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My Depression Is Ruining My Relationship: Withdrawal & Lack of Sex

Is depression ruining your relationship? Here’s what to do if your mental illness causes problems in your love life.

It’s easy to think that depression is ruining your relationship, even if your partner expresses nothing but love and support. Depression famously sucks the joy out of everything in our lives, including our most important relationships. When this happens, we often feel withdrawn and empty. We consider ourselves incapable or undeserving of love, convinced we are a burden on the people around us. This is the illness talking; not the truth. Instead of listening to the cruel voice of depression, here’s what to do when it feels like depression is ruining your relationship.

Why Is Depression Is Ruining My Relationship?

If you think depression is ruining your relationship, the first thing you should do is talk to your partner to find out how they are feeling. You don’t know that depression is ruining your relationship unless you ask your partner to weigh in. It may be that your worries are unfounded, or your partner might welcome the opportunity to talk about how your mental illness is affecting them. Either way, it is best to encourage open communication, whatever feelings and frustrations come to the surface.  

Communication isn’t always easy, however, especially when one partner is depressed. Depression can make you withdraw, and it may seem to your partner as though you have given up on life. Although you can’t help feeling this way, it may come across to your partner that you don’t care, or that you're not interested in them anymore. People who are depressed are often too tired, ashamed or withdrawn to explain that this isn't the case. Often, they are not sure why they are depressed. All of this can be difficult to understand.

Your partner may also feel cheated, and this is understandable because depression is typically not much fun to be around. "Most people fall in love because they are enjoying each other's company and having fun together," says Dan Jones, Ph.D., director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at Appalachian State University. When this changes, the relationship can become strained.

Depression and Sexless Relationships

Both depression and antidepressants can affect your sex life. Antidepressants may reduce your libido, meaning they won’t want to have sex as often as you once did. You may also experience physical difficulties with sex, such as erectile dysfunction or trouble achieving orgasm. None of this means you’re not attracted to your partner or are no longer interested in sex. It is purely the result of a chemical imbalance or side-effect of medication. These are common problems, so there are plenty of therapies and medications that can help you get back to a fulfilling sex life.  

If you’re on the other side of a sexless relationship, be careful not to blame your partner or pressure them to have sex. Instead, try to work on this issue together both inside and outside the bedroom. Find ways to make your partner more comfortable and show them that you’re willing to be patient. In relationships where sex is an issue, there is almost always a solution if both partners are willing to do the work. 

Depression and Ruined Relationships: Are Breakups Inevitable?

It is not inevitable that depression will ruin your relationship. This is because it's not depression itself that causes couples to break up, experts say; it is the consequences of not addressing the depression that causes problems. These problems can include:

  • Withdrawal and lack of communication
  • One or both partners seeking comfort outside the relationship (i.e., an affair)
  • Loss of work and money troubles as a result of depression
  • Substance abuse or addiction as a method of self-medication
  • Loss of physical intimacy

A licensed relationship therapist can help you work through these issues on an individual or couples’ basis. Ask your doctor what services are available in your area and be sure to express any sexual symptoms you’re experiencing so they can provide the appropriate treatment.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, March 25). My Depression Is Ruining My Relationship: Withdrawal & Lack of Sex, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 14 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/my-depression-is-ruining-my-relationship-withdrawal-lack-of-sex

Last Updated: May 17, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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