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How Does Depression Affect Relationships?

depressed man

How Does Depression Affect Relationships?


Persistent sadness, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, low self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness characterize depression. About 1 in 12 American adults experience these debilitating signs daily. And sadly, these effects of depression can destroy relationships.

Some people who battle Major depression describe it as living in a fog. When you lose clarity, you tend to have a distorted perception of yourself, your partner, and life in general. You start having warped beliefs about how your partner views you. Eventually, nothing makes sense to you, not even your relationship.


Warning Signs that Depression is Affecting Your Romantic Relationship

Some people can cope with depression just fine, but not all. Here are signs to know that depression has eaten into your relationship:

1. Sexual intimacy becomes almost non-existent

Many depressed people report a lack of libido. Many things can cause this, including the shame about sex, poor body image, or lingering feeling of exhaustion. Without intimacy, it's hard keeping romantic connections intact.

2. You feel hopeless about the relationship

A sense of hopelessness heralds suicidal thoughts, typical of major depression. While it's okay to sometimes feel uncertain or overwhelmed about the future, feeling entirely hopeless makes you crave to end the relationship altogether.

3. Withdrawal

People who are depressed tend to withdraw into their shells. When you find yourself unwilling to communicate your negative feelings to your partner because you see no reason to, it could be depression at work. That's because depression causes you to feel guilty, making asking for help challenging.

4. You look to alcohol to feel good

When alcohol or some other substance becomes the only thing that makes you feel good -- not even intimacy with your partner, it could be depression at play. Depression makes you lose interest in naturally exciting activities, which can cripple your ability to enjoy sex, date nights, or quality time with your partner. But alcohol will only make your depression worse.

How Depression Affects Relationships with Family and Friends

Aside from romantic relationships, depression negatively affects other relationships in many ways. For example, depression makes you averse to hanging out with friends. You feel like turning down every single invitation you get. This lack of spending time together can put a strain on the friendship, forcing each party to go their separate ways due to less frequent interaction.

The loss of energy and apathy can also make your career a burden. The less productive you get, the more chances of having problems with your boss and colleagues.

Tips to Minimize the Effects of Depression on Relationships

Before reading this section, note that it will be difficult. Every nerve in your body will tell you that the situation is hopeless, life sucks, you're worthless, and it's no use talking with someone. But this is the time to do everything your body says you shouldn't. We have to understand that our minds play tricks on us. We will see everything bad about life if we look hard enough. Similarly, we'll see everything good and pleasant if we take the time to appreciate the little things.

The first step to coping with depression is to know that you have it. If not, you'll believe that truly you're worthless and there's no reason why you should be loved. You'll even find reasons to back up the claim. But when you acknowledge that these are simply the symptoms of depression, you get one step ahead.

This is difficult, but it's the best thing you could do for yourself and your partner. Let them know what you're going through. They may not be able to proffer a solution, but just talking about your problem helps.

It will require every ounce of strength in your body to overpower the urge to say, "No, I can't," but it will be worth it. Even though you don't feel up to it, go out or spend an intimate indoor time together. You may realize all that you've been missing while at it.

Rather than turning to alcohol or opioids to feel better, use depression medication like antidepressants instead. A mental health expert will recommend the appropriate medication or therapy as the case may be.


Perhaps you're not the person with depression but your partner. Your support can be crucial to their recovery. Be patient with them and try not to be judgmental. Keep in mind that your loved one isn't lazy or boring; they're simply ill (mentally) and need help.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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