Signs Your Relationship Is Causing Depressed Feelings & How To Deal

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the United States, with over 17 million Americans experiencing it annually, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. But depression doesn't always look like you think it's going to look, nor does it necessarily come from the sources you expect. The reality is that you don't have to be facing some major catastrophe to be depressed. You don't have to be fighting an illness or injury. You don't have to be facing the loss of your job, your home, or your loved one.

And you don't even have to be diagnosed with the condition, medically known as depressive disorder, to experience it. The fact of the matter is you can be experiencing depression without even realizing it, and that depression may well be caused by no other source than your own relationship. In fact, according to Psychology Today, romantic relationships are a significant catalyst for clinical depression.

After all, relationships are meant to provide security, peace, joy, and belonging. Our partners are supposed to be the people who know us and love us best in the world, the true ride-or-die companions you can always turn to, even when the world is on fire. And when your relationship fails to meet that standard, it can be incredibly painful. But how do you know when you're experiencing relationship-related depression, and what can you do about it? The answer lies in learning to recognize the signs and being proactive once they emerge.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

You feel anxious around your partner

When you think of depression, you probably imagine someone drowning in tears or so consumed by sadness that they can barely get out of bed in the morning. And while it's true that depression can manifest in this way for some people, that's by no means always the case.

In fact, depression frequently manifests as anxiety. You might notice that you're irritable and edgy. You might experience sudden bouts of rage or unexpected fits of crying. You may have difficulty eating or sleeping. And then there are the panic attacks that can strike with anxiety. You might notice that you feel overwhelmed with a sense of fear or impending doom. You might break into a sweat or experience heart palpitations and shortness of breath. These are all symptoms of anxiety, and it may be how relationship-related depression manifests for you, especially if it commonly happens when you're with your partner.

Your partner, for instance, may have undermined your self-confidence by being hypercritical or passive-aggressive — which can make you feel incredibly apprehensive around them. You might find yourself feeling perpetually on guard or defensive. You might worry incessantly about making the wrong move by doing, wearing, or saying the wrong thing. So instead of your partner being a source of security, comfort, and stability, they're a source of doubt, worry, and uncertainty. And those negative emotions are common catalysts for depression manifesting as anxiety.

You feel physically unwell most of the time

The body is an incredibly intuitive — and honest — thing. It will tell you the truth, even if you're not ready to face it. And when you find yourself feeling physically unwell most of the time, especially when you're with your partner, that can be a powerful indicator that there's something wrong — not with your body, necessarily, but with your mental health.

According to Medical News Today, depression often produces significant physical symptoms. In fact, the physical symptoms can be more obvious and severe than the emotional ones. So if you find yourself constantly getting headaches, stomach aches, joint or muscle pain, fatigue, or other physical symptoms and you and your doctor can find no physiological cause, then you may be dealing with undiagnosed depression.

It can also be helpful to pay attention to when the symptoms arise. If they suddenly appear or worsen when you're getting ready to meet your partner, after you've been with them, or even while you're together, that's a pretty good sign that your relationship is causing you emotional distress.

You have trouble making decisions

One of the more surprising signs of depression is the inability to make decisions. Depression can significantly impact your ability to think, according to Harvard Health Publishing, and that can render decision-making nearly impossible.

If you find yourself agonizing over even the simplest decisions, such as what to wear or what to have for dinner, you may be depressed. As we've already seen, when you have a hypercritical or passive-aggressive partner, you're almost certain to feel insecure and anxious, and at no time is insecurity more apparent than when you're trying to make a decision on your own.

So when depression has already compromised your ability to think clearly, combined with the anxiety and insecurity that come from being dominated or undermined by your partner, the result is paralysis. You'll fret over every choice, no matter how insignificant. You'll vacillate over every decision, no matter how minor. Ultimately, you're likely to end up not making any decisions at all, letting someone else, usually your domineering partner, take control.

You're constantly apologizing

Depression isn't just a thief of joy; it's a thief of self-confidence. When you're depressed, your emotions can become relatively flat and numb. You may not be able to feel good or positive about anything, especially about yourself. So if you discover that you're almost reflexively apologizing for everything you do, think, say, or are, you could be depressed. That's because, when you're depressed, you often feel at fault for the bleakness that has seemed to overtake your world. You are likely to feel responsible for and ashamed of, well, pretty much everything that you think has gone wrong with the world, your relationship, and yourself.

Over-apologizing, in other words, is often a sign of depression-related guilt (per Psycom). And if your partner undermines your confidence through overt emotional abuse or passive aggression, you can quickly begin to feel worthless and pathologically apologetic. Your partner's emotional abuse and neglect simply instigate or exacerbate the self-blame and guilt that characterize depression. They reinforce your negative (untrue) beliefs that, yes, everything wrong in your life and relationship is your fault. 

Your partner doesn't light you up

Relationships take work, yes. They have their bad moments, that's true. But, on the whole, a healthy relationship is supposed to enhance your life, not detract from it. Your partner should be someone who brightens up your world, not make it darker. If the totality of your relationship isn't positive, after all, then what's the point of it? 

So if you can't remember the last time you shared a laugh with your loved one or the last time they made you feel special, it's a good sign your relationship is one-sided — which means you're getting far less out of the relationship than you're putting into it. When your partner only takes and never reciprocates or they don't offer love, respect, validation, or security, it won't take long for you to become mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. Healthy relationships, after all, are about give and take.

Of course, there will be periods of imbalance in which one partner needs more tending and care than the other. But that can only work in the long term if the pendulum swings the other way as well — if the caregiving partner can rest in good faith on the knowledge that when their time of need comes, their partner will be there in return. When you don't have that reciprocity, and your partner only takes and never gives, resulting in you feeling like you're in a one-sided relationship, it's all but inevitable that you may become (or already are) depressed. 

Your partner is depressed

Depression resulting from a relationship doesn't necessarily mean that one partner is emotionally neglecting or abusing another. It may mean that both partners are struggling. In fact, if your loved one has depression or another form of mental health condition, you are at greater risk for developing depression yourself, according to Medical News Today. After all, it's painful to watch someone you love suffer.

And depression can have a significant impact on a couple's quality of life. If your partner is depressed, they've likely lost interest in the things they used to enjoy, including those interests and activities you used to share. They can also be emotionally volatile. They may be irritable, paranoid, or detached, have gained or lost significant amounts of weight, sleep excessively, and neglect their personal hygiene. 

All this can make it difficult to find the person you fell in love with in the person you're with now. And then there's the physical, emotional, and mental fatigue of caregiving. When you're taking care of a loved one with depression, it can be easy to neglect your own needs as you try to attend to theirs.

Stop denying and start dealing

It can be scary to recognize, let alone admit, that you are experiencing depression. For far too many of us, the stigma of mental illness is still very real — and incredibly dangerous. But the first step in overcoming depression is acknowledging that you have it and understanding what factors are contributing to it.

Depression isn't a life sentence, nor does it have to mean the end of your relationship. You can lead a healthy, happy life in the aftermath of depression. You can also heal your relationship as you grow emotionally, physically, and psychologically healthy, both as individuals and as a couple. 

However, it takes work. Depression is a life-threatening condition "that may become deadly if untreated," according to Healthline. To survive and thrive, you must be proactive. And that requires you to put yourself at the top of your own priorities list, and perhaps talk to your partner about your mental health condition. Once you've done that, you can begin to make healthy, clear-eyed decisions about what is best for you and for your relationship.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Finding yourself again

When depression is linked to a relationship, it's often a sign that the relationship has become codependent. Codependency, according to Mental Health America, means, essentially, that you've lost yourself inside the other person, almost like a "relationship addiction." Your sense of self, well-being, value, and purpose have become entirely enmeshed in your partner. And that means they set the terms. They dictate how you feel, how you see yourself, and how you value yourself. Your well-being, worth, and purpose are defined by their words, moods, and behaviors. When they give the thumbs up, you're up. Thumbs down, you're down.

That kind of volatile codependency is antithetical to well-being. Getting healthy again means learning to remember who you are and what you're worth. If you want to recover your smile, you may well need to spend some time on your own, by and with yourself. Take a solo excursion to a favorite hideaway just to relax, unwind, and think.

Or, if that's not doable, have a little vacation at home. Tell your partner, friends, and family you're taking a well-deserved mental health day. Then shut off your phone, lock your doors, and settle in with your favorite snacks, movies, television shows, music, books, and anything (and everything) that you enjoy. And while you're at it, do some journaling or just a bit of quiet reflection. Clearing your mind in this way can help you gain some perspective and remember who you are and what you want and need to make you happy.

Recognize when you're being abused

It can be easy to deny or rationalize abuse, according to Psychology Today. That's especially true when the aggression isn't physical or sexual. But emotional and psychological abuse can be just as damaging, if not more so. And your mind, body, and spirit understand all too well when something isn't right, no matter how you might attempt to ignore the problem or explain it away. So one of the most important steps in overcoming relationship-related depression is to learn to recognize your partner's abusive behavior, demand (and enforce) a change, or walk away. After all, you teach people how to treat you.

And when you teach your partner that it's okay to disrespect, dominate, or devalue you, you're not just sending them a message — you're also sending yourself a message. You're telling yourself, in deed if not in words, that you don't really matter and are not worthy of care — and, by extension, not worthy of true, lasting peace and happiness. It's pretty hard to escape depression if you're willing to settle for nothing but pain. The good news, though, is that you get what you expect out of this life. Once you start demanding more for your life and your relationship, you're going to get it, if not with your current partner, then with a future one who is more worthy of you.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Practice extreme self-care

When a relationship has triggered or exacerbated your depression, you need to focus on healing by practicing extreme self-care for a while. That's because, whether you're a caretaker of a depressed partner, enmeshed in a codependent relationship, or experiencing emotional abuse, you've probably not been taking care of yourself.

And, odds are, you've also forgotten how to love yourself, and that's only made your depression that much worse. In fact, according to Psychology Today, self-care is often a very challenging, "unattainable" thing for people with depression to manage. It's easy to feel as if you just don't have the energy, the reason, or the will to be good to yourself. And every time you succumb to that emotion, you validate it. You subconsciously affirm, even if only to yourself, that you're not worth the effort it takes to take care of yourself.

On the other hand, by making the time and putting in the effort to treat yourself like the royalty you are, you will slowly begin to remember what it feels like to be cherished and happy again. And at the same time, you'll be affirming to yourself that, yes, you are, indeed, worth it. So practice your way to success. Small steps, tiny acts of self-care, and even something as simple as an "everything shower" will pay off big in the end.

Don't be afraid to see a therapist

When you're experiencing depression, it can be difficult to reach out for help. You might feel embarrassed, ashamed, or even guilty about asking for help. The reality, though, is that depression is a health condition. And just as you wouldn't try to treat cancer or a heart attack on your own, it's often unwise to try to self-treat depression.

The condition is often far too complex to manage without professional support. Often, depression is the result of myriad factors, not just one or two. While your relationship may have triggered or worsened your depression, it's also likely that other factors have contributed to it as well. You might, for example, have a genetic predisposition that the stressors in your relationship have activated. Or, more likely than not, it's a combination of many elements that have given rise to, exacerbated, or perpetuated your depression.

A professional therapist who fits your needs can help you get to the roots of your depression. They can teach you to understand the causes and the exacerbators and equip you with the tools you need to overcome them, whether they be implemented in your relationship or not. They can also diagnose conditions that are more biological than situational, requiring medication as well as psychological care, and can refer you to the help you need to recover. And that means that, with professional help, you truly can find your joy again.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.