Can Couples Counseling Help If One Partner Is Suffering From Anxiety or Depression?
It should come as no surprise that life can be very difficult for any individual suffering from severe or recurring anxiety or depression. But how does one’s anxiety or depression affect their relationship, and can couples counseling help?
Everyone feels anxious or depressed from time-to-time, and common every-day occurrences, such as meeting tight deadlines, first dates, being turned down for a job, or just watching the evening news can cause mild feelings of depression or anxiety.
However, these types of mild anxiety or depression aren’t bad. In fact, they can be helpful and evolutionary advantageous as these types of depression and anxiety tend to make us more focused and alert when faced with challenging or threatening situations or more empathic to ourselves and others when feeling pain.
Unfortunately, severe anxiety and depression affect countless individuals each year and they often go hand-in-hand. And, unlike the brief anxiety and depression that can be caused by everyday situations, those who suffer from severe and recurring anxiety or depressive disorders experience emotional pain and distress over long periods of time that disrupt their lives, their abilities to function, and their relationships.
It’s not uncommon for a couple to seek counseling when severe depression or anxiety is wreaking havoc on one of the partners and, by extension, the relationship itself. However, it is relatively rare for couples to attend therapy specifically for this reason.
Most couples usually begin counseling to improve their communication and intimacy, work through feelings of hurt or resentment caused by infidelity, develop better parenting skills, or resolve any number of other issues that may be negatively impacting their relationship.
If one of the partners is depressed or highly anxious, it usually becomes apparent within the first few session of couples therapy. Ideally, the partner who’s struggling with anxiety or depression will be willing to take a look at these issues and how they are affecting the relationship – and they almost always are.
Unfortunately, many people will try to deny or minimize any role their anxiety or depression is playing in the difficulties the couple is experiencing. After all, so much of the individual’s self-conception can involve the anxiety or depression they’ve experienced for so long, it can be extremely difficult for them to see it and how it’s affecting their relationship. This doesn’t make it any easier for the other partner, who may feel stuck, worried, unacknowledged, or hopeless about the possibility of saving their relationship and recreating the connection they once shared with their partner.
While the best case scenario may be one in which both partners acknowledge the anxiety or depression, as well as its effects on their relationship, and work together to resolve the issue in a supportive environment, the couples therapist will likely need to take some time to educate the couple and explore the options available for addressing and resolving the individual’s anxiety or depression. These options can include:
- Referring the individual suffering from anxiety or depression to another therapist for individual counseling,
- Having the couples therapist work with the individual alone for a number of sessions before bringing them back to couples counseling, or even
- Referring the individual to a psychiatrist if prescription medications seem warranted.
None of these options is to be taken lightly, and they should all be discussed in detail with your therapist prior to deciding on the best course of action.
If you or your partner is experiencing severe or recurring anxiety or depression that is impairing your relationship, you owe it to yourself to seek professional help.
If you’re already in couples therapy, your couples counselor or therapist can help you determine the severity of the anxiety or depression you’re dealing with, as well as provide a safe and confidential environment to discuss how these issues are affecting your relationship and the best treatment options available.
That having been said, if one partner is suffering from severe or recurring anxiety or depression, the individual will likely need specific anxiety counseling or depression treatment outside the context of the couples work you came to therapy for in the first place.
Individual anxiety or depression counseling or therapy – whether or not it is used in conjunction with medications – is usually necessary in order to help you or your partner identify the thought patterns that cause anxiety or depression, learn and practice relaxation techniques, generate more positive ways of thinking about life, restore balance, regain control, and move forward in life and in your relationship with optimism and confidence so your relationship can once again flourish.
If you have any questions regarding this article, or if I may be of any other assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 408-309-5957 or email me at Talks2people@yahoo.com. I look forward to speaking with you and helping you create a life you truly love living!