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*****= An all-time favorite
The Impact of Depression on Couples and What You Can Do to Preserve the Bond
by Anne Sheffield
Reviewed August 2, 2005.
Quill (HarperCollins), 2003. 276 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005 (#6, Relationships)
I had a bad bout with depression recently, and I’ve had trouble with it off and on over the years. Like Hermione, when I have a problem, I want to read everything I can about the subject, so I’ve been reading up on depression.
This book is different from most books on depression, in that it focuses on the impact of depression on close relationships.
“By any name, depression is a biological illness so serious that the World Health Organization and the World Bank rate it as a leading cause of disability in the United States and worldwide, and the American Medical Association considers it the most incapacitating of all chronic conditions in terms of social functioning…. Although depression is also closely correlated with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses, and although the number of those afflicted appears to be steadily rising, this potential killer is consistently underrated by the general public and often undetected by health professionals.”
Part of the reason I’m reviewing this book, rather than simply reading it quietly, is that depression has a stigma. We feel that we should be able to snap out of our bad mood on our own. Or perhaps we don’t realize that we are in a bad mood. We feel that things actually are hopeless. We have no energy to try to improve our lot, and what’s the point in trying anyway? Or maybe our bad mood is simply the fault of stress. Or our spouse’s fault. Why in the world are we so ashamed of having an illness?
I am an optimistic person, but I still have trouble with depression, especially premenstrually, but at other times as well. Depression, like migraines, involves changes in the chemistry of the brain. A physical problem is involved, and therefore it can be treated with medicine. I believe this, yet I still felt like a failure when I talked with my doctor about antidepressants.
Depression is also one of the most treatable chronic illnesses. “The currently available antidepressant medications and adjunctive treatments can pull approximately 80 percent of depression sufferers out of their personal hellholes.” Antidepressants don't mask problems, but help the depressives cope with them. If the depressive is willing to get treatment, that is.
Depression affects your closest relationships. Anne Sheffield says there are five stages of “depression fallout” which your significant other will go through when depression is prolonged: confusion, self-doubt, demoralization, resentment, and finally, wanting to get out of the relationship. Knowing about the stages can help you cope with them.
Anne Sheffield’s earlier book, How to Survive When Someone You Love Is Depressed, prompted her to start a website, www.depressionfallout.com. From the message board there, she learned that partners of depressives were dealing with the same situations over and over again. She learned that it was normal for the depressives to say they were no longer in love, and to feel that the very presence of the spouse put pressure on them. A common theme was of the depressive wanting to take a trip, and then contacting everyone but the spouse while they travel. Spouses wonder why they won’t accept love and support from someone who so desperately wants to give it to them. Depressives were over and over again putting blame on their partners for their bad feelings, and reasoning that if they just got out of the relationship, things would get better.
She says, “You and your depressed partner are playing games with different rules. Your rules have been in place for a long time and are governed by the love and joint history you share, but depression installed a whole new set of rules while you weren’t looking. Since you can’t win if you play by them, and you don’t want to opt out of the game, you need to figure out how you can hang in there and stay sane until the depression lifts.”
This book discusses how to talk with your partner about depression, discusses treatment options, and talks about how to cope, whether the depressed partner gets treatment or not.
It’s common for partners of depressed people to become depressed themselves. The more those partners know about the illness, and the more knowledge they have about the ways it normally affects relationships, the more equipped they will be to keep from sinking into depression themselves.
This is a fascinating book, shedding new light on a problem that plagues more than 19 million Americans—and the people they love.
Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All