Could mental health issues be harming your marriage?

Dr. Jonathan Swinton

Have you or your spouse ever been diagnosed with a mental health problem? Mental health problems are much more common than most people realize. The most recent estimates indicate that approximately 25 percent of adults experience depression symptoms, 30 percent of adults experience anxiety symptoms, and even more experience excessive levels of stress. In this high-pressure world these problems are increasing in prevalence.

From the perspective of a relationship and mental health expert, this is very concerning because research has shown that if either spouse is struggling with mental health issues, your marriage may be negatively impacted. In fact, research has indicated that if mental health issues preceded your relationship problems, your relationship may not fully resolve until the mental health issues are under control. Similarly, if marital problems preceded the mental health problems, resolving the relationship problems may be a key to improving mental health. With the prevalence of mental health issues today, the chances of one spouse experiencing struggles with mental health problems is high.

How do I know if I have mental health issues? To help you with this, I have loaded a quick screener for depression, anxiety, and excessive stress on my website (http://www.drswinton.com/?p=338). If you score above the normal range, it may be wise to seek further assessment from a competent professional. A high score on the assessment is not meant to be a diagnosis of mental health problems, rather, it is meant to help you see what may need further assessment.

What can I do if I do struggle with mental health issues? First, remain positive. Most mental health issues are very manageable, especially if you have the support of your spouse. With your spouse try these things as a team to resolve the mental health symptoms:

1. Seek help in counseling/therapy as a couple and work together on the mental health symptoms.

2. Get a full physical with blood work to rule out physiological causes of mental health symptoms.

3. Talk to your physician about medications that may be helpful.

4. Start a regular daily exercise program.

5. Get enough sleep (at least 7.5 to 9 hours).

6. Best case scenario is to do all the above.

I suggest that all couples be screened for mental health issues. You may not realize that things can feel better than they do now with some simple professional help. Visit the link provided above to make sure you and your spouse are doing well. It may be the key to keeping your marriage healthy now and in the future.

Dr. Swinton is a relationship and mental health expert with Utah State University Extension in Sevier County. If you have questions you would like him to confidentially address in this column, email him at jonathan.swinton@usu.edu.

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