Depression In Relationships: 15 Signs Of A Problem And Tips To Fix It


Depression In Relationships

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” ― Stephen Fry

Why Depression In Relationships Is Problematic

Depression in relationships can have a potentially toxic impact on you, your partner, and the relationship itself. If you are having trouble with your intimate partner and suffering from depression, this article will have some answers for you.

Depression and relationships don’t typically mix well together, for a variety of factors. One of the more important reasons being because of the very nature of depression, which is about withdrawing and protecting oneself, the opposite of what we look for in a healthy well-attached relationship, which will therefore create challenges for you and your partner.

If you are suffering from depression then you are likely having a hard time connecting with other people and feeling emotional isolation. In a relationship, this can manifest in many ways, but some of the more detrimental being that of insecurity, feeling threatened, or jealousy. And that is not to say that there may not be valid reasons for those feelings but they may also be exacerbated by the depression.

However, despite those challenges, take heart because the really positive thing about depression is that it is one of the more treatable mental illnesses. Needless to say, identifying it early on and getting the support needed for you, your partner and your relationship is essential and can make a big difference.

Related: 5 Things to Do (And Not To Do) When Your Partner is Feeling Depressed

Depression As A ‘Walking Death’

If you suffer from depression then the description of depression as a “walking death”, might make sense to you. And depression can be just that, an absence of feeling, being flat and numb to many of the events and interactions going on around you, not being able to experience any real joys or pleasures in life, death being the absence of life. Naturally, that is going to take a toll on your relationships and especially on those with your significant other.

Clearly, if this is a description that resonates with you, then your level of depression is fairly severe. As we know depression and the symptoms you experience are individual and can vary greatly. When depression is left untreated, or not being treated adequately, it can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts.

If you or your partner are experiencing suicidal thoughts and ideas, know that there is help out there and although you may be in the depths of despair, these are feeling that will pass. As it is said, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an invaluable resource. You can call their 24-hour hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or in an emergency call 911 in the US and Canada, or 112 in the UK and many other parts of the world. You can also text the word HOME to 741 741 for access to a crisis counselor in the US or Canada and in the UK: text 85258 | Ireland: text 50808.


15 Signs That Your Relationship Is Suffering Because Of Depression

These are not necessarily the signs of depression, though they can be but rather how the depression manifests in the relationship, there is a distinct yet subtle difference.  I do also want to clarify that although these are signs that your relationship is suffering due to depression, these can also be signs of a relationship in distress, which may or may not have anything to do with depression. Context is always important.

1. Nitpicking.

Irritability is a symptom, of depression and when something is fundamentally wrong for one person, i.e. feeling a complete lack of confidence, lots of little things are irritating. This is also, at times a distraction from the larger issues at hand.

2. Frequent arguments. 

Nitpicking leads to arguments, bickering, and disagreements, when they start to increase in frequency, pay attention, clearly something is amiss.

3. Your partner walks on eggshells. 

Depression in relationships can look like fear, sometimes fear of disrupting or upsetting you or the other person.

Related: 10 Hidden Traits Of Depression You Might Not Know About

4. Sex life plummets.

One of the symptoms of depression is a decrease in libido. Sex is one of the ways that many couples find their way back to each other, the absence of a healthy sex life will alienate the couple from each other even further.

5. Communication suffers. 

When there is a greater frequency in arguments and nitpicking, that indicates that there is a block of some sort in your communication. You are not speaking the same language and not on the same page.

6. You question whether or not the relationship will survive. 

Depression is varying degrees of hopelessness, naturally, that would translate into a feeling around your relationship. This doesn’t have to mean that it will or won’t survive.

7. No coupled social life. 

You go out less frequently together, you may feel that you have less in common and things that you once enjoyed together are no longer the case.

8. You don’t laugh anymore. 

When you and your partner have a hard time enjoying each other and enjoying each other’s company.

9. Everything feels heavy and serious. 

There is a lack of levity and being able to roll with the ups and downs, an essential coping skill to manage the stresses of everyday life.

10. Erratic blowups.

It can get ugly, and it could feel like it comes out of nowhere.

11. The feeling of pervasive loneliness in the relationship. 

When depression hits hard, there is a feeling of alienation and isolation in the relationship, even sitting or lying next to each other.

12. Dependence on the relationship.

When suffering from depression, there is a survival element present, maybe the feeling that you can’t make it alone or without your partner. This might turn into a clinging on for dear life.

Related: What Depression Looks Like: The Hard-Hitting Truth

13. You do more things separately.

When struggling with depression, you have low energy and a lackluster feeling for life, this is the withdrawal. You or your partner may cope by doing more of their own thing, separately.

14. Increasing withdrawal from each other and people in your life.

You talk less, connect less and feel off on the side of your partner and family.

15. Intense fear of losing the relationship.

When this happens you fight and try to hold on and sometimes exhibit controlling behavior that stems from insecurity and fear.

5 Things You Can Do To Save Your Relationship

I like this image above because it represents, in my mind, exactly what depression does to a couple. It gets in there and is that unwanted third party that stands between you and your partner. However, as I mentioned, there is a lot to be hopeful about. 

First off, you are reading this article and that means that you want to learn and understand what is happening for you or your partner. Secondly, you are looking into getting help, again reading this article is an example of that, which can make a tremendous difference.

1. Get treatment for you, your partner, or your relationship.

Getting the right treatment for depression is not just going to be essential for you or your partner but it could also be what saves the relationship. 

Speak to the counselors, doctors, and professional support in your community. This could be at work, through human resources or an employee assistance program, a community health clinic, or your primary care physician. It might even include support for you as a couple, whether that be couples therapy or in a support group.

2. Educate yourself.

Learn and understand what depression is and how it is playing out for you or your partner. Depression is an illness, it doesn’t have to have a specific reason to be present, though it can, however, it does probably mean that there will need to be some changes made for you or in your relationship. 

Read about depression, find your resources, talk to a counselor, friends, and family who know and love you and your partner. Doctors will be able to shed some light and understanding on what your partner is experiencing. Remember that none of us can get through it alone and be open to learning.

Related: What To Do If You Are Depressed: A 15-Step Guide

3. Be patient.

Depression in relationships requires patience on all sides and from all angles. Your partner will be working really hard to get healthy and get to a place that is good for the relationship, even though it may not always look like it. 

Give them time and talk about where they are at, how you can help and how you will be able to move forward through these challenges together. If and when they are short with you, don’t take it personally, it is most likely the depression speaking not necessarily them, challenging to separate but really helpful if you can.

4. Take care of yourself and your partner.

When someone is sick, they need extra TLC, (Tender, Loving, Care) and that is soo true in the case of depression as well. Let your partner know that you are there to help them through this challenge in whatever way you can. If intimacy is a difficulty at this point, work to have some other form of physical contact without the expectations of sex. 

Try, when you can to help out around the house, and if they do something, notice and pay attention as this will probably have a lot of meaning to a depressed partner who may feel undervalued and guilty for even having depression. One could also think about this as self-care for the couple.

Depression In Relationships: 15 Signs Of A Problem And Tips To Fix It

5. Be present.

When depression hits relationships it’s important to show that you are there for your partner. Reassurance of a secure attachment will help your partner move to a place of increasing confidence, healing and that you will be there for them, through thick and thin. Letting them know that you are not “taking off” as noted above, an intense fear of abandonment and that they will lose the relationship or “ruining” the relationship can come up. 

Talk to your partner, tell them that you are there for them, send messages, whatever it is that you can do, and reassure them, it will mean a tremendous amount to your partner with depression.

Therapy Can Be A Lifeline

A lot of what I have described above is pretty intense and it’s important to keep in mind that there are varying levels of severity when it comes to any health issue and this is true in the case of depression as well. However, if you or someone you love is suffering from depression and a lot of what I have described above resonates with you, then therapy might just be that lifeline you need to help you or your partner swim to safety.

It’s been a tough year to connect with a therapist that is right for you, but there are some options out there. I have teamed up with an organization called where you can connect with a therapist confidentially from anywhere in the world virtually. You can get more information by clicking on the link above, where you will also receive 20% off through my affiliate link.

Depression Is Not In You, But It Wants To Be!

I think about depression as an entity that is outside of us, trying to take over and sabotage our lives and relationships, but the good news is that it is not. Depression is not who you are and it is not in you, it is that insidious thing that is trying to take you over though.

Depression in relationships can feel overwhelming like everything is working against you and your partner, all of those doubts creep in and the depression has got a hold of you, your partner, and your relationship, which is exactly what depression is trying to do, take over your life. However, with the right support, you and your partner can overcome these challenges!

Related: 5 Ways To Help Someone Who Is Dealing With Depression

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed that everything about depression in relationships is about “it” trying to create separation. If we know this then we can work against it and be proactive in our fight against “it”. The strategies above are highlighted as a way to reunite and regain some connection with your partner. If you keep this as a rule of thumb then you will, with time and patience be able to overcome these challenges.

Join the Upside Down Flan Community, a professional mental health forum where you will learn how you can turn YOUR life right side up, sign up here for my weekly newsletter where you will have access to all of my free mental health tools and easy tips! 


Science Direct: The association between social relationships and depression: A systematic review

APA: Intimate relationships and depression: Is there a casual connection?

Written By Meredith Flanagan 
Originally Appeared On Upside Down Flan 
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Meredith Flanagan, LICSW

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