My Wife Has a History of Depression

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My wife suffers from depression but doesn’t acknowledge the symptoms. What should I do??. She’s been in therapy 20+ years, has a family history of mental illness and addiction on both sides of her family. A few years back, she hit a rough patch in life where she lost her grandmother (who raised her) and her job in the span of a few months. She was in a bad place with her family dealing with a lot of anxiety, depression and emotional issues. Together we got her the help she needed. Found her a new doctor and therapist. She’s been taking Wellbutrin for about 2 years now and it seems she’s leveled out. However, this past Nov/ Dec. she stopped taking it for about 2 -3 months. The only reason she gave me was that she couldn’t get to see her doctor to get a new prescription. (Background: we relocated to a new city this past year, new jobs, new routines, new doctors, etc…). She finally started up the PX again a few weeks ago. She’s about 3 weeks back on the meds but her old symptoms have popped up. (I don’t know the psychological terms, but she thinks that certain people are constantly talking about her and plotting against her. So she lashes out at them, mostly through emails and texts, admonishing them for their actions. None of them are actually doing anything so it creates a lot of family tension and anger. She tries to hide most of this behavior from me. And when I challenge her on the validity of her accusations, she tries to change the subject, gets really angry, or accuses me of being in on whatever conspiracy is at hand. The things she believes these people are saying about her, are very close to the stresses that she currently has in her life. Besides this, she seems visibly agitated, upset and has trouble focusing.

My questions are these:
How long until her symptoms even back out now that she’s back on the Welbutrin?

How can I get more involved in her maintenance?? Should I even try?

At this point, I feel like I’ve done all that I can and that if she’s not going to take the responsibility to take the meds and be well, what am I to do?
What is my role in my wife’s mental health when she’s not asking for my assistance?

Any insight into this situation would be greatly appreciated.

A: I deeply appreciate your situation. It sounds like you have done all you can for your wife — now it is time to do something for you. I would highly recommend Al-Anon. While it might seem odd to recommend a 12-step program for family and friends of alcoholics, your wife’s behavior sounds like it is an outgrowth of being in an alcoholic family — and as such makes you affected by it. This 12-step program will offer support, culled wisdom, fresh thoughts and inspiration. You may also want to supplement this with your own therapy. Turn your attention away from her and toward yourself.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 May 2014

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2014). My Wife Has a History of Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/05/07/my-wife-has-a-history-of-depression/

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