How depression affects relationships

If you or your partner is depressed, it can impact the relationship in a variety of ways. Depression changes our perception of ourselves and the world. It can also change how we view our relationship.

Jan Robles, a licensed and nationally certified counselor with a specialization in marriage and family counseling, says about depression,

When we are depressed, we see the world differently. We were once optimistic but now, everything seems hopeless. Small stresses take on large significances and tax our ability to cope. The joy and interest we once felt for specific activities has disappeared.

Personality changes

People who have been in a relationship with a person who suffers from depressive episodes have likened it to having a third person in the relationship. When in the midst of a depressive episode, their partner's character and personality changes. Their worldview shifts and everything is perceived through a haze of negativity and hopelessness.

Research shows, however, that the changes in personality that occur during a depressive episode are not lasting. Once the person has recovered, they return to "their old selves."

However, if not treated, depression can be chronic. Even though the illness is episodic, over time, the constant ups and downs can take a serious toll on the relationship.

Physical health — an indirect effect on your relationship

Depression is much more than feeling sad. Depression affects our physical, emotional, and cognitive health. Additionally, depression causes physical symptoms that can impact the daily life of a couple. Some physical symptoms of depression are:

  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Too little or too much time sleeping (or trying to sleep)
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained body aches and pains
  • Gastrointestinal distress, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Decreased libido, lack of interest in sex
  • Worsening chronic pain

Physical symptoms of depression often change how a couple spends their time together. Low energy and lack of interest in doing something enjoyable can mean simply staying home much of the time. This can cause conflict and lead to feelings of sadness and discontentment in the unaffected partner.

Couples therapy


Allowing depression to negatively impact your relationship is unnecessary as depression is among the most treatable disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely used and highly effective in treating anxiety and depression.

If the relationship is unhealthy or dysfunctional, it may be part of the problem. A relationship that causes distress needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

Couples therapy can help you determine the underlying causes of specific challenges placing a strain on the relationship and the mental health of each of the partners involved.

If you or your partner is depressed, it is important to understand that you can improve your life and your health. Working with a therapist can help you individually and as a couple.

Click here for a list of therapists in your area for depression. Click here for a list of therapists in your area for relationships.

Depression Marriage/Relationship Counseling/Therapy