According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 15 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, is affected with a major depression in a given year. If you or your loved one is experiencing depression, the chances that it will affect your relationship, friendships & family relationships are very high. How can depression affect relationships or marriages? First of all, depression makes a person want to isolate. The desire to hang around others, including close friends and relatives dwindles. Depression makes a person feel exhausted, and even if one can't sleep well, all you feel like doing is laying around the house, or laying in the bed. When in a relationship, unless the non-depressed person is willing to lay around too, the feelings of wanting to isolate and wanting to lay around are slowly going to create distance between the relationship. At first the non-depressed person is going to try to draw the depressed person out of their shell and suggest things to do (after all, they were attracted to each other b/c of common interests). However, after they get turned down enough times, they will quit asking and will either go without the depressed person (creating distance), or will stay at home themselves. If they choose to stay at home, this can lead to resentment and anger on their part (creating emotional distance).
If the depressed person is a parent, it will be hard for them to do their parenting responsibilities. They may find themselves doing the bare necessities, and then "checking out" for the rest of the evening. A depressed person's children may go to them for nurturing or emotional support, only to find their parent unable to provide those needs for them. The child is then left wondering what is wrong with mommy or daddy. The non-depressed parent may find themselves feeling more overwhelmed as they slowly see themselves becoming a single-parent in a 2-parent household.
Depression can make a person seems/come across as if they "don't care about anything"... including their relationships, jobs, children, responsibilities, etc. This couldn't be further from the truth! However, when a non-depressed encounters this perceived attitude, they get confused and sometimes arguments start. At the same time, depression can manifest itself in physical symptoms. It can create migraines, backaches, gastro-intestinal problems, unexplained pain, high-blood pressure, and many other health issues. This can render a person sick for days, weeks or years, depending upon how long their depressive episode goes untreated. These physical problems can limit a person's ability to be active, not be able to do things they once enjoyed, or even be so severe that a person is rendered disabled and face job loss.
Depression can also affect a person sex drive. I think it goes without saying how this can affect relationships! Being unable to be sexually intimate in a relationship can have serious implications. Oftentimes it manifests itself in the form of not having any desire to initiate sex, or an inability to enjoy sex. The non-depressed person may have a hard time understanding how the depression is affecting the sex drive, and may take it personally, thinking their spouse finds them unattractive or undesirable.
In tying all of this together, what this can ultimately lead to for a marriage/relationship is an affair. As you can see, distance gets created slowly and slowly over time. When discord is present in a relationship, the risk for infidelity increases tenfold. If you notice any of these in yourself or in a loved one, please get help.
Tomorrow, we will discuss how to cope with depression.
Written by: Tamara Portee MA, LMHC, LCAC
*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counselingat Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.