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Can I Help My Wife With Depression?

Question:

My wife is suffering from depression, we have recently got married, an event which we thought was causing most of the stress and depression, however that doesn’t appear to be the case. she feels unable to vent her frustrations and doesn’t know what causes the low periods. An overwhelming that she can’t cope worries her. She has been taking 20mg fluoxatine daily for the last 12 months, however is reluctant to go back to the doctor through fear of being given a stronger dosage and becoming reliant on the tablets. Is there anything that I can do to help her to relax and get through this?

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  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

Depression takes a toll on relationships, as the first thing a depressed person typically does is get irritable with people around them and withdraw. You’re to be commended for seeing through this to the issue at hand – a brain that isn’t functioning properly. Certainly if your wife has not benefited from her Prozac dosage after twelve months, it isn’t working as it is intended. She’ll really need to go back to the doctor and explore different or alternative medications and dosages. Reassure her that anti-depressant medications are not habit-forming. They are not abused on the street and this is because they don’t get anyone ‘high’. Some of the medications do seem to produce a limited ‘withdrawal’ syndrome that can last for a few days – but this can be minimized under a doctors instructions. In any event, the advantages of being on the anti-depressant meds (when they are working) far outweigh any disadvantages. If one medicine disagrees with your wife’s quality of life, there are a bunch more she can try. The other thing she can explore is Cognitive Therapy for Depression, which is a form of psychotherapy that has been scientifically shown to be as effective as any medication, has no side effects, and continues to work to ward off future depressions after it is done with. A typical course of Cognitive Therapy runs between 12 and 18 sessions (one per week). There is homework, as the therapist teaches the client new ways to think about what they are going through that need to be practiced at home. If you decide to go this route (which I recommend as an effective alternative to medicine), make sure that the therapist you work with has been trained in this modality. There are many forms of therapy – but not all of them are any good at helping depression.

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