Secondhand Health Hazards


You've probably heard the commercial: Depression hurts. But now it's known that the pain extends beyond the person wrestling with the condition. Being in a relationship with a depressed person can make you at least 25 percent more likely to also become depressed, says clinical psychologist Michael Yapko, author of Depression Is Contagious.

"Women tend to feel more responsible than men and think, If I were a better partner, he'd be happier," says Yapko, and such self-criticism can lead to headaches, stress, and anxiety. What's more, depressed men may become irritable or try to cope by resorting to substance abuse or infidelity--all of which can wreak havoc on your own well-being, says Andrea K. Wittenborn, an assistant professor of human development at Virginia Tech.

The best way to be supportive without getting sucked into a downward spiral is to set clear boundaries on what you're actually responsible for. "Spouses of depressed husbands often take on a caretaking role and limit their socializing, which is bad for their own mental health," explains Wittenborn. Make sure your social life includes plans--friends' nights out, yoga classes, etc.--that will give you a chance to unwind and connect with others.

Heavy Drinking

Happy hour loses its meaning when one of your pals goes overboard. And the more you hang out with boozehounds, the worse it is for you. Spending time around heavy drinkers increases your own alcohol consumption by 70 percent, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Especially if you don't see just how out of control the swilling has gotten. Studies show that people tend to overestimate how much others are imbibing, which makes them feel as if they need to keep up with what's "normal." And that's a big problem because regular binge drinking--four or more drinks on one occasion--increases your risk for liver disease, brain disease, and certain cancers.

But you don't have to choose between a healthy life and a social life. If you have plans to get together with keg-stand-loving pals (or a group of sophisticated wine drinkers), arrive a little later than normal, as one less hour typically equals at least one less cocktail, says William Corbin, a psychology professor at Arizona State University. Before you get there, set a limit on how many drinks you'll have, and stick to a one-drink-one-water rule, which will both slow you down and fill you up. If you think you still might get swept up in the party mood, consider a little financial prevention: Leave your credit card at home and bring enough cash for only a couple of cocktails.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Being with a guy who's willing to scrub the bathroom floor sounds amazing--unless, that is, he insists on doing it every day. About 3 million Americans have OCD (nearly all are diagnosed before age 30), a mental health problem that can, for example, cause a person to get fixated on completing a chore over and over again, says Jonathan Abramowitz, associate chair of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Living with someone who has OCD can get in the way of your relationship and life," says Abramowitz. "You might fight, or you might help him with his compulsive behaviors because you don't want to see him suffer, or both." Plus, the pressure to be perfect can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression in both people, says Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International OCD Foundation.

Couples' cognitive behavioral therapy, in which partners talk through their problematic behavior and learn skills to help reduce obsessions and compulsions, might be effective at treating both OCD and its secondhand health effects, says Abramowitz. And even if your partner resists getting professional help, you should still be sure to seek out a support group or therapist for yourself, says Szymanski. The goal is to come up with coping strategies and ways to clearly show your man that it's not him, but the disorder, that you're fighting.


More from Women's Health:

Tips To Keeping Your Vital Organs Healthy

The 13 Healthiest Foods You Can Eat

Best Way To Boost Up Your Immune System

Women and Alcohol

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