In sickness and in health : a qualitive exploration of the experiences of adults living with, and primarily caring for, a spouse diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Caring for a spouse, over and above any other type of informal care recipient, is a unique and complex experience that lacks sufficient exploration. Equally, the experience of caring for a spouse who suffers specifically with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) remains in a literature gap. Of the research that is available in the context of caring for a spouse/partner, the focus has predominantly been on the theoretical concept of caregiver burden and the associated negative experiences that can often manifest as a result of caring for a medically or psychologically ill partner. Further, a number of these studies view participants as 'objects' and there is a noticeable lack of qualitative research in this context whereby the voice of the participant is the one guiding the process of discovery. Accordingly, this study explores this caregiving experience qualitatively, within the interpretivist paradigm and using semi-structured questions and reflexive thematic analysis, so as to gain a better, more in depth and phenomenological understanding of this challenging journey. Six participants were involved in the study. This research both affirms existing findings and explores fresh aspects of the experience, providing new insight and perspectives into spousal caregiving in the context of MDD. It is hoped that these findings will contribute positively towards the way in which people who care for a spouse/partner with MDD, and indeed other mood disorders, are supported.