RELATIONSHIPS & DEPRESSION
Depression affects one in five people in the UK and is an illness that, thankfully, people are beginning to understand better as awareness grows.
Less understood, however, are the ways in which depression can affect relationships and how your relationships can help you manage depression.
How relationships can affect depression
Strong and healthy relationships have the potential to help us cope with the symptoms of depression – and, in some circumstances, can be a big influence on whether a person becomes depressed.
They give us a support network – people to talk to and loved ones we can rely on when things are difficult. They can help us to maintain perspective and just generally feel less alone. ONS figures on what matters most to our wellbeing show that relationships with friends and family are joint-top of the list (89%).
Conversely, evidence suggests that people in troubled relationships are three times as likely to experience depression as those who aren’t. Unhappy or unsupportive relationships are a risk factor for depression. Some studies have found that over 60% of those with depression consider relationship problems to be the main cause of their illness.
How depression can affect relationships
Depression can make it difficult to maintain supportive and fulfilling relationships.
If your partner is suffering from depression, they may be so overwhelmed by their symptoms that finding the energy to communicate feels impossible.
As a partner or family member, it can be easy to find this really draining and upsetting. You might become exhausted with the effort of feeling you need to support your partner and also keeping up with running the house or looking after the rest of the family.
And in turn, the person with depression may begin to feel like a burden – as though they’re simply getting in the way and making the lives of those around them worse. They may be aware of the effects their depression is having on their relationships, but feel powerless to do anything about it. This can make them feel guilty, and lower their self-esteem even more.
This film by the World Health Organisation looks at how depression can interact with relationships:
How can counselling help?
We see a lot of couples affected by depression. While Relate counselling is not a treatment by itself, it can really help to work with someone who understands how depression can impact on a relationship.
They can help you begin to unpick what’s happening so you can get a better grip of the situation and how you might begin to address it. The idea is to help you feel like everything isn’t hopeless – that, actually, there are ways of managing what’s happening.
Here are some of the specific techniques we use.