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Book Review - When Someone You Love Is Depressed
When Someone You Love Is Depressed
by Laura Epstein Rosen and Xavier F. Amador
Fireside, 1996
Review by Diana Pederson
Mar 14th 2003

You and your spouse have been married for many years.  Suddenly your spouse gets irritable with every little thing you do.  They are unwilling to continue participating in some favorite activities.  You notice they have started sleeping more than normal.  Perhaps they have even gained some weight.  Did you know that these could all be signs of depression?  One possible reaction may be for you to avoid spending time with your spouse because you are confused by their behavior.  Or, arguments may increase dramatically in frequency.

One of the main themes of the book, When Someone You Love Is Depressed, is that these behavior changes that negatively impact on your relationship with your spouse, coworker, boss, friend, or relative, may signal depression if all other causes for the behavioral change can be ruled out.  Depression may be one of the most undiagnosed illnesses affecting people today.  This book emphasizes the fact that you can’t resolve the relational problems until the cause for the disturbing behavioral change is identified and treated.

Everyone in a relationship with a depressed person experiences several stages in adapting to that person’s depression.  First, you recognize that there is some trouble in your relationship.  You will react to that trouble in some fashion.  Perhaps you will clam up or beginning avoiding that person.  Or, you may try to spend more time with that person to help them get over their changed behavior.  Third, you begin questioning other people who know them to determine what they have observed and how they are interpreting that changed behavior.  This is called the information gathering stage.  Finally, you should begin problem solving together so you can resolve the relationship difficulties.  Unfortunately, in most relationships with an undiagnosed depressed person, you never get to the problem solving stage.  Your friendship or marriage may break up before you even find out the person causing the difficulties is experiencing depression and can be treated medically for this problem.

The authors present eight key guidelines for having a relationship with a depressed person.  These are “1.  Learn all that you can.  2. Have realistic expectations.  3. Give unqualified support.  4. Keep your routine.  5. Express your feelings.  6.  Don’t take it personally. 7. Ask for help. 8. Work as a team.

The different types of depression are thoroughly discussed in chapter 2.  Here you will learn the medical definition (or diagnosis) for depression.  Then information is presented on the different types (or extremes) of depression.  Unipolar depression involves a depressed mood for at least two weeks or more and is the most common type of depression.  Bipolar depression involves mood swings between elevated (manic) and depression.  These people think they can conquer the world in their manic phase and then be suicidal in their depressed state.  Overeating, oversleeping, sensitivity to rejection, and chronic depression are characteristics of “atypical depressions” that are considered very difficult to treat.  Dysthmia is a chronic depressed mood that lasts for at least two years or more.   Seasonal affective disorder affects many people during winter months and totally disappears in the spring and summer.  A person having delusions or hallucinations is experiencing psychotic depression and need immediate treatment.  Many women suffer temporarily from postpartum depression.

A short questionnaire about your troubled relationship is provided along with scoring information to assist you in discovering if depression might be the core of the relationship difficulties.  I suggest using this test with a grain of salt – don’t totally believe the results until they are confirmed by a professional.

The next chapters (3-6) discuss depressed partners (spouses), children, parents, and friendships.  They walk you through the adapting to depression steps and the guidelines for coping with depressed people.  Good examples are given.

Constructive communication is the subject of Chapter 7.  I found the guidelines given here to be the same as those for good listening habits.  It was interesting to see the differences in communicating with a depressed woman versus a depressed man.  Asking for what you need to make a relationship work and coping when your help is turned away are the topics for chapters 8 and 9.  Ideas presented here should help you solve problems and accept the situation if the relationship problems can’t be solved due to the depression.

I’ve personally witnessed undiagnosed depressed people turn to alcohol or illegal drugs in an effort to feel better.  These problems are discussed in chapter 10.  Alcohol and illegal drug use often must be treated before the depression can be properly treated.  This certainly makes treating depression more difficult.

Unfortunately, suicide is often the consequence of untreated depression.  Learning to recognize the signs that the person is suicidal is essential to preventing this tragic result.  I know of people contemplating suicide because their mental health treatment was not successful.  As a family member, I’ve experienced the suicide of a relative for whom no treatment seemed to work.  It was difficult for all to cope with.  I strongly suggest reading chapter 11 carefully if you are currently aware of a family member, spouse, or friend who may consider suicide.  Your intervention may prevent a tragedy.

The final chapters (12-14) discuss both psychological and medical treatments for depression and provide suggestions on finding help for that person.  If the depressed person is a family member, it is sometimes possible for you to get a court order to put that person into treatment (first hand experience).  There are other suggestions given in this book.

Who Should Buy the Book? This is one of the better books I’ve read that teaches a person how to cope with someone else’s depression.  I strongly recommend it.  However, if you suspect you are experiencing depression, I suggest you find another book such as Understanding Depression by J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., M.D. and Leslie Alan Horvitz. 


© 2003 Diana Pederson

Diana Pederson lives in Lansing, Michigan.