Dear Dr. B,
My husband has suffered with depression for over the decade we have been together and many more years before that. When he is depressed he views me as the enemy, so any time I try to reach out he views it as manipulative, controlling, etc. He pushes me away!
Is it typical that when he isn’t depressed we discuss how his behaviors are hurtful and he acknowledges it but then when he cycles into depression he does the same behaviors that we discussed?
His family has an interesting dynamic. He has been abused and manipulated by his mother and ex-wife. Is it possible that the depression could be part of his anger and hatred toward women?? Many times the things I do are twisted so that he becomes the victim. I have grown in my relationship with God so as to not take it personal!
Thanks for your thoughts!
Trying to Understand Spouse’s Depression
First let me say, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with the anger from your husband. I know that’s so very hard!
Depression is OFTEN expressed through anger. BUT, that being said, there are often other things going on that are less obvious and harder to diagnose without a thorough evaluation.
It is quite possible that while depression is part of the picture, there is another diagnoses lurking in the background. But the only way to know for certain is for him to undergo an evaluation. It is not possible for me or any other provider to make a diagnosis from such a brief description or without seeing him and talking to him personally.
I would first encourage your husband to see his primary care physician to rule out a medical condition which could prompt such changes in mood and personality. Then if he is cleared medically, I’d strongly recommend a psychological evaluation to determine if what he is struggling with is truly depression or perhaps something else or something in addition to depression. Accurate diagnosis is essential to effective treatment.
Kudos to you for growing in your relationship to the Lord and learning that his anger, and his depression is not your fault. I know it hurts to be the object of his wrath.
The truth is that hurting people hurt other people. If your husband has been the brunt of others’ pain, it makes perfect sense that he may then inflict pain on others. The good news is that while hurt people hurt other people, freed people free people, so with appropriate help and treatment, he could help others too.
The Bible encourages us to “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15 NLT). As a spouse you can be understanding of his feelings, show him love and compassion, and discuss with him how his outbursts make you feel in an emotionally neutral context and tone of voice.
It can be very difficult to talk to a spouse in the heat of emotion. When our thoughts and subsequent behaviors are based on our emotions rather than on God’s truth, discussions are often pointless. That is why you can have reasonable discussions with him at times but when he is in the depths of his depression, his behaviors don’t match up with the discussions you’ve had.
I do not believe, however, that God intends for you to be the recipient of abuse. If that is part of the equation, please take appropriate steps to ensure your safety.
You mentioned that your husband was the target of abuse by other women in his life. It may be helpful for you, or a trusted friend, physician, or pastor to encourage his participation in therapy to help heal old wounds inflicted by those relationships. You too may find it beneficial to participate in therapy to learn how to better support your husband, while also protecting your own heart from intentional or unintentional wounding.
I would encourage you to speak God’s truth to and over your husband. Declaring God’s truth is the best way to combat the lies of the enemy. Truths such as:
- You are Special (Ephesians 2:10)
- You were Created for a Purpose (Jeremiah 29:11)
- You are Cared for (Ephesians 3:17-19)
- You are Strong (Psalm 68:35)
- You are Important (1 Peter 2:9)
- You are Forgiven (Psalm 103:12)
- You are a New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- You are Empowered (Philippians 4:13)
- You are Protected (Psalm 121:3)
- You are Chosen (John 15:16)
Above all, know that God sees and He cares. He has not and will not leave you to fight this battle alone.
Because of Him,
Get a free copy of my eBook: How To Help a Depressed Loved One.
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Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
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In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: https://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.