Depressed and Refusing Help

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hello, I am a 4th year psychology student getting my bachelor’s in the spring. I am hoping to go to grad school and become a clinical psychologist, but I would like some help with my current situation.

My fiancé and I have been living together for the past 2 years now and everything has been going well for the most part. About a year and a half ago she began seeing a psychologist for depression and bouts of rage.

In high school, she had been put on Prozac by a psychiatrist but found that it made her much more apathetic than feeling better, by the way. Now she swears that no medication will ever make her feel better and refuses any doctor who tells her that what she needs is an anti-depressant.

The problem is, lately things have been getting much worse for her. This spring, she dropped out of college, after struggling for 3 years (great grades but “can’t find anything that [she] likes at all” in her art school). Since then, she has been working as a bartender at a restaurant that treats her horribly, but she seems to have developed learned hopelessness and refuses to leave thinking that there are no other opportunities (they work her over 40 hours a week, void her checks because she “makes enough in tips to cover minimum wage”, make her work off the clock or threaten to fire her, keep her on longer than her scheduled times, etc.). In addition, she no longer feels comfortable in our home that we have been refinishing and tells me that “we need to move somewhere else where [she] is more comfortable,” but her expectations are unrealistic for our price capabilities. Also, the last month or so, our sex life has become nearly nonexistent. She claims that she really wants to be physical, but when it comes to it, she feels that “[her] body just shudders and says that it needs to stop.” I can hardly touch her now. She assures me that she loves me still and wants to be with me, but things are becoming incredibly strained because of all of this.

In addition, she has told me that she is never happy anymore, as well as stating that she wishes she weren’t here several times (to which I discussed with her that if she was suicidal that I would have to seek help, and she assures me that she could never commit suicide). She is hopeless most of the time, tired most days, feels that she cannot make any friends or keep any real friendships. She has great difficulty going out in public and avoids almost all social settings unless it is with her only 2 friends, or completely private (e.g. a movie with me). Even at times like this, she will find something that upsets her and sulk and demand to leave.

I am incredibly worried about her and feel that I have no options to help her. I have suggested finding a psychologist who will work with her on cognitive behavioral therapy, but she refuses. Also, she has told me that she will not take any sort of medication for depression, so I have no idea what other options there are left.

Is there anything that I can do at all, or is this completely up to her? I have told her that I am willing to go to counseling with her, whether it be couples, group, individual, or anything else, but she has never followed through on any of it.

Please help me to show my fiance that she can be happy!

A. You’ve modified your lifestyle to accommodate her evolving needs. You’re supportive and loving. You’re even willing to attend treatment with her. You are clearly doing everything you can to help your fiancé. You’re doing what every loving partner should do when presented with such a situation but at this point she’s unwilling to accept help.

You’re in a predicament. She didn’t cause herself to be depressed but it is up to her to decide that she wants help. You can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do.

You’re not left with many options but there is something else you can try. Give her an ultimatum: agree to participate in therapy for at least six months or you are not getting married. That may seem like a harsh tactic but your options are limited. It may be necessary to save the relationship and her well-being.

If her ultimate decision is that she’s unwilling to seek help, you then have to decide whether you want to stay in this relationship. It would be difficult to maintain a relationship with someone who is emotionally unstable and who is unwilling to attempt to help themselves. It won’t be easy for you to stay and you may begin to resent her. Her unwillingness to seek help undoubtedly affects the relationship and your happiness.

If you’re ensure about how to proceed, then consider consulting a therapist. I am suggesting that you see a therapist when it’s your fiancée who is depressed because it’s a delicate situation and a difficult dilemma, especially if your fiancée continues to refuse help. You’d feel much better if you had objective, sound clinical advice about how to navigate this most important relationship. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Depressed and Refusing Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/07/03/depressed-and-refusing-help/