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Depression is a complex and pervasive mental health condition that can affect every aspect of a person’s life. It’s not uncommon for people with depression to report feeling emotionally numb, empty, or unable to experience joy from activities and relationships that once brought them happiness.

This includes romantic relationships, where depression can sap motivation, reduce intimacy, and make it difficult to feel loving feelings toward a partner. This marked change in feelings often leads depressed individuals to worry whether they have fallen out of love or should end the relationship. 

However, clinical research indicates depression itself, not loss of love, is often the root cause of emotional detachment. With proper treatment, feelings can return and relationships can be restored.

In this article, we’ll discuss the relationship between depression and romantic emotions, exploring how this mental health condition can influence the way individuals feel about their partners and providing guidance on how to navigate these challenging situations.

Depression’s Reach

Depression is not merely a passing sadness or a bout of the blues. It’s a clinical condition that affects mood, thoughts, and behaviors. It often involves persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable. 

Depression can also bring about changes in sleep, appetite, energy levels, and concentration. It’s this pervasive nature of depression that makes it capable of influencing romantic feelings and relationships. To truly comprehend how depression influences these bonds, let’s take a closer look at its reach.

The Emotional Impact

One of the most striking aspects of depression is its ability to blunt emotions. People with depression may find that they lose interest in activities they once loved, and this can extend to their romantic relationships. 

The intense joy and passion they once felt may become muted or even disappear altogether. It’s important to understand that this change in emotional response is not a conscious choice; it’s a manifestation of the illness.

The Role of Chemical Imbalance

Depression is often associated with a chemical imbalance, particularly involving neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These are the brain’s messengers, regulating mood and emotions. 

When they’re out of balance, as they often are in depression, it can significantly impact their ability to experience pleasure and affection. It’s like the brain’s reward system is temporarily out of service.

This chemical aspect of depression can contribute to feeling emotionally distant from your partner, even when you desperately want to feel that connection.

The Complexity of High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression adds another layer of complexity to this emotional struggle. People with high-functioning depression may appear outwardly competent and capable, often concealing their inner turmoil. On the surface, they may maintain daily routines, excel at work, and engage in social activities, all while silently battling depressive symptoms. 

In the context of a romantic relationship, high-functioning depression can lead to a disconnect between the outward presentation and the inner emotional experience. Partners may struggle to understand why their loved ones seem distant or emotionally unavailable, further straining the relationship.

The Impact on Romantic Relationships

sad man
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Depression is a multifaceted mental health condition, and its influence on romantic relationships can manifest in various ways.

It’s important to recognize that depression doesn’t affect everyone in the same manner, and its impact on feelings for a partner can vary widely from person to person. Some of the most common ways depression can affect romantic relationships include:

1. Emotional Numbness

One of the hallmark characteristics of depression is the numbing of emotions. Individuals with depression might find it challenging to connect with their feelings, leaving them feeling emotionally distant from their partner. 

They may describe their emotional state as akin to being a hollow shell, incapable of experiencing love or affection. This emotional numbness can leave both partners feeling isolated and frustrated, as it can create an emotional void within the relationship.

2. Loss of Interest

Depression often leads to a pervasive loss of interest in activities, including those that were once cherished within the relationship. This can translate into reduced engagement in shared hobbies, diminished physical intimacy, and a general sense of detachment from the partner. 

The spark that once fueled the relationship may seem dimmer, and individuals with depression may struggle to experience joy or passion within the context of their partnership.

3. Negative Thought Patterns

Depression is often accompanied by a barrage of negative thoughts and self-criticism. Individuals with depression may engage in rumination, fixating on perceived flaws in themselves or their partner. 

These negative thought patterns can fuel resentment and conflict within the relationship. Feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness may lead to distancing behaviors and push partners further apart.

4. Communication Challenges

Effective communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, but depression can significantly hinder this essential aspect of emotional connection.

Depressed individuals may find it challenging to express their feelings or may withdraw from conversations altogether. This lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and feelings of neglect or indifference.

5. Reduced Intimacy

Depression can often lead to a decrease in physical and emotional intimacy within a relationship. Individuals with depression may struggle with changes in their libido, making it challenging to engage in physical affection.

Emotional detachment can further erode feelings of intimacy, leading to a sense of isolation for both partners.

6. Conflict and Tension

The negative emotions associated with depression can exacerbate conflict within a relationship. Arguments may become more frequent and intense, and the ability to resolve disagreements effectively may be compromised.

Partners may feel helpless in the face of their loved one’s depression, leading to feelings of frustration and helplessness.

7. Feelings of Neglect

The symptoms of depression, such as fatigue and emotional withdrawal, can create a sense of neglect in the non-depressed partner. They may feel that their partner is emotionally distant or unavailable, which can trigger feelings of abandonment and insecurity.

Understandably, these behaviors damage closeness and trust in the relationship. The other partner feels rejected, lonely, and unwanted, and concludes their partner must have fallen out of love with them.

But in many cases, it is the depressive symptoms causing this negative dynamic, not loss of love. Treating depression can restore motivation to reconnect with the partner.

Should the Relationship End?

When depression saps positive feelings about a romantic partner, it’s natural to question the future of the relationship.

Some individuals do ultimately decide to end long-term relationships during depressive episodes. However, therapists advise waiting until the depression lifts before making permanent decisions about the relationship’s fate.

Improving one’s mental health first provides clarity on the reasons behind feeling detached from a partner. Once depression is treated and emotions balance out, feelings of love often return – an indication the relationship still has a foundation to sustain it. As depressive symptoms resolve, energy to actively work on strengthening the relationship also increases.

On the other hand, if sadness and apathy persist even after depression treatment, it’s a sign that perhaps the relationship has truly run its course.

However, it is still worthwhile to directly communicate feelings with the partner before ending the relationship, as their support may be integral to overcoming depression.

Navigating Depression in Relationships

While depression can have a significant impact on feelings for a partner, it’s essential to remember that the illness itself is the adversary, not the individual experiencing it. Here are some strategies for navigating depression within a romantic relationship:

1. Seek Professional Help: Both partners should acknowledge the presence of depression and seek professional help. One of the most effective ways to address depression is through therapy, and this holds true for individuals and couples alike.

Therapy provides a safe and supportive environment to explore and understand the roots of depression, as well as develop strategies to manage its symptoms. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), in particular, is highly regarded for its success in treating depression. Through CBT, individuals can identify and challenge negative thought patterns, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and gradually regain control over their emotions.

In some cases, medication may be recommended by a mental health professional. Antidepressant medications can help correct chemical imbalances in the brain, providing relief from the symptoms of depression. 

It’s important to emphasize that medication is a valid and effective treatment option but should be considered in consultation with a healthcare provider. The decision to take medication should be a collaborative one, taking into account the individual’s unique needs and preferences.

2. Foster Understanding: Partners should strive to educate themselves about depression and its effects. Understanding the nature of the illness can reduce misunderstandings and foster empathy.

3. Maintain Open Communication: Open and honest communication is key to navigating depression within a relationship. Both partners should feel comfortable discussing their feelings, needs, and concerns.

4. Be Patient and Supportive: Depression can often leave individuals feeling hopeless and powerless. Partners can play a pivotal role in instilling hope by providing unwavering support and encouragement. Small victories, no matter how minor they may seem, should be celebrated. 

Acts of kindness, reassurance of love, and consistent reminders that recovery is possible can help lift the heavy burden of hopelessness.

5. Self-Care: Both partners should prioritize self-care to maintain their emotional well-being. This can include exercise, healthy eating, and engaging in enjoyable activities, both individually and as a couple.

6, Maintain Connection Through Socialization: Socializing can be especially challenging when one or both partners are dealing with depression. However, maintaining a social support system is crucial for emotional well-being.

Finding low-pressure social activities that both partners can enjoy, even if it’s just a quiet evening at home, can help maintain a sense of connection.

How BetterHelp Can Help

BetterHelp provides a platform for individuals and couples to access professional therapy and counseling conveniently. With a team of licensed therapists specializing in depression and relationship issues, BetterHelp offers a safe and supportive space to address the challenges of depression in the context of your partnership. 

Whether you choose individual therapy to manage your own depression or couples therapy to enhance your relationship, BetterHelp’s accessible and confidential services can assist you in navigating the complexities of depression while maintaining and nurturing your connection with your partner.


In some circumstances, depression can genuinely alter feelings about a relationship. However, it more commonly creates a temporary distortion of emotions and attachment.

With caring support from partners and effective mental health treatment, individuals can regain positive feelings that enduring relationships are built on.


1. Can depression truly affect feelings for your partner?

Yes, depression can impact various aspects of your life, including your emotional connection with your partner. It can lead to feelings of numbness, disinterest, and low energy, which may affect your ability to engage emotionally in the relationship.

2. Is it normal for someone with depression to push their partner away?

Yes, it’s not uncommon for individuals with depression to withdraw from their loved ones, including their partner. Depression can make one feel overwhelmed, irritable, or guilty about burdening others, leading to isolation.

3. What can I do to help my partner who is struggling with depression?

Supporting a partner with depression involves active listening, showing empathy, and encouraging them to seek professional help. You can also offer assistance with finding a therapist or counselor.

4. Can therapy help with depression in relationships?

Yes, therapy, including couples therapy and individual therapy, can be highly effective in addressing depression’s impact on relationships. It provides tools to enhance communication, cope with symptoms, and rebuild emotional bonds.

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