How Does My Partners or Family Member’s Depression Affect Me?

Depression is a prevalent mood disorder that impacts hundreds of millions of people around the world. Characterized by symptoms of persistent sadness and loss of interest, depression can impact the way you view yourself, how you interact with your family and partner, how you view the world around you and may take a toll on your overall physical and mental health.

Depression can be a debilitating mental health disorder and can interfere with a person’s ability to manage everyday tasks. However, the consequences of depression go beyond just affecting the person struggling with it. Even if you do not suffer from depression yourself, you may still be affected if your partner or a family member suffers from depression. It’s important to understand what depression is, as well as the signs and symptoms of depression to find the best path forward for your family.

Signs that your loved one may suffer from depression

Depression can impact a person’s mind and body. It alters the way they feel about themselves and the world around them. Common characteristics and symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to:

  • Changes in sleep patterns, including fatigue, difficulty falling or remaining asleep
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Lack of interest in activities that once brought happiness
  • Lack of energy
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness, irritability, worthlessness, guilt, helplessness, or hopelessness
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Uncontrollable emotions
  • Treatment-resistant physical symptoms, such as headaches or pain

It’s important to identify and manage the signs and symptoms of depression. Symptoms of depression can occur many times in life with episodes lasting days or weeks on end. During a depressive episode, symptoms are persistent and impact a person’s ability to manage everyday tasks related to their work, school, family, and romantic partner. When left unmanaged, depression can interrupt both mental and physical health and wellbeing.

how depression affects families

Effects of depression on relationships and families

Even under the best circumstances, relationships require effort and can be challenging. Relationships also require vulnerability as we learn to trust one another. When someone in a relationship has depression, it can create new challenges or intensify pre-existing challenges.

Although depression is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis, individuals with depression may experience a wide range of uncontrollable emotions that impact the dynamic of the relationship. They may also withdraw and lose interest in things that once brought you joy as a couple or family. Untreated depression can lead to a cycle of self-destructive behaviors that can negatively impact relationships.

When a loved one suffers from depression it can cause their family to experience heightened anxiety and stress. For example, the partner of a person with depression may feel the need to take over responsibilities, which can result in the depressed individual feeling misunderstood, frustrated, or pressure to recover quickly. The person who is depressed may also feel guilty for impacting their loved ones while they manage their depression.

How to know if someone’s depression is affecting you

Helping a depressed person can feel consuming and draining. It can also cause a caregiver to feel similar feelings of anxiety and depression as they struggle to help their loved one cope with depression.

Your partner’s or family member’s depression may be affecting your mental health if you:

  • Avoid interacting or meeting up with someone who is depressed
  • Avoid calling a depressed family member or partner
  • Make excuses to others for your diminishing social life
  • Feel exhausted or emotionally drained worrying about your partner or loved one’s depression
  • Feel guilty if you’ve had a good day and your partner hasn’t
  • Use avoidance techniques or unhealthy coping strategies to cope with your loved one’s depression
  • Feel guilty for feeling okay with your life when you’re not with them
  • Feel stuck, held back, alone, or isolated as you help manage their depression

All of the above feelings and reactions are commonplace for helping someone deal with their depression. If you are supporting someone who is depressed, be sure to take care of yourself and your own feelings so that you can continue to support your loved one and not fall into the same path yourself.

how depression affects relationships

How to encourage your loved one to seek therapy for depression

It’s important to recognize that if someone you care about is depressed, there is a serious problem that requires professional help. It can be hard to talk to someone about their depression and how it is impacting your life and mental health. Sharing how you feel about your loved one being depressed and the impact it has on you and your family is a good place to start.

The earlier your loved one can receive treatment for depression, the better. We suggest the following ways to approach your partner or loved one about seeking help in the early stages of their depression:

  • Pick a good time and place to let your partner know that you love them and want to help them. For example, avoid talking during a group event or an argument.
  • Approach them with empathy and let them know that you are talking with them because you care about their health, wellbeing, and happiness.
    Let them know how their depression is impacting your relationship or the family dynamic. Be sure to use “I” statements, such as “I am concerned about you.”
  • Remind your loved one that it takes courage to ask for help, and that it is not a sign of weakness.
  • Facilitate the process by finding a professional and offering to help them schedule their first appointment.

Depression Therapy at BE Psychology Center

Supporting your partner or loved one through their depression treatment is a long-term commitment. It’s important to understand that their depressive episodes may come and go throughout their life. Not only will they benefit from professional help, but as their support system, you may benefit as well.

At Be Psychology, our team of clinicians and psychologists leverage their expertise and experience to help you and your loved one manage their depression. You don’t have to face these challenging times alone. We’re dedicated to helping our clients find the solutions they need to deal with depression.

Contact a member of our team to schedule your consultation today.


  reem shaheen counseling psychologist  

Reem Shaheen – LMHC