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What are the Effects of Depression on a Relationship?

written by: Ms Lisa • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 9/24/2010

The effects of depression on a relationship can test the strength, emotions, communication, and sexual wellbeing of the people involved.

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    Depression is Damaging to Relationships

    The effects of depression on a relationship are devastating at times. Depression is a serious mental illness that affects many relationships because the symptoms alter the lives of both partners involved. The hopeless and helpless emotions that the illness can bring about can tear a relationship apart. Depression can be damaging to all involved.

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    What Areas Does Depression Affect in a Relationship?

    Here are the most common effects of depression on a relationship.

    • Breakdown of communication – Withdrawal is one of the symptoms of depression. The depressed partner will often keep to him or herself and not want to talk about what is bothering them. Their partner may take this as a sign of rejection. The relationship ceases to be enjoyable because there is less shared meaningful dialogue between a couple.
    • Loss of social life – The person who is depressed may want to become isolated and not take part in activities that used to be enjoyed with their partner. Therefore, the partner may feel obligated to stay at home too and not pursue these activities.
    • May alter the feelings of both partners – The non-depressed partner may feel that the depression is their fault. They may experience guilt and frustration because they are not able to help their loved one. To make matters worse the depressed partner may lash out in frustration and anger towards the person who is closest to them. Arguments and misunderstandings leave both feeling that they are drifting apart from each another.

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    Does Depression Affect the Sex Life of a Relationship?

    The answer to that question is yes. Depression does affect the sex life of a couple. The effects of depression on a relationship leave the couple not being able to be emotionally or sexually intimate with each other. For men, depression can be associated with the loss of libido and erectile problems.

    Women who are depressed tend to experience lack of interest in sex and may have difficulty reaching orgasm. The non-depressed partner may feel that the other person does not care about their needs. They often feel rejected by the one they love. The depressed partner may feel that the other one does not care about how they feel, and that they are being selfish and insensitive to their feelings. The effects of depression on a relationship may leave the couple deprived and unsatisfied sexually.

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    Does Depression Affect Both the Man and Woman in a Relationship Differently?

    Yes, men and women experience depression in different ways. Studies have shown that both genders have different ways of coping with the symptoms. Men acknowledge more often than not that they experience more fatigue, sleep disturbances, irritability, and loss of interest in fun activities. Whereas women acknowledge that they experience more feelings of guilt, excessive worthlessness and feelings of sadness.

    Both genders have reported that they feel misunderstood by their non-depressed partner. At times they have also felt that their partner misinterprets their depression as not wanting to be in the relationship with them anymore.

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    A Relationship Can Survive Depression

    In the USA depression affects 19 million people and their partners each year. The effects of depression on a relationship can test even the most stable and secure couples. However, this mental illness is treatable, and with professional help, a relationship can survive.

    Resources:

    Mental HealthAmerica http://www.nmha.org/index.cfm?objectid=C7DF95BB-1372-4D20-C8EC4BBBEF879A20

    The National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/nimhdepression.pdf