Depression and Divorce
The 20-something couple, married just a few years, was eagerly looking
forward to the birth of their first baby.
Labor and delivery went fine, and the baby was born healthy. But problems
began when the new mom, overwhelmed by motherhood, suffered depression.
"The husband had to take care of everything," recalls Joan R. Sherman, MFT,
a licensed marriage and family therapist in Lancaster, Pa., who saw the couple
in counseling. When he was at work, he worried that his wife was so
depressed she wasn't paying needed attention to the baby. He became so worried
he secretly set up a "nanny cam."
She got more and more depressed; he got more anxious, angry, and
As this case history suggests, depression that affects one partner has an
effect on the other partner, the relationship and ultimately the entire family.
Nearly 15 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18
and older, is affected with a major depression in a given year, according to
the National Institute of Mental Health.
Statistics about how frequently depression affects one partner in a
relationship are elusive, say Sherman and other experts. But mental health
counselors like Sherman say depression often leads couples to seek counseling,
fearful the depression will lead to divorce.