How to Help a Spouse With Depression

Helping a spouse or partner with depression can be a challenge. Signs of depression are often hard to see and a person with depression may be reluctant to talk about it or seek professional help. Depression can make a relationship difficult but with counseling it can also bring couples closer.

Last Modified: September 5, 2023
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Ways To Help A Spouse With Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the U.S. Close to 21 million adults had at least one depressive episode in 2020. Depression can affect individuals differently and for some, it can severely impact daily functioning. Spouses and partners may find depression has changed the dynamic in their relationship and created strain.

When a partner is overwhelmed with depression and its symptoms, finding ways to help can be difficult. It may be beneficial to talk openly with your loved one and determine what kind of support they’re hoping for from you. Depression can be one of the most challenging things a person experiences and being sensitive and supportive can often make a big difference for a spouse or partner with depression.

The following tips may help you when supporting your loved one:
  • Learn how to identify the signs and symptoms of depression.
  • Communicate openly and empathetically. Try to understand their point of view.
  • Encourage socializing and activities they typically enjoy without being insistent or forceful.
  • Seek advice from health care professionals.
  • Practice self-care for yourself as well. Take the time you need for your own physical and mental health.

Knowing the early signs of depression can help you prepare to offer your support and understanding. Stay calm and remain patient. If your partner expresses thoughts of self-harm or suicide, seek immediate help. Call 911, call or text 988 to contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, visit or call your loved one’s medical provider.


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Signs Your Spouse Is Experiencing Depression

Familiarizing yourself with some of the physical and emotional markers of depression can help you identify the condition in a loved one. Having a better understanding of the condition will make it easier to determine whether your loved one is simply feeling sad or is living with depression.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of depression include:
  • Experiencing frequent or constant feelings of sadness or anxiety.
  • Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun.
  • Getting easily frustrated and feeling irritable or restless.
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Sleeping too much or waking up too early.
  • Having no appetite or eating more or less than usual.
  • Experiencing headaches, pains or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment.
  • Having trouble remembering details, concentrating or making decisions.
  • Feeling tired, even after sleeping well.
  • Feeling helpless, guilty or worthless.
  • Thinking about suicide or self-harm.

When symptoms last more than two weeks, it’s time to encourage loved ones to seek professional help. Remember also that some symptoms may have causes other than depression. If you’re uncertain, always seek a professional opinion.

Talk to your family doctor or a mental health practitioner, but remember, unless there is a severe risk of harm, they may not be able to discuss your partner’s situation without permission. In most cases it’s better if you can see a health provider together.

How to Encourage Treatment

Understanding and compassion are critical to providing the information, support and guidance a spouse or partner with depression needs. Being able to discuss the problem in a way that makes the person feel safe and comfortable can encourage a more open dialogue and also help them feel more optimistic about treatment options and seeking professional help.

Remind your spouse or partner that they can get help and that mental health problems can be treated. Ask questions and be responsive when discussions around mental health come up. Don’t forget to slow down or back up if they become confused or upset during a discussion.

Psychotherapy for depression is a common form of treatment. Many people with depression feel better after receiving psychotherapy, medication or both. Find out if they’re getting the care they need. If they aren’t, offer to connect them to available health resources.

Couples Therapy for Depression

Along with individual therapy, research suggests that couples therapy can also be beneficial. Behavioral couples therapy is designed for couples with relationship distress and one partner with depression.

BCT addresses the decreasing closeness and increasing conflict between partners and the influence that has on the progression of depression. New approaches to BCT include a combination of online coaching and talk therapy as well as self-help tools that use digital video and other practical materials.

Cognitively based compassion training for couples is another innovative psychotherapeutic treatment designed to improve individual well-being and relationship quality. CBCT-FC therapy helps couples increase emotional bonds, clarify meaning and increase social learning.


Depression is a contributing factor to a host of adverse health outcomes. It can also have an impact on the well-being of partners and spouses who are caring for loved ones with the condition.

It’s essential to ensure you’re taking care of yourself, too. This not only helps you but also those around you. Eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising and taking the time you need for your physical health and peace of mind will help you better help your spouse. Connect with others and don’t forget that as a spouse or partner, it’s also important that you get the help you need when you need it.


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Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.