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Prolonged depression requires active professional treatment


QUESTION: My wife has been severely depressed for nearly three months. What kind of treatment or therapy would you recommend for her?

DR. DOBSON: Get her to a physician, perhaps an internist, as soon as possible. This kind of prolonged depression can have serious medical and psychological consequences, yet it is usually very responsive to treatment. Antidepressant drugs are effective in controlling most cases of depression. She could also be entering menopause and may need estrogen replacement therapy or some other hormone treatment.

Of course, medication will not correct an emotional problem, if that is what underlies her depression. She may need to talk to a psychologist or a psychiatrist after you have approached the problem from a medical perspective. The important thing is to get going. Depression should not be permitted to continue unchecked.

QUESTION: My wife says she feels "trapped" in our marriage. Despite my best efforts to win her over, she says she wants a divorce. Shouldn't I fight for what is important to me? Why can't I let my wife know how badly I want her to stay with me? Why should I play cat-and-mouse games when everything inside me is saying, "Go after her"?

DR. DOBSON: All I can tell you is that in romantic affairs, most people tend to want that which is elusive - that which is just out of reach. They don't want what they are stuck with or that which they have to beat off with a stick. Let me illustrate.

I doubt if you could have coerced your wife to marry you during your dating days. It wouldn't have worked. You had to lure, attract, charm and entice her. This subtle game of courtship unfolded one delicate step at a time. Can you imagine what would have occurred if you had wept violently and hung on her neck, saying, "I think I'll die if you don't marry me! I beg you not to turn me down?"

That desperate approach might be compared (simplistically) to a persistent used-car salesman. What do you think he would accomplish by telling a potential customer through his tears, "Oh, please buy this car! I need the money so badly and I've only had two sales so far this week. You just can't walk away."

This is a farfetched analogy, admittedly, but there is relevance to it. When one has fallen in love with an eligible partner, he attempts to "sell himself" to the other. But like the car dealer, he must not deprive the buyer of free choice in the matter. Instead, he must convince the customer that the purchase is in her own interest. If a woman would not buy an automobile to ease the pain of a salesman, how much more unlikely is she to devote her entire life to someone she doesn't love, simply for benevolent reasons? None of us is that unselfish.

Each of us intends to select only one person in the course of a lifetime with whom to invest our entire being, and few of us are willing to squander that one shot on someone we merely pity! In fact, it is very difficult to love another person romantically and pity him or her at the same time.

To summarize, if begging and pleading are ineffective methods of attracting a member of the opposite sex during the dating days, why do victims of bad marriages use the same groveling techniques to hold a drifting spouse? They are only increasing the depth of disrespect by the one who is escaping.

Send your questions to Dr. Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. These questions and answers are excerpted from books authored by Dr. James Dobson and published by Tyndale House Publishers. Dr. Dobson is the chairman of the board for Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.