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by Anne Sheffield
Quill, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jan 20th 2005

Depression Fallout

Anne Sheffield is author of How You Can Survive When They're Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout and after writing that book she created a website, www.depressionfallout.com.  This new book, Depression Fallout: The Impact of Depression on Couples and What You Can Do to Preserve the Bond is largely based on the many postings on the website message boards.  It's main message to readers is that they are not alone, and it sets out the many shared experiences of people who are in couples with depressed partners.  Sheffield herself suffers from depression and so she writes as both an advocate for people with depression as well as for those who try to cope with them.  Sheffield also discusses ways to treat depression and solve problems between couples. 

I imagine that some people find this sort of book useful.  Indeed, many Amazon.com customers give the book high ratings.  It might be especially appropriate for people who are just coming to suspect that their partner is depressed and want some confirmation of this and some hints about what to do.  Given that so many people find web message boards useful too and even say that there is real community there, it makes sense that some will also find it comforting to discover have had similar experiences to themselves. 

Personally, I don't have much enthusiasm for this sort of book.  Summaries of stories given on website message boards don't much interest me and I don't find much comfort in knowing that other people have the same problems as myself.  Sheffield's book is full of vague generalities and assertions that sometimes this or that happens when you have a depressed partner.  Most of the psychiatric information in this book is available in just about all other books on mood disorders and depression.  Since a good deal of the advice in the book comes from the message boards, it is not clear how much of it is reliable and really helpful.  The book is probably helpful as a source for suggestions about how to negotiate problems in a relationship, but readers obviously need to use their own intelligence in deciding whether they are really applicable to their particular situations.

One issue that receives little attention in this book is the extent to which the discovery that one's partner suffers from depression should not be much of a surprise.  My own guess, which is mainly inspired by personal observation rather than knowledge of the scientific literature, is that when selecting a partner, people often will choose people with qualities with which they are familiar or comfortable.  So people who themselves suffer depression will often feel that only those who also experience depression will really understand them, and so consciously or unconsciously seek out other depressives.  Similarly, people who grew up with a depressed parent may well relate best to a partner who reminds them of his or her parent.  This is not a major omission for such a book, but it would be interesting to learn what research has been done on this and maybe more important, how one is likely to find the same problems in most of one's relationships if one keeps on selecting depressed partners. 

 

Links:

·        Anne Sheffield's How You Can Survive When They're Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout

·        Depression Fallout website

 

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.