Navigating Depression While In A Relationship

Updated November 4, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Depression can be painful and difficult to live with. It’s not just about feeling down. Symptoms such as withdrawing from others, irritability, and loss of interest in activities, all common in those living with depression, can also affect a person’s life, well-being, and relationships. When one person in a relationship is struggling with a mental health condition such as depression, it can take a toll on the relationship.

Sometimes, it can even be difficult to recognize if symptoms may be attributed to a person’s mental health condition or the relationship itself. Learning about depression and working together can help a couple maintain a healthy connection.

Coping With Depression In A Relationship Can Be A Challenge

How To Navigate Depression In A Relationship

Being in a relationship can make struggling with depression feel even harder. On your own, you usually only have to worry about yourself. When you have a partner, you are also concerned with their well-being. You may worry your depression is negatively affecting them and your relationship. Here are some steps you can take to effectively navigate depression while being in a relationship:

  • Take care of yourself
  • Find support outside of your partner
  • Help your partner help you
  • Avoid arguments or discussions when you’re not emotionally stable
  • Find coping mechanisms that work for you

How Does Depression Affect Relationships?

While depression is a common mental health concern, not everyone knows or understands the different ways it can impact interpersonal connections or relationships. This goes for relationships of all kinds and is not necessarily limited to romantic bonds. Here are some examples of how depression might affect a relationship:

  • You might feel less excited about plans. Symptoms such as a loss of interest in activities can mean that you’re less excited about dates and other modes of quality time with a partner.     
  • It can keep friends and significant others at a distance. Depression can cause individuals to withdraw from others, including those closest to them. You may feel disconnected from other people or may want to isolate yourself in general due to low mood or feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. You may also want to isolate yourself so that other people don’t notice your symptoms or how down you feel.
  • You may lack energy. Fatigue and sleeping too much or too little are two notable and frequently experienced depression symptoms that can contribute to this. General self-care, let alone interpersonal relationships, can become a challenge.
  • It can affect sex drive or cause loss of libido. If you’re in a relationship where you have sex, this can be challenging.

Of course, depression is different for everyone, so it can affect a relationship in ways that may vary from person to person. 

Is It My Mood Or My Relationship?

Depression can affect someone at any age or season of life. If you haven’t had a depressive episode before, you may wonder what’s going on or might not recognize it as depression immediately. Since many people with depression find that they don’t get excited over things that would typically make them happy, you might feel disinterested and mistake it for falling out of love. In turn, you might wonder, “Is it my mood or my relationship?”

How can you tell which one is the real culprit? Knowing the signs of a depressive episode may be helpful. If you notice the signs in yourself, you may wish to pursue a diagnosis or reach out for the help of a counselor or therapist. Here are some symptoms of depression to consider:

  • Sadness, hopelessness, low mood
  • Wanting to eat substantially more or substantially less
  • Not being able to sleep or wanting to sleep all the time
  • Not enjoying activities that you previously did
  • Restlessness or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling numb
  • Excessive crying
  • Agitation or increased irritability
  • Thoughts of death or suicide*

If the symptoms listed are chronic and ongoing and last for more than a few weeks, you could be living with a diagnosable mental health condition or disorder.

*Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ if you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide.

Depression Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

Many people live with mental health conditions – one in every five or so people in the United States, to be exact – and having one doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain healthy relationships.

Mental health stigma is real, and people make inaccurate assumptions at times. However, the truth is that depressive disorders are among some of the most common mental health diagnoses, and most people know at least one person living with depression – whether they’re aware of it or not. Additionally, there are various effective depression treatments, including forms of talk therapy, medication, and other interventions. Please consult with your medical provider before starting, changing, or stopping medication options.

As far as navigating a relationship with depression, it’s much like navigating other needs in a relationship. It requires open communication, effort, and honesty on both sides. For example, if you live with depression, it might be helpful to open up to your partner and let them know, “I’m feeling irritable today and need some time to myself to use self-care/journal/take a walk/etc.” “I’m sorry that I seemed withdrawn last night; I’m struggling and want you to know that it’s not you,” or “I’m having a rough day and feel like crying. Can we sit next to each other and watch a movie?”

It can take time to find the right treatment for you. It can also take time to learn how to navigate various concerns in an interpersonal relationship, so be patient with yourself and extend compassion to you and your partner throughout the process.

How To Support A Partner With Depression

Maybe you don’t have depression, but your partner does. If you have a partner who is living with depression, who is about to start depression treatment, or who is currently undergoing depression treatment, here are some things you can do:

  • Offer to attend a therapy appointment to learn more about the condition. If applicable, you decide to see a couple’s counselor, too. Couples counseling can help to increase understanding and affection in relationships. Relationships are about working together, so this can help partners in a wide range of circumstances.
  • Practice patience. Don’t tell a partner to “get over it,” and do not give unsolicited advice. Remember that depression is often frustrating for the person living with it and that you are their partner, not their counselor or therapist.
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care isn’t just important for your partner; yours matters, too. There are support groups out there for loved ones of people living with depression and other similar conditions, which might be helpful if you feel lost, unsure of what to do to help your partner, or need a place to talk to people who understand.
  • Enjoy small, less overwhelming activities together. For example, you might watch a movie, cook a meal, or clean together.

Make sure that you retain typical relationship maintenance too. Continue saying words of affirmation, letting one another know what you appreciate about them as a person, and spending quality time together. All couples go through rough patches, whether one partner is sick, grieving, or having a problem as a unit.

Have I Fallen Out Of Love, Or Am I Depressed?

When two people fall in love, the butterflies and feelings of affection run high. Sometimes, these feelings can even hide a lack of compatibility or other concerns that wind up showing themselves later down the line. In turn, feelings can fade over time, and love can change or dissipate.

If depression doesn’t fit the situation, you have to take an honest look at the relationship. People do fall out of love. Over time, one or both partners can become ambivalent toward each other. They may not necessarily dislike one another or anything specific about them. It just may be that love, and romantic feelings have diminished to the point that one or both partners either want someone new or want to move on.

Even spouses who constantly fight are usually angry at the behavior, not the person. Or the two people may struggle to understand one another. You might perceive situations differently and struggle to see eye to eye. This isn’t necessarily a flaw, but it may indicate a need for professional support and learning to express and receive each other’s words more effectively.

Depression and relationship issues are both treatable. When mental health challenges intersect with relationships, both issues can be treated in many cases, whether or not it’s simultaneously.

Coping With Depression In A Relationship Can Be A Challenge

Online Therapy With BetterHelp

Relationships can be complicated, and the same is true for other areas of life. Even under the best of circumstances, relationship concerns can arise. Whether you want to address feelings of depression, interpersonal relationships, life stress, or something else, it’s important to seek professional care when you need it. The licensed providers at BetterHelp offer both individual and couples counseling to help you move forward.

Depression may make it hard for you to get out of bed, let alone make it to a therapy session. Online therapy often allows you to get care sooner than usual, and you don’t have to worry about driving long distances to get to your sessions. 

The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

Online therapy can be effective for treating depression and a variety of other mental health conditions. One study found that adults using an online-based intervention experienced a significant reduction in their depression symptoms. This finding was equal across people of different genders, financial statuses, physical health statuses, and histories of psychotherapy.

The Takeaway

Being in a relationship when you have depression can be difficult. It can take a toll on the mental health of both partners, especially when their needs aren’t being met. However, it’s important to recognize that our partners can’t fix us, but therapy may help. Whether you see a therapist face-to-face or remotely through a reliable online platform, you deserve to get the care you need.

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

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