Home Mental Health What Happens When Your Spouse Has Treatment-Resistant Depression?

What Happens When Your Spouse Has Treatment-Resistant Depression?

What Happens When Your Spouse Has Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Treatment-resistant depression is a scary reality for many people suffering from depression. However, it also severely impacts the spouses and family members of those individuals. As a spouse of someone with treatment-resistant depression, you likely find yourself wondering “what now?” and “what happens next?”.

In this post, we’ll explore what to expect when your spouse has depression that isn’t responding to typical treatments, how it may affect your relationship and daily life, and some tips for coping and getting help of your own.

What is Treatment-Resistant Depression?

In simple terms, Treatment-Resistant Depression refers to a type of major depressive disorder that hasn’t responded to at least two different types of adequate antidepressant treatments.

This could mean trying two different antidepressant medications or trying medication plus therapy with no significant improvement in symptoms. Treatment-resistant depression is more likely when a person has:

  • A long history of depression
  • Chronic or recurring bouts of depression
  • Other co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety
  • A family history of treatment-resistant depression

On average, only about one-third of people with depression will see a full response from their first antidepressant treatment. The chances of improvement decrease with each subsequent treatment attempt. So having a spouse with treatment-resistant depression means conventional options may not provide relief.

Changes You May Notice in Your Spouse

Naturally, a lack of improvement in your spouse’s depression symptoms with treatment will impact you both mentally and emotionally. Here are some common changes you may notice:

Severe, Persistent Low Mood

Treatment-resistant depression means low mood, lack of interest or enjoyment, feelings of hopelessness, and other core depressive symptoms are constantly present rather than improving. These persistent negative feelings can wear down both individuals over time.

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Increased Issues With Self-Care

Tasks like bathing, getting dressed, eating regular meals, and maintaining hygiene may become much more difficult without treatment relief. Expect your spouse to require more encouragement and help with daily self-care.

Higher Risk of Suicidal Thoughts

The treatment-resistant nature of their depression makes individuals more prone to suicidal thoughts as a last resort to feel better. Be aware of any increases in suicidal ideation and know when to seek emergency help.

Adjustments to Daily Routines

Plans may need to be cancelled, social activities limited, and daily schedules modified to accommodate the unpredictable ways untreated depression fluctuates and impacts your spouse’s ability to function.

Changes in Your Relationship

The depression itself, coupled with frustrations over a lack of treatment progress, can strain even the closest of relationships. Consider these potential relationship impacts:

Decreased Intimacy and Affection

Loss of interest in sex, physical touch, and emotional intimacy is common with depression but may feel more hurtful without an end in sight. Don’t take it personally; their disinterest likely stems from their illness.

More Conflict andArguments

Frequent arguments, blaming, irritation with one another, and feelings of resentment could increase as the depression wears on both people over time untreated. Good communication is key.

Feelings of Abandonment or Resentment

As the non-depressed partner, you may struggle with feeling like the burden of supporting them alone is too much. Be aware of any resentful feelings developing and work to address them for the relationship’s sake.

Isolation from Friends and Family

The depression may limit your spouse’s ability to socialize as a couple, leaving you feeling isolated too. Find support systems of your own to avoid also feeling alone.

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Coping Strategies for Yourself

Focus on Self-Care. Make sure your basic needs like sleep, nutrition, exercise, and hobbies are met. Taking care of yourself will help you better care for your spouse long-term.

Seek Counseling or Support. Talking about the challenges you face can help reduce stress and problem-solve. Support groups for loved ones of those with mental health issues provide an empathetic network.

Set Clear Boundaries. Don’t take on more responsibility than you reasonably can. It’s okay to say no sometimes and focus on your own well-being too when needed.

Knowledge is power. Understanding treatment-resistant depression better can relieve anxiety over the unknown and help you support your spouse.

Maintain Outside Support Systems. Rely on family and friends for help so you’re not shouldering everything alone. Check-ins, shared meals, and activities provide mental breaks.

Next Steps and Seeking Further Help

If treatments have already failed multiple times, it’s reasonable to explore alternative or additional options beyond basic antidepressants and therapy. These include:

Consulting Specialists

A psychiatrist who specializes in complex or treatment-resistant cases may have new ideas worth trying, like specialized therapies, new medications, or testing for underlying causes.

Considering Experimental Treatments

Last-resort options involve enrolling in clinical trials for experimental depression drugs still in testing phases or experimental therapies like TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) or ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Risks are higher but may succeed where else failed.

Making Lifestyle Changes

Holistic lifestyle tweaks like diet changes, light therapy, sleep routines, exercise, and stress management techniques are safer “add-ons” that may complement formal treatment plans.

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Looking at Relationship Status

Sometimes a big life transition like ending an unhealthy relationship is needed to set the stage for new treatment approaches to work optimally. Counseling helps navigate this major decision.

The road with treatment-resistant depression is difficult but not hopeless. With patience, a solid support system, education on all options, and help from mental health professionals, some individuals do find relief. Focus on taking it one step at a time together. Your loved one’s health and well-being are worth continued advocacy.


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