12. Depression affects more than the individual with the
depression - it's a family-and-friends problem as well. If your spouse is depressed, he or she may be constantly talking about the history of the marriage and relationship. Remember,
the "garbage truck" is running in their brain, thinking of every bad thing that has been done, said, or not done. The spouse that isn't depressed is frequently "dumped on" with hundreds of accusations and thoughts that are long after-the-fact and totally beyond correction at this point. The nondepressed spouse may suddenly learn that their partner never did like their hairstyle, their mother, their choice of automobile, or the price of the house. The nondepressed spouse will hear many "thoughts" that were present at the time of marital decisions, often years ago, but were never mentioned. The nondepressed spouse may be awakened at night with accusations and complaints that may last for hours. The nondepressed spouse will be made to feel responsible for these unspoken wishes and will be helpless as the depressed spouse lists mistakes and misunderstandings that have taken place during the entire marriage/relationship. Even though they might have been discussed at the time, the nondepressed spouse will receive much blame for past events.
If your son or daughter is depressed, they may suddenly withdraw from
the family or become hostile. Due to their youth, most of their life experience is associated with the family, remembering that family experiences makes up 70 percent of their mental video tape. For this reason, the "garbage truck" will be reviewing every mistake or issue in their upbringing. In such cases, the parents are "dumped on" with what they did wrong, bad decisions they've made in raising the son/daughter, or feelings that were never discussed related to their brothers or sisters. With the low self-esteem created by the depression and stress, the son/daughter may be intensely rejecting, as though feeling they must reject the parents before the parents have a chance to reject them. The anger and hostility is often so strong that parents miss the fact that their son/daughter is depressed - they're too busy dealing with accusations or hostility to see the depressed mood.
Older sons and daughters may start apologizing for their behavior in their childhood, seeking forgiveness - despite the fact that they are now parents themselves. Parents may be shocked to find that their depressed married son/daughter is suddenly thinking of divorce in a circumstance that is "out of the blue" and totally unexpected.
If a friend is depressed, they will suddenly have no interest in maintaining your friendship. They'll stop calling, visiting, or writing. If your depressed best friend suddenly gives you their most prized possession or asks you to be included in their will to take care of their children - be on the alert! Such behaviors are often part of a suicide plan in which the depressed friend wants to "take care of business" before they leave this earth. At that point, a heart-to-heart talk is needed, perhaps offering to accompany them to a professional's
office for help. Many depressed individuals are brought to the office by their parents, friends, ministers, union stewards, or work supervisors.
Depression, at some level, will hit every adult eventually. While most depressions are brief, with our serotonin gradually returning as stress decreases, when depression comes and stays you may need professional treatment to recover. If you think you may have depression, obtain an opinion from a mental health or medical professional. That professional can then guide you in the direction of additional treatment and/or possible medication. Depression is no longer a mystery and is easily treated by modern methods. Treatment is usually short-term, there's no lying on a couch, and your insurance covers most of the charges in Ohio and other states. Your community mental health professionals are your clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and those at your community health-care facilities.
This was written by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice at Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Inc. in Portsmouth, Ohio. The handout is provided as a public service to the community.