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Understanding How Depression Can Affect Your Relationship and Vice Versa


Depression can have many trying effects on a romantic relationship and, on the other hand, certain behaviors in a relationship can contribute to depression. The link between depression and romantic relationships can become cyclical and it’s important to understand how one affects the other. 

How Depression Can Affect Your Relationship

Research shows that people with depression have “fewer positive interactions and more negative interactions with their significant other,” compared to people who don’t have depression.(1)

Every relationship takes work and has its difficulties. However, when one person in a relationship struggles with depression, it brings unique challenges to the dynamic. 

Someone who is depressed can experience:

  • Lower sex drive: Feelings of worthlessness and fatigue can contribute to low sex drive.
  • Difficulty communicating: People with depression may have difficulty expressing how they’re feeling or how depression is affecting them.
  • Withdrawal: People with depression often withdraw from loved ones.
  • Negative outlook: Someone who is depressed may constantly dwell on the negative aspects of their partner or their relationship and may turn to a pattern of criticism. 
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms: Sometimes, people cope with depression in unhealthy ways, like turning to behaviors such as overeating, consuming drugs and/or alcohol, or consistently oversleeping.

These circumstances can have a negative impact on the other person’s mental health. For example, someone supporting a partner with depression may feel:

  • Neglected
  • Lonely
  • Anxious
  • Worried
  • Responsible for their partner’s happiness/depression

If you believe that your partner is suffering from signs or symptoms of depression, consider approaching them and talking openly to them about your concerns. It can also be beneficial to learn how you can support them when you notice that they seem more depressed.

If you feel that you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, get support. 

How Your Relationship Could Contribute to Depression

While relationships can enrich our lives, if there is conflict or unhealthy dynamics, they can also cause stress, possibly leading to symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Dynamics that can lead to depression in relationships include:

  • A high level of conflict
  • Lack of communication
  • Infidelity
  • Abuse (emotional and physical)
  • Difficulty resolving problems

If you believe that certain dynamics of your relationship are contributing to symptoms of depression in yourself, consider finding support. A licensed therapist can help you work through your feelings and identify the cause. A marriage or relationship therapist can help you and your partner pinpoint areas of your relationship that contribute to dissatisfaction. 

If you are suffering from abuse, know that it is not your fault and that you do not deserve it. If you’re not sure where to turn, find help with your general practitioner or with a therapist. These healthcare professionals can guide you to the resources you need to leave the relationship and heal from the effects of the abuse. 

Getting Help for Depression

It’s possible for someone to struggle with depression even when a relationship is strong and has healthy dynamics. Depression treatment can help relieve the symptoms of depression, improving the affected person’s health as well as the health of the relationship. There are many treatment options available for depression, including:

The sooner one starts depression treatment, the more likely they are to achieve remission and avoid relapse.


Resources:

1. Zlotnick C, Kohn R, Keitner G, and Della Grotta SA. The relationship between quality of interpersonal relationships and major depressive disorder: findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. J Affect Disord.2000;59(3):205-15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10854637/. Accessed October 15, 2021.

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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