Shalom bayis is hard when you have depression

Depression can have a devastating effect on your relationship with your family. If you’re suffering from depression, it becomes easy to interpret circumstances negatively even when others, including your spouse, feel or tell you it’s not that bad. You may not feel worthy of love or find that you are experiencing more and more conflicts in your relationship. 

When feeling low, it is tempting to lean on your spouse to make you feel better, but when depression enters the picture, the stress of sustaining your mental health without professional support can add extra tension to your relationship. 

You might feel frustrated that your spouse isn’t doing enough, or that no matter what they do, it doesn’t help. Your spouse may feel that their efforts are unappreciated or that no matter how much they do, you are both still suffering.

Some people feel that having a depressed spouse is close to having a third person in their marriage. When you’re feeling depressed, your perspective can shift so that everything looks negative and feels hopeless. When this happens, even your marriage can be seen in a negative light. When you feel better, shalom bayis can be much easier to attain. Your spouse might even remark that they feel like the old you has returned. However, these ups and downs can make life pretty difficult. 

Physical symptoms of depression can also take a toll on your state of mind and your relationship with your spouse. Physical symptoms can include:

  • lack of energy,
  • trouble sleeping,
  • digestive problems,
  • a worsening of chronic pain (if there was already an issue),
  • or changes in appetite or weight (increasing or decreasing).

Click here for the full list of physical symptoms.

Who’s more likely to suffer from depression in your relationship?

More than 300 million people all over the world suffer from depression, with 17.3 million adults in the US suffering from at least one depressive episode in 2017.

Men and women can both be affected by depression, but women are twice as likely to suffer. Women are also more likely to experience anxiety along with depression, while men are more likely to experience alcohol abuse with depression.

In some cases, there seems to be a biological link for children and teenagers to suffer from depression, especially for females. When a mother suffers from depression, the risk to her daughter of developing depression is higher. In general, the pattern for children and teenagers is the same, although girls are more likely to report depression. However, some boys, especially those who are anxious in early childhood, are at risk for developing depression when they’re older.

What this means for your family

The Jewish new year is a time for reflection. Who are you? Who do you want to be? How are you going to become that person? If you’re suffering from depression, learning tools to manage it and develop a healthy mindset is the best thing you can do, not only for yourself but also for your marriage and shalom bayis.

Depression is a treatable disorder, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been proven to effectively treat depression. Together with marriage counseling, which can help both of you understand how depression affects you and your life together, you can learn the skills you need to change yourself, revitalize your marriage, and look forward to the coming year.

I wish you all a healthy, happy, and sweet new year.

About the Author
David Lefkowitz, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist with two decades of experience helping clients gain self-understanding, get unstuck, and lead happier, more productive, and balanced lives. He sees clients in his Brooklyn offices in Flatbush and Borough Park.
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