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How Depression Affects Relationships: The Good and the Bad

Are you wondering how depression affects relationships? Find out the good and the bad effects of depression on romantic love, here at HealthyPlace.

How does depression affect relationships? The answer to this question will be different depending on who you ask. While depression has become an all-encompassing term, there are varying degrees and types of depression, and each person is affected differently. While mild or situational depression may only affect someone in the short term (after the loss of a loved one, for example), clinical depression is a long-term condition that requires careful management.

Depression affecting relationships is a major concern for the person with the illness as well as their loved ones. However, the dynamic in every relationship is unique, so while depression might prove too much for one partnership, it could well strengthen another so not all love relationships with depression are doomed to fail. Although many of the struggles of depressed people and their partners are similar, there is no one way in which depression affects relationships.

How Depression Affects Relationships When One Person Is Depressed

As with any serious illness, depression can take its toll on even the happiest of relationships, but that doesn’t mean the partnership won’t survive. If you can find a way to communicate and support one another, then going through depression as a couple can build trust and create a deeper bond between you and your partner.

A healthy and nurturing relationship can also be instrumental in helping someone manage their depression. Depression is isolating and makes sufferers want to withdraw. However, having someone who listens and tries to understand can make a world of difference. Studies show that maintaining positive and loving connections to others is the leading factor in mental wellbeing in 89% of cases, with many of us leaning on support givers such as spouses and family members in times of need.

On the flipside, evidence suggests that those in unhappy relationships are twice as likely to be depressed than those who aren’t. Other studies have found that over 60% of depressed patients cited relationships as the leading cause of their ill mental health ("Depression from Relationships: 5 Signs It’s Depressing You"). Whether depression is caused by an unhappy relationship or those with depression are just more likely to enter into unhealthy relationships is unclear. However, depression can only have a positive effect on you and your partner if the relationship itself is positive.

Depression: How It Affects Relationships When Both Partners Are Depressed.

A relationship can take on an entirely different dynamic when both partners are depressed. Sometimes, the strain of being in a relationship with someone who’s depressed can lead to poor mental health in the other partner. In some cases, both partners may become depressed as a result of financial difficulty, a shared bereavement or extreme hardship. Others may share a diagnosis of clinical depression or an illness with a depressive component, such as bipolar disorder.

In all cases of depression in relationships, the advice remains the same. Honest, open communication is key to maintaining a fulfilling relationship, and understanding is crucial. Whether you are depressed or looking after someone who is, depression can be frustrating and hard to fathom. Try not to lose your temper or take your feelings out on your partner. No one chooses to be depressed. Depression can’t be “snapped out of” or overridden. And, contrary to traditional views, tough love won’t work in this scenario. People who are depressed need love, patience and support. They need a soft place to fall when their world (however small) becomes too much.

Is There a “Good” Side to Depression In a Relationship?

Depression has many effects on relationships, but not all of them are bad. Of course, if you’ve ever grappled with depression, you’ll know how painful it can be. But depression is your body's way of telling you that something's not right with your world. It forces you to stop and take stock – of yourself, your life and your relationships.  

Some scholars argue that depression makes relationships better. According to J. Anderson Thomson, MD, assistant director of the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville: “Most of the things that involve depression are interpersonal problems.” Therefore, you can pay attention to what you learn from depression and use it to improve your relationships.

It may not always be easy loving someone with depression. But while depression isn't part of that person, it is a valuable part of their experience – a part that deserves love, empathy and admiration just as all the others do.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, March 7). How Depression Affects Relationships: The Good and the Bad, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/how-depression-affects-relationships-the-good-and-the-bad

Last Updated: May 17, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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