My Husband Closes Down

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My husband suffers with clinical depression for which he is receiving treatment. Every so often he withdraws totally not speaking, not getting involved with anything happening around him. He loves planning our holidays but when he is like this he loses interest in that as well. He just watches TV or plays games on computer, drinks two bottles of wine a day and pigs on chocolate. I can tell when it is about to start as he becomes easily agitated and tends to answer questions with ‘its up to you’ the smallest thing will make him just close down. Last time it happened it lasted for two weeks and in that time our two dogs had a serious fight and he would not do anything to help with the one who had been badly injured saying it was my fault for not controlling them.

He comes out of this with no warning but always seems really drained of energy afterwards, he says he feels very lonely when he is like this but can’t seem to do anything about it.

He has been married before and his first wife was abusive and physically hurt him. I hate to see him like this as his life seems to close down for these periods and he withdraws from everything he enjoys doing.

A: How very sad for you both. What you are describing certainly sounds like depression. But it also sounds like your husband may not be getting sufficient treatment. As you are in your late 50s, I’m guessing that your husband is about the same age. As we age, physiology changes. His medication may need adjustment accordingly. It may also be that he isn’t able to give his doctor an accurate report of how he behaves when he is in these episodes of withdrawal. He doesn’t see himself as you do.

I suggest that you talk to your husband about letting you come to his next appointment with his doctor so that you can add to the conversation about how he is doing if you think he is leaving things out or minimizing the effect of the depression on him and on his family.

I also hope your husband is in therapy. Often medicine alone isn’t enough to resolve depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been found to be very effective in helping people manage a mood disorder. Ask his doctor for a referral to someone who specializes in helping adults who are suffering from depression.

You must care deeply for this man to withstand these periods of gloom. Unlike his first wife, you are seeking help instead of hurting him out of frustration. I hope your husband is able to accept your love and let you participate in his treatment.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Nov 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). My Husband Closes Down. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/11/13/my-husband-closes-down/