Divorcing Depression (cont.)
Other conditions might be accompanied by very different side effects including anxiety, excessive worry, obsessive thoughts, and an inability to concentrate. Telling your partner about the symptoms you are noticing -- instead of diagnosing them with a condition -- might get them to visit a doctor who is better equipped to point out the possibility of an underlying mental health condition.
Any Self-Medicating Happening?
Sex, alcohol, and food can all be very enjoyable parts of our lives, but they can also be used excessively to cope with depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. It's important to recognize when something is being used to mask a problem. If you sense that this is happening with you or your partner, don't ignore it. The consequences can be serious for the relationship and the individual. "Over time, a lot of the joy in a relationship -- the sort of juice that brought the couple together -- can dry up," Sullivan-Leggett tells WebMD. When this happens because of a psychological issue, self-medication is common, she says, and can come in the form of drugs, alcohol, television, and food. Sex too can become a form of self-medication, but often this occurs outside of the relationship, despite libido problems or a lack of sexual interest within the relationship. "Infidelity never happens in a vacuum."
Get Involved With Treatment
Hopefully once you or your partner accepts and acknowledges that there is a psychological problem worth exploring, you will seek treatment and address some of the related issues with a physician and a therapist. This doesn't have to be something that is only done individually. Totten recommends that partners stay active in each other's mental health care. "Become a partner in treatment by seeing or calling the clinician," she says. "If your husband or wife agrees to it, you can go to meetings with the clinician," she says, making it easier for you to help monitor treatments.
Totten started Families for Depression Awareness after her brother committed suicide when he was 26 years old. "He wasn't diagnosed with depression, and I was unaware of what mental illness really was at that point," she says. "I did intuitively try to help him, but it didn't work."
After helping her father get diagnosed and treated for his depression, Totten realized there was a real gap in information and support for family members to help those battling mental illness. "I really felt a need for depressive disorders to be approached as a family condition," she says. This includes understanding what they are and how they can be managed and treated.
You should immediately contact a clinician if there are any dangerous symptoms you observe, especially suicidal thoughts. The clinician won't be able to discuss your partner with you if you are calling without their consent, but you can still call with concerns about symptoms, says Totten. "The most important thing is to be a partner in treatment." But this doesn't mean you should hold yourself accountable for their diagnosis and treatment.