Is Depression Contagious?

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sad black couple
If you love someone who's depressed, there's something you should know.

For years, Julie and Owen exercised together. When it became too difficult for Julie to convince Owen to run with her anymore, Julie also stopped running. Running was once a way for Julie and Owen to stay in touch with their neighbors, who also were runners.Increasingly, Julie felt cut off, depressed at the loss of her old, fun, casual friendships.

3. Learned helplessness. Psychologist Martin Seligmanidentified the depressive phenomenon he labeled "learned helplessness." When people are seriously depressed, trying to do anything feels overwhelming.

For example, for years, Julie and Owen shared household responsibilities. Eventually, however, Owen seemed to have lost his ability to see what needed to be done and take care of it.  He seldomly swept the floor no matter how much food the baby had scattered on it. He'd get up from the dinner table and walk into the TV room as if there were no dishes to be cleared from the table. 

With all the work of childcare and keeping up a household falling into her lap, Julie felt overwhelmed and helpless.

4. Dominant-submissive interactions. An episode of depression is usually triggered by a dominant-submissive interaction, like being criticized or told what to do, or by a decision in which someone submissively gives up on what they wanted.  Owen had known for a while that the hostile relationship he had with his boss was likely to get him fired. One final flare-up did the tric, and Owen was the clear loser.

As Owen's depression continued, his wife became wary of doing anything that might make it worse. This concern led her to say yes far too often when she really wanted to say no. "Yes, I can clean up the kitchen;" "Yes, I'll cancel our plans to go out with friends."

Each time Owen and Julie made a decision together where one had to concede something of importance to him/her, more depression was the by-product. 

5. It's treatable. The good news is that depression is highly treatable. Psychotherapy, medications or both can make a significant difference. My experience as a therapist has clarified that couples therapy and/or a marriage education program is particularly high-impact for depressed people who are in ongoing relationships. Keep reading ...

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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