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My husband is depressed, very negative and withdrawn. At 84, I am very tired and short of patience. Any suggestions?


Question:  My husband has been depressed for over 16 years. In the last five years he has tried medications with his doctor's help but they seem not to help. Our life has come to a grinding stop and at 84, I am very tired and short of patience. He is very negative and withdrawn—the total opposite of the man I married 45 years ago. Any suggestions?

Dr. Amy:  You must feel terribly discouraged, but I urge you and your husband to keep trying. Depression is not a normal part of aging and it is often misdiagnosed and under-treated in older adults. However medications for depression have advanced considerably over the past number of years. While it can sometimes take time to find the right treatment, I am hopeful you will find the one that can control your husband's depression. Talk to your doctor. If you feel he or she isn't up to the task, ask to be referred to a specialist.

In addition to medication, cognitive therapy has been shown to be very helpful. You, too, may benefit from counseling to deal with the pressures and frustrations you have experienced over the years - and to learn how best to support your husband through his recovery.  I also encourage you to read up on depression and learn as much as you can. It's a mysterious disease, and there is a lot we still don't understand. Andrew Solomon's "The Noonday Demon," a finalist for the Pulitzer prize in 2002, delivers excellent insights. And there are many articles and books published every year on the topic. Don't give up!

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