Depression is a mental illness affecting millions worldwide. Because it’s a mood disorder, it can significantly impact relationships. Whether romantic or platonic, depression can challenge relationship dynamics — causing stress, misunderstandings, and conflict. However, with proper support and understanding, relationships can survive and thrive despite the pressure of depression. Discover how depression affects relationships and how to cope.
What is depression?
Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in things that used to bring pleasure. It’s more than feeling sad or “down in the dumps” for a few days. It’s a serious condition that can significantly interfere with daily functioning, including work, school, and personal relationships. People with depression can struggle with communication and intimacy, fatigue, irritability, and low mood, which can strain relationships.
How depression affects relationships:
- Communication difficulties: People who suffer from depression may struggle with expressing their thoughts and emotions. This can lead to withdrawal and dissociation in conversations, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts. When communication is unclear, it’s easy for subtle messages to cause arguments and frustration.
- Lack of intimacy: Depression affects libido and reduces a person’s interest in sex and physical affection. Physical intimacy is important in romantic relationships, deepening the emotional and psychological connection between partners. This leads to an increase in feelings of love, affection, and trust-building through vulnerability. When physical intimacy is absent from a relationship, it removes the opportunity for deep bonding — potentially causing a rift between partners.
- Negative impact on daily activities: Depression can make it difficult for a person to take care of themselves and fulfill daily responsibilities, leading to stress and tension in relationships. It can also lead to guilt for feeling like a burden to their loved ones.
- Feelings of isolation: People suffering from depression tend to remove themselves from social environments. They may have difficulty communicating with their friends and family and isolate themselves from their partners.
Depression is often treated through a combination of medication and counselling. It’s important to talk to your doctor or mental health professional for more information. Early intervention is one of the best ways to get a head start on treatment.
- Medication: There are many forms of medication available to treat depression, with some of the most popular groups being SSRIs.
- Counselling: Oftentimes, counselling alongside medication produces better results than just medication alone. A mental health professional can help you get to the root of your struggles and set a treatment plan to start feeling better.
How depression affects romantic relationships
If you’re wondering what it’s like to be in a relationship with a depressed person, it helps to understand the symptoms. Depression can cause a lack of energy, motivation, and interest in activities, making participating in hobbies and activities challenging. That’s why many people dealing with depression frequently feel isolation and loneliness. Depression can also decrease the desire for physical and emotional intimacy, causing both sides frustration, disappointment, and resentment.
Partners need to communicate openly and honestly about their needs. If physical intimacy is off the table, couples can work together to find other ways to connect meaningfully. If left unacknowledged, depression can make it challenging to stay in a relationship, but treatment options are available. Couples therapy can be an excellent resource for learning tools to cope with depression and its symptoms.
How depression affects relationships with friends and family
Friendship is essential for development and life satisfaction — but it’s also one of the relationships most impacted by depression. In the face of depression, friends must be patient and understanding — communicating openly and honestly to build a meaningful connection.
It’s helpful for friends to educate themselves on the symptoms of depression and the stigma surrounding mental illness. Education can profoundly affect understanding of the experience of depression so that they can provide better support. Finally, friends must remember to take care of their own mental health and seek help if they feel overwhelmed, as supporting a loved one with depression can be challenging and emotionally draining. Remember: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
How to have a healthy relationship
It’s possible to have a healthy relationship with someone experiencing depression. However, like most things, it requires patience, understanding, and the willingness to work together through possible challenges.
Here are some ways to maintain a healthy relationship with someone struggling with depression:
- Be supportive: Offer your understanding and support, and encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional.
- Practice effective communication: Communication is essential in any relationship, especially when one partner struggles with depression. Make sure to practice active listening and respond with honesty and kindness.
- Be patient: Depression doesn’t go away overnight, and it can cause challenging symptoms like irritability and mood swings. Recovery takes time, effort, and understanding as your partner or loved one works through their symptoms.
- Take care of yourself: Much like the airplane oxygen mask analogy, ensure you take care of yourself before fully committing to helping someone else. Prioritize your self-care and seek support from your friends, family, or therapist.
- Seek help: If your relationship challenges become too difficult to manage, seek counselling to resolve any issues.
The effect of relationships on mental and physical health
Relationships are critical for a happy life as they directly impact personal growth and happiness. Strong personal relationships increase positive mental health by psychologically protecting against depression and anxiety. Additionally, positive relationships lead to better health outcomes, including reduced stress levels, improved immune function, and lower blood pressure. Relationships provide comfort and support, especially during difficult times. And whether romantic or not, loved ones can offer encouragement, empathy, and an irreplaceable listening ear.
Depression can affect all kinds of relationships
Depression can take a toll on relationships, leaving those affected feeling helpless and alone. Fortunately, there is hope and help available. A counsellor can provide the necessary tools to maneuver relationships affected by depression. Through therapy, individuals can learn how to understand themselves and their loved ones better, identify any triggers that may be causing depression, and learn new coping strategies for managing difficult emotions. Furthermore, therapists can help couples identify unhelpful communication patterns and develop healthier ways of relating to one another. With the proper guidance and support, everyone can gain insight into the causes of depression in their relationship and develop skills for navigating it together more effectively.
You shouldn’t have to struggle in silence. Our online depression counsellors are here to help every step of the way.