How Depression Affects Relationships

By Dr. Robert Yeilding, PsyD

Depression is one of the most common psychological struggles, impacting over 264 million people worldwide and almost 7% of adults in the United States ( The most common and defining features of experiencing a depressive episode include a persistent period of low mood, sadness, and/or a loss of enjoyment and interest in your usual activities. In addition, this period of time is often accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Feeling empty, hopeless, or pessimistic
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Irritability 

The intensity of these depressive symptoms can become overwhelming, often contributing to a negative affect on areas of your life such as social and romantic relationships. 

How Depression Affects Relationships

As you can imagine, when you are experiencing feelings of low self-worth it can feel very difficult to have a positive connection to your wants and needs and be able to express them in a relationship. Perhaps underlying thoughts and beliefs that your needs will be a burden or unwanted, or that it is pointless to try because you will be disappointed anyway lead to turning inward and withdrawing from your partner and others. 

Similarly, when persistent feelings of emptiness and lack of enjoyment in life take over, it might feel as if there is very low motivation and reward to be found in initiating connection and intimacy, making plans, or engaging with others. Perhaps your automatic thoughts go immediately towards the potential negative outcomes that might occur, or towards a thought that you just don’t have the energy or capability to put effort into relationship building. 

Depression Affects Relationships

On the other hand, your depressive symptoms might manifest more as irritability and acting out, directing anger or negativity out towards others, and unintentionally reinforcing the feelings of aloneness and pessimism over time. 

Long story short, the underlying pattern of how depression leads us to think about ourself and others can lead towards being trapped in a “negative filter,” which then leads towards behavioral patterns of closing down, withdrawing, decreasing engagement and vulnerability with others, and unintentionally feeling more alone and low over time. 

Depression in Relationships healing

By working with a trained Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist, you can learn to understand and quickly catch the warning signs of depression setting in and develop effective action plans to cope with them immediately. By developing your own awareness and skill in shifting unhelpful thought and behavioral patterns, we can open up new opportunities to experiment with how to foster connection, open communication, and to feel supported and together again in your relationships. 

About the Author

Dr. Robert Yeilding, PsyD
Dr. Robert Yeilding, PsyD
Dr. Yeilding earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. He is a Diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, and he currently serves as a board member for the National Social Anxiety Center, which is dedicated to fostering evidence-based treatment for social anxiety. Dr. Yeilding specializes in helping adults and adolescents with depressive and anxiety disorders, specializing in treating social anxiety, insomnia, panic disorder, OCD, and managing and finding growth in life transitions. He uses Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness strategies, proven strategies that provide results.

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