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  • Sara

How Does Depression Affect Relationships?

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

There are many different types of relationships that we have in our lives. We have community members that we see every once in a while, we have friends and best friends, family members, and romantic partners. Regardless of what type of relationship it is, most take work to ensure that they are strong and healthy. In every relationship dynamic, both sides need to put in some level of effort to keep the relationship going. Creating this balance where both people feel appreciated and valued is the centerpiece of every sustainable bond. However, depression can make this difficult. The person who is experiencing symptoms can find it hard just to get up and get moving each day let alone put the effort into maintaining a partnership.

So, what happens when one or both people in the relationship are experiencing depression?

When someone has depression, they may not be able to put in the energy to nurture a relationship, which can often be misunderstood and hurtful to the other person. It can seem as if the distancing is purposeful because the individual with depression has lost interest altogether. However, this often is not the case. The individual may genuinely desire to connect with their partner. They may want to engage in activities and show their love and appreciation. It's just hard to do.

If symptoms of depression are not addressed, it can cause relationships to fall apart over time. Some areas in which depression can affect a relationship include perception, attitude, energy, sexual desire, or an increase in unhealthy coping mechanisms. In other words, there isn't just one reason why this mental health condition can deteriorate a bond over time. It impacts nearly every aspect.

Here are some tell-tale signs your partner is experiencing depression:

1. They've lost interest in activities they used to enjoy.

2. They're sleeping more or less than usual.

3. They've lost their appetite or are eating more than usual.

4. They're withdrawing from friends and family.

5. They're having trouble concentrating or making decisions.

6. They're feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless.

7. They're experiencing aches and pains with no apparent physical cause.

8. They're thoughts or talk of suicide.

People with depression start to experience more negativity in their lives overall, and their perception of self and their environment might be altered, causing them to feel less appreciation for the world around them (including other people) or to feel like they are not worthy of attention and love. This skewed perception of life has a way of infiltrating nearly every part of the person's life, including all personal and professional relationships.

A person with depression might also be more irritable and have less energy. They may have a desire to sleep excessively or to relax for long periods of time without being bothered. This mental health ailment can also lower libido, which can create distance. Partners may not be able to understand many of these symptoms, taking the level of disconnection they feel personally.

People with depression might also start to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drugs and alcohol, to help numb the pain, which will only further exacerbate symptoms and distance them from others. They may engage in excessive internet use, gaming or gambling. All of these things, when excessive, can be detrimental to the person's mental health and well-being as well as to the partnerships. Partners can find it difficult to compete with these addictions, eventually feeling a need to give up altogether.

Substance use can be an especially trying form of addiction for a partner who is not using. Not only may it be difficult to understand for a person without a history of abusing substances, but the personality of the individual using will likely drastically change. They may even become belligerent and combative at times. They may say or do things that they would never do when they're sober. And they may regret these words and behaviors later on but they're still difficult to take back. The sober partner will find them impossible to forget.

For all of these reasons, being in a relationship with someone who has depression can be difficult, to say the least. If you or someone you love is suffering from depression, try to find ways to be patient and take it one day at a time. Try associating the negativity is associated with the disease, not the person. Separating this person you love from the disease can help you better understand the mental illness and develop ways to cope with it (such as creating healthy boundaries for yourself).

Although it can be heart-breaking to watch someone you love experience depression, it can be helpful to remember that they are also feeling the same frustrations. Open communication and consistent attempts to work through it together are likely to bring you closer as you navigate mental health. Speaking with a therapist is a great place to start.


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