deeper conversations with a friend or with a spouse.
Your husband may say that he feels trapped in his job or his “season of life,” and it may be difficult to pull him from his funk. His attitude may slowly decline over time. It could be tough for him to be motivated to take care of the yard, or he may not want to express his needs to you anymore. It could be because he feels like he will cause you to worry about him.
Isolation from friends and family.
When men start to pull away emotionally, especially if they were verbal about their emotions before, it may be a sign of depression. Other signs range from not wanting to join the after-work crowd for drinks, repeatedly turning down his usual Saturday golf game, or ducking out from work early to see a movie by himself.
Staying alone can be a self-protection mechanism. Or it can be your husband’s way of not overburdening others. Either way, isolation can be harmful and can be a clue that something isn’t right.
Fixating on past failures.
This is another sign that you may be living with a depressed husband. Certainly, many men go through seasons when they experience financial hardship or stress at work. But if your husband is struggling with depression, old failures may plague his thoughts.
Does your husband keep rehashing a mistake he made a long time ago? Is he talking more about what-ifs related to what he perceived to be a failure in his work or in a relationship that struggled? Becoming hyper-aware of his failure and unable to move past it could mean he needs to seek help for depression.
How can I communicate my fears to my depressed husband?
It can be tricky to confront someone you love; in fact, it can almost feel like an intervention for someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. You aren’t sure what to expect. You cannot predict how your husband will respond to your concerns.
But there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to keeping the lines of communication open.
First, pay attention to his symptoms over a season. You may even want to keep a journal of some of his more concerning behavior, comments, or the changes you see in him. This way, it shows you’ve been concerned for a while and communicates that you care enough to notice.
Second, if you are struggling to bring up your fears and concerns, consider talking to someone you know your husband values and respects. This isn’t the time to go to his boss or his mentor. Instead, consider talking to his best friend, a college roommate he still keeps in touch with regularly, a Bible study friend, a member of his family, or maybe a sibling or a cousin he is close with.
Third, remember that you aren’t the enemy. You are not the spy who is trying to challenge him or change him. Instead, you are his wife. You love and care for him. One way you do that is by speaking up. It’s not wrong to talk to him about the changes you’ve seen. It’s not wrong to ask him questions about how he is feeling, what is causing his sleep disturbances, or why he doesn’t want to engage in his usual hobbies.
You can approach him using a model that’s popular for dealing with addiction intervention. Begin by letting him know how much you love and care for him. Let him know that you are worried about his mental and physical health.
If he responds in disbelief, denial, anger, or dismissal of your concerns, give him more details. Tell him the kinds of things you’ve noted: His nightly glass of wine has turned into an entire bottle. He skipped the last five weeks straight of his usual Saturday basketball game with buddies, making up a different excuse each time.
You might share that you’ve seen him zoning out more or trying to pretend he is okay when he’s really just checking out of everyday life. Or you can tell him how his behavior has impacted your life, that you are worried he will do something to harm himself – whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Most of all, he needs to know that you are in it with him and that help is available.
Fourth, if your spouse isn’t receptive to your fears, definitely tell someone else. Trying to help your depressed husband on your own can be emotionally and physically draining. Plus, if you’ve done everything you know to try, it’s important to get a trained counselor involved.
Contact our office to find the right Christian Marriage Counselor. We can help you and your husband. You are not alone.
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