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Depression

This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

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 resentful.

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.

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