Husband Not Getting Better. What Next?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. My husband was diagnosed bipolar II recently, but I think the Dr. may be wrong. Prior to our relationship, my husband has had a long history of various mental health diagnosis. He has been diagnosed with depression, OCD and PTSD. We dated for awhile, and lived together for over a year before we finally got married. My husband was a happy man during our first two years together. We were then blessed with a baby that we were told we would never be able to have. We both have teenagers from previous relationships. Since the baby was born 18 months ago, he has been moody, depressed, and very “tired,” all the time. If allowed, he will sleep 23 hours per day. I insisted that he seek some help. He started going to a psychiatrist about six months ago. The Dr. told him that he was bipolar and put him on Lithium. He became volatile and intolerable to live with. They stopped the lithium and put him on risperdal. He became even more depressed, but his anxiety also increased. The Dr. added lorazepam and hydroxyzine. He slept through an entire week, only getting up to use the bathroom, or occasionally to eat a half gallon of ice cream. He has gained about 40#. The Dr. added Celexa. I can’t see that it has helped at all.

Today, he saw his psychiatrist again, and Valproic Acid was added to the cocktail. He is now on five medications, and I know that some of them interact or have the potential to interact with each other. When he is supposedly on a “high” he has what others would consider a normal energy level. He does his fair share of the housework, and is generally a pleasant person to be around. He picks up his hobbies that were important to him before I knew him. I can honestly say that I have never seen him be manic in a recognizable fashion. All I have seen for the last 18 months is someone who now has to share my attention and isn’t coping very well. His counsellor tells him, “exercise, do enjoyable activities.” She obviously doesn’t have a toddler. All he does is sleep.

We used to sit on the couch together and cuddle while watching his favorite shows. Now we sit on the couch with his favorite shows on, while he snores. Both my husband and I come from abusive childhoods. I have PTSD too, but I have been blessed with counselors who were able to help me overcome it. I am getting tired of having to, “hold it all together,” while he lays around being “tired, sleepy, and cold.” I have to do by myself what we used to share. I have to carry the whole load because he is ill.

I have been very supportive of his healing process, but I don’t see that the treatment he is getting is healing him. I see him deteriorating. My husband signed a release so that I could speak with his Dr. I have spoken with him on a number of occasions. I am friends with other mental health providers and when I share the situation with them, they all say the same thing, “find a different Dr,” or “get a second opinion.” What is your opinion?

A. Based on the information you have provided I agree with the other mental health providers that you spoke with. It would be helpful to get another opinion regarding your husband’s situation and diagnosis. Knowing his exact diagnosis may be helpful but what is lacking in your husband’s situation is comprehensive help. He is seeing a doctor for medication only and this is not enough. It would be helpful if your husband was meeting with a therapist to help him work through the issues that he is being medicated for. As you have noticed, the medications are not working well and they may even be interacting with each other in a negative way. According to you, he is deteriorating and not improving. I agree with you. Something needs to change.

What does your husband think about his situation? I am wondering about how willing he would be to seeing a new doctor or considering therapy. If he is open to something new this is great and allows you the chance to get him better help. If he is not open to changing doctors or trying therapy then this could limit his ability to change his situation. For the sake of his health and your marriage, I hope he is open to a new approach to treatment.

It might also be helpful for you to consider seeing a therapist. A therapist can help you deal with the stress you incur living with a mentally ill husband, as well as other everyday life stresses. You could really benefit from the help of a good therapist. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Feb 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Husband Not Getting Better. What Next?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/02/29/husband-not-getting-better-what-next/