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We all know how mood can impact our relationships. When we feel frustrated at work or are facing other problems in our lives, that can affect the way we interact with those around us. What about when we are struggling with something severe and persistent? How does depression affect relationships?

Living with depression brings many challenges, from overwhelming loneliness to debilitating exhaustion. Over time, these symptoms can create barriers that seem almost impossible to overcome. When you are depressed it can be especially hard to find the energy to open up and talk about the relationship.

While depression differs from person to person, many couples recognize how it can damage their relationship.

Is depression affecting your romantic relationship?

If you are experiencing relationship problems, depression may have a lot to do with it. In fact, couples identify several ways in which depression can affect relationships, mainly:

  • emotional toll
  • romance and sexual intimacy
  • communication
  • isolation
  • lack of energy/motivation
  • dependence on the relationship
  • lack of understanding
  • uncertainty

As you are struggling with depression you might pay less attention to your partner, feel less interested in doing things together or feel more tired or irritable. On top of it all, you might blame yourself for the way you feel and view your symptoms as a burden to your partner. This guilt can snowball into feeling even worse and further damage the relationship.

However, it can also work the other way around: relationship issues can affect your mental health. When you are dealing with unresolved conflict, lack of communication, and withdrawal, it can all contribute to depression.

But, wait, there’s good news. Research tells us that a strong healthy relationship can protect us from the withering effects of depression. So, it can be helpful to be on the lookout for possible warning signs and ways depression affects relationships.

5 ways depression can affect relationships

1. General unhappiness

Love and unhappiness are not two things we expect to coexist. All the love songs and rom-coms tell us that as long as we have the person we love by our side we will feel happy. So, when we are in a loving relationship but still feel sad, we might feel guilty and hopeless.

When unhappiness is like a cloud constantly hovering over, it not only affects the person struggling with depression but everyone in the relationship. So, it is not just about knowing how to help a loved one with depression, it is about each person taking care of themselves, their needs, and their mental health.

2. Less interest in sex life

Depression is proven to reduce libido and sexual excitement and create difficulties in reaching an orgasm or having an erection. Plus, some medications prescribed for depression can also worsen these problems.

While it is normal to experience fluctuations in our sexual desire, a persistent lack of sexual connection may be a warning sign to pay more attention to the relationship.

The absence of this kind of intimacy can drive couples further apart and make people feel less desirable. Studies show that an active sex life can improve bonding and trust — by releasing oxytocin, commonly known as the love hormone. Oxytocin also increases empathy and emotional intimacy, and also reduces stress.

3. Feeling overwhelmed

We all have times when it is tough to deal with negative emotions. For someone with depression, managing strong emotions might be an even bigger challenge. They might feel overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions and try to ignore them or shut them down.

So, when you add up a relationship, where you have to deal with conflict, on top of other people’s emotions, it all becomes a lot harder to handle. Some may withdraw from their loved ones to avoid conflict, while others may escalate the situation. Both these approaches can drag out conflict and further deteriorate the relationship.

4. Hopelessness about the future

When you are depressed, you may feel that no matter what you do things will never get better or that you are stuck in this never-ending state of unhappiness.

This sense of hopelessness may distort your perception of the relationship, making you believe that there is no future together.

5. Isolating yourself

Depression robs you of wanting to be around others and makes you want to hide out in your own darkness. In these moments it can feel almost impossible to find the energy to connect with your partner. So, you might end up pulling away or checking out altogether.

Depression treatment in Baltimore, MD

Although it may seem like the odds are against you, once you are aware of how depression affect your relationships, the path to reconnecting and feeling better gets easier. It’s only when you try to sweep it under the rug that the damage may grow and grow until it seems too late.

Our therapists at New Connections have experience in helping people work through their emotions and build stronger and happier relationships. We also specialize in anxiety treatment, EMDR, trauma therapy, couples counseling, and other life challenges.

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About the Author:

Cathy Sullivan-Windt

Psychologist (Ph.D.) & Owner

Cathy is a licensed counseling psychologist with almost 20 years of experience. She specializes in women’s counseling, anxiety treatment, sexual assault recovery, life transitions, and relationship issues.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature, traveling, reading, and being with her family and friends.