How Depression Could Be Affecting Your Relationships

Is depression affecting your relationships?

Anyone who has experienced depression in their life knows just how much it can affect relationships. Whether you find yourself spending most of your time with friends online or off, the feelings, behavior, and hopelessness that come with depression can start to creep their way into all the things you love.

Thankfully, you aren’t the only person who’s going through this. There are plenty of coping mechanisms and tips to help you keep your relationships strong while also healthily managing your depression.

header image with a picture of a group of friends laying on the ground in a circle, their heads touching. The header reads depression and relationships (online & off)

Before we get into the tips and tricks, let’s start at the beginning. How can you tell if your depression is starting to affect your relationships?

How does depression affect people’s relationships?

Everyone struggles with feelings of sadness throughout their lives. When it comes to depression, it’s more than just feeling sad; it’s an overwhelming and persistent feeling of hopelessness that you can’t shake. Obviously, something quite that heavy is going to affect how you live your life and it can also be felt by those around you.

It’s important to be open and honest with your friends, family, and partners about your mental health. While your depression should never be used to excuse bad behavior, it can often explain certain episodes so your loved ones can better understand. Sometimes it can indeed be too much. How do you recognize when your depression is affecting your relationships?

There are a couple of factors that come into play when trying to figure out how your depression is affecting your relationships. I can’t get into all of it right here or this is going to go straight from blog post to full-length novel. Instead, let’s focus on one thing — where and how you communicate.

⭐️ IRL

The way we interact with our friends that we know in person or “in real life” (not like our online friends aren’t real lmao) is going to be different than the way we interact with our friends online. Because of this, the effects our mental health has on these relationships can also appear differently.

The most obvious warning sign is when you start to avoid meeting up with your friends. Whether this is because you feel hopeless, you feel like you don’t belong, or you just have general feelings of anxiety when hanging out, all of these can lead to isolating yourself from your friends. This isolation can lead to strains in your relationships and in my experience, will just make you feel worse all around.

You might also notice that you’re more combative with your friends. If you find yourself starting arguments or fights more often, especially over little things that normally wouldn’t bother you, it might be time to take a step back and evaluate your mental state.

photo that looks like it has been taped to a corkboard. the photo has 3 people, one person (Acorn) on the left wearing glasses and a hat with a feather, a young woman (Bri) in the middle wearing glasses, a flower crown, and a black corset, another woman (Glo) on the right with pink and blue hair wearing a golden tiara

💻 Online

When it comes to online relationships, things can be a little bit different. The way we interact online can be totally distinct from how we interact offline. That means the way depression can affect those relationships is also likely to be different. There are a variety of ways you can make friends online of course, but today I am focusing specifically on online gaming and relationships in that space.

A huge indicator that your depression is negatively affecting your relationships with your online friends is often overlooked as something else: you’re not enjoying your favorite games as much. Do you find yourself raging at your favorite games, yelling at teammates, and maybe even throwing your peripherals around because you’re so frustrated? It might not be the game that’s the problem: as much as you don’t want to hear, it could be you. 

Irritability and aggression are commonly found in people struggling with depression. Next time you lose a match, don’t be so quick to yell; take a step back and assess your mental state.

Beyond not enjoying your favorite games, you might even find that you’re not playing with your online friends as much. Social withdrawal is a common sign of depression and it can affect online relationships just as much as those formed offline. Depression can make you feel like a burden or like no one wants you around, and the obvious instinctual reaction to that is to pull away from your friends. 

This self-imposed isolation more often than not makes the depressive episode worse. Next time you think about canceling your game night with your friends, maybe stop and think: do you really want to cancel, or do you just think you should?

a screenshot from a video call in discord. There are 4 friends in their individual video frames toasting drinks toward the camera.

How can I stop my mental health from ruining my relationships?

Once you realize exactly how your depression is affecting your relationships, it can be hard to figure out what to do next. How can you mend these relationships while also taking care of yourself?

The good news is, taking care of yourself is exactly the first step. Recognizing your depression and taking steps to get better is already going to help improve your relationships. Everyone is different, so finding a treatment or coping strategy that works best for you will likely take time. 

Talking with an expert to find the best strategies for you is always the best route to take, but therapy is expensive, and finding the right therapist is time and energy-consuming. I am no professional, but I can make some recommendations based off of my own personal experience. Here are a few things you can try:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • meditation
  • journaling
  • light exercise regimen

Find a strategy that works for you and stick to it as often and consistently as you can. Some days will be better than others. So long as you keep moving forward, you will see that progress in the long run.

Beyond finding a strategy that works for you, you also must work against the trap of self-isolation. Schedule brunch with your friends; add extra time for fun game nights; have a video call with a loved one. You can take this a little at a time so as not to be overwhelming, but just put yourself out there. You will feel more loved and appreciated and will have less time to be trapped inside of your own head.

It’s also crucial that you take some time to talk to your friends and loved ones. Especially during bouts of depression, it can be very easy to get inside your head and start making your own narrative. Your feelings are always valid, but often times they are not founded in truth. It’s key to be open and honest with your friends and let them know what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. Remember, your friends aren’t your therapist, but they can still shed light on the situation — especially if it involves them!

Toxic Mental Health

While your mental health can affect your relationships, it should not be used as an excuse to treat people poorly. 

If you’re having a bad day and are in a constant bad mood, be open and honest with your friends: let them know how you’re feeling and if you need some time alone. Remember, don’t continuously isolate yourself. Just take as much time as you need.

Whatever you do, do not make a habit of being rude or offensive, and expect those around you to simply accept it because of your depression. In this same vein, it is not healthy nor helpful to guilt-trip your friends using your mental health. Every person is in charge of their own well-being and just because your loved ones may put their own ahead of yours does not negate their care for you.

While poor mental health can sometimes explain negative behavior like those mentioned above, it does not excuse it. Constantly repeating these poor behaviors is an active choice you make and not necessarily a direct result of your mental health. Your friends, family, and partners are allowed to take their own step back if your behavior is affecting them. This doesn’t mean they don’t care for you; it means they need time to care for themselves.

an illustration showing a therapist speaking with a client. the client is on a pink sofa and has a speech bubble containing a skull and crossbones to illustrate toxic mental health

Wrap-Up: How does depression show up in a relationship?

Depression can show up in your relationships in a variety of ways. It is not only dependent upon who you are as a person, but also how your relationships present themselves and exist for you. Remember to:

  • take a step back and evaluate how you feel
  • decide if you need social time or alone time
  • avoid self-isolation 
  • be open and honest in your relationships

Depression doesn’t have to ruin your relationships. It might take some practice to get to a point where you’re comfortable taking the appropriate steps to heal and mend not only yourself but also your relationships, but it will absolutely be worth it in the end. We are all a work in progress. 

I hope this article was helpful to you! If you have any questions or tips of your own, please feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter

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