Depression and Your Relationships

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 21, 2021
3 min read

Depression can have a huge effect on your relationships. When you withdraw from life, you may avoid or push away the people you love. You might also be irritable or get angry more easily.

Your friends and family could feel hurt that you don't seem to be able to enjoy their company. They may miss the fun things you did together when you were feeling better, or resent that you don't feel up to doing your usual tasks around the house or at work. Your partner, parents, or children may even blame themselves for your unhappiness.

In turn, the problems that depression cause in your relationships can make your symptoms worse.

But support from family, friends, and other folks around you can be a big help while you're recovering from an episode of depression. Here are some steps to maintain those relationships.

  • Avoid isolation. Sometimes when people are depressed, they stay at home alone and stop picking up the phone. But don't let your relationships fade away -- the support of your loved ones is important for your recovery. If you feel overwhelmed, start slowly. Just call a friend and ask to meet for a quick visit, maybe for a cup of coffee. Or get together for a walk. You may find that talking about what you're going through will help you feel better while you're recovering. But even spending quiet time together at home can help. Sometimes just texting or talking to a friend on the phone can help you feel connected.
  • Talk to your loved ones. Be open with those closest to you about what you're thinking and feeling as you battle depression. Tell them if you just want them to listen without offering solutions. Let them know you still care about them, though it may be hard to show it right now. Listen to what they're feeling, too. If it's hard to open up, family or relationship therapy can help.
  • Ask for help. While you may worry about being a burden, that's your depression talking. The fact is that your friends and family may actually want to help -- they may just not know what to do. Help doesn't just mean emotional support. You might need a hand with practical chores like shopping or watching the kids.
  • Reassure your children. If you have children, they may be frightened and confused by your depression. It helps to explain what's happening. Discuss it in terms that they can understand. Explain that you're not feeling well and things may feel different for a while, but you're getting help and hope to feel better soon.
  • Be open about sexual issues. Depression -- and sometimes the related treatment -- can have a big impact on your sex drive or performance. This is very common and nothing to be ashamed of. You and your partner should talk openly about it. If you ignore the problem, you may just make things worse. Also, don't be afraid to talk with your doctor. If your medication is affecting your sex drive, your doctor may be able to change your prescription or recommend other medicines that may counteract sexual side effects.
  • Think about talking to your co-workers. Legally, you don't have to tell your boss about your depression.  But your colleagues or employer may have been confused or concerned about your behavior, and explaining the situation might put them at ease. You may also feel better knowing you have support at the office.
  • Join a support group. You may find it easier to talk to people who've had depression and know what it's like. Ask your doctor or therapist for the names of groups in your area or for some that meet online. Or get in touch with organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).