Do We Avoid Depressed Spouses?


Decorating guru Nina Campbell taught her daughter from a young age never to arrange a chair off on its own or a shy person would end up sitting there with no one to talk to. I don’t worry about the shy person. I just try to hook them up with another shy, cool person.

I worry about the depressed military spouse at a party or meeting or conference or event who ends up sitting alone.


Pull the chairs in, people.

One in fifteen Americans is currently living with depression--and that includes military spouses. Some studies have found that during times of high operational tempo, military spouses have double the rate of depression than their civilian counterparts.

My heart goes out to them. To you.  To us. I have had my own bouts with clinical depression. When ‘the black dog’ was on me, I struggled to show up at functions at all. Even though there was plenty of research that showed how uplifting it was to be with other people and how it could break your own cycle of negative thinking, at the time it felt like too much effort for too little reward.

It was confusing. You would think that in the moment you needed help the most, your military spouse community would come through for you. Instead, it seemed like that was the moment your military spouse community avoided you. Why is that?

(If you are currently struggling with depression, you should know that depression is one mental health ailment that responds well to therapy.  Call Military OneSource 1-800-342-9647 for free counseling.)

Depression is contagious.

It could be that when you are depressed you are so negative that you only think people are avoiding you.

Then again, people really could be avoiding you. So often military spouses are barely keeping their own heads above water. They may feel like they can’t keep another person afloat. So the depressed spouse ends up alone.  That isn't good.

A recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science could point to a reason spouses are even more likely to avoid another depressed spouse.

Researchers Gerald Haeffel, Ph.D., and Jennifer Hames of the University of Notre Dame found that living with a depressed college roommate made the other roommate more prone to depression. They hypothesized that cognitive vulnerability might be especially contagious during major life transitions when our social environments are in flux.

That describes military spouse life to a T, doesn’t it? When are we not undergoing a major life transition?  When are our social environments NOT in a state of flux?

While the researchers were excited by these findings because they thought they could use the depressed person’s social environment to aid their recovery, that is easier said than done--especially when everyone in the social environment is a continual state of flux.

Do we avoid depressed spouses in the military? And if so, how is a depressed spouse supposed to change their social environment to start feeling better?  What do we do that actually helps?



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