New research has revealed specific links between mental health issues and marital distress. According to a new study conducted by researchers from Purdue University and the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, major depression is just one factor that directly contributes to low marital satisfaction. Susan C. South of Purdue University, and lead author of the study, said, “Low levels of marital satisfaction have also been linked with anxiety disorders, alcohol use disorders, drug use disorders, and personality disorders.” Research has shown that partners who both suffer with mental health issues experience lower levels of marital satisfaction than couples in which only one partner struggles. However, few studies have examined exactly how these issues affect marital distress. In their study, South and her colleagues looked at internalizing (INT) behaviors, including depression, anxiety, fear and phobias; and externalizing behaviors, including substance use problems, conduct issues and antisocial tendencies. They evaluated over 900 couples and assessed their marital state and mental health.
The researchers found that over 65% of the men in the study had at least one problem, the most common being addiction to nicotine. Likewise, nearly 60% of the women also had one mental health issue, with both nicotine dependence and depression being equally common, accounting for roughly 25% of the women in the sample. “Internalizing and externalizing psychopathology factors were significantly negatively associated with marital adjustment in both the individual and his or her partner,” said the team. “In line with extensive research findings to date, marital satisfaction was negatively correlated with symptoms of major depression for both men and women.” The team added, “Couples may well benefit from dual therapy that includes treatment for congruent mental illness and poor relationship functioning. These interventions should be targeted at the mechanisms by which broad classes of psychopathology impair communication and interaction and thus leads to dysfunction in the marital relationship. In this way, prevention and intervention efforts can focus on the ways in which long-standing patterns of personality, cognition, and behavior can trigger both symptoms of mental illness and dysfunction in close, interpersonal relationships.”
South, S. C., Krueger, R. F., & Iacono, W. G. (2011, September 26). Understanding General and Specific Connections Between Psychopathology and Marital Distress: A Model Based Approach. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025417
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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