Last updated:

February 25, 2024


 min read

Breaking the silence: Overcoming stigma surrounding depression in relationships

Learn how to overcome stigma and navigate depression in relationships with strategies for open communication and support.

Reviewed by
Sneha Toppo
Written by
Shreya Shankar


While depression is extremely hard to navigate for an individual, it also quietly infiltrates the lives of those it touches. When it enters a relationship, its impact can be profound, disrupting communication, intimacy, and overall well-being. Yet, despite its prevalence, there remains a persistent stigma surrounding depression in relationships. This stigma can exacerbate feelings of shame and isolation, making it difficult for individuals and couples to seek the support they need. In this article, we delve into the complexities of navigating depression within relationships and explore strategies for breaking the silence and fostering understanding and support.

Understanding Depression in Relationships

Depression is more than just feeling sad or low; it's a debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Depression is a prevalent mental health condition that can affect anyone, regardless of their professional background or level of success. Depression can affect one’s mood, thoughts, and behaviours. The mood disorder is characterised by the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite (increased or decreased) leading to changes in weight (increased or decreased)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Loss of energy and feelings of fatigue
  • Feeling worthless, helpless, hopeless
  • Thoughts of harming oneself or others, or ending one’s life.

Depression can be caused by several factors including stressful situations, traumatic experiences, genetic predispositions, and changes in brain chemistry. 

Depression can also influence one’s self-care, performance at work or studies, and interpersonal relationships. When depression intersects with a romantic relationship, its effects can ripple through every aspect of the partnership. Communication may become strained as one or both partners struggle to articulate their feelings and experiences. Activities that once brought joy and connection may lose their appeal, leading to a sense of detachment and disconnection. Intimacy may suffer as feelings of worthlessness and despair overshadow moments of closeness.

A partner who is experiencing depression might have to be dealing with their symptoms and their manifestations, while also juggling the feelings of the other partner. They may feel tired, lacking interest in the relationship or activities the couple enjoyed, or irritability. There can also be lowered sex drive and intimacy, which can hamper the relationship. The partner with depression might be unable to communicate their experiences, which can lead to them being bottled up and finally an explosion. The inability to communicate might also be due to fears that the partner won’t understand them or their experiences. Some partners with depression might also become extremely dependent on their partners. They might also want to isolate themselves from all relationships, but this can be particularly challenging for romantic ones. They might feel guilty or ashamed for the impact that their depression is having on their partner and relationship, and sometimes might blame themselves for being a burden causing a breakdown in the relationship. 

The depression of one partner can also greatly affect the other partner as well. The lack of intimacy can take a toll on them, bringing up feelings of inadequacy or insecurity. Their partner’s difficulty with communication can make them feel worried for them, anxious around them, and shut out of their lives. They might blame themselves for some aspects of their partner’s depression, as well as hold themselves responsible for their partner’s recovery and happiness. This can take a huge emotional toll on the other partner. 

Despite growing awareness and understanding of mental health issues, stigma surrounding depression persists, particularly within intimate relationships. Partners may fear judgement or rejection if they disclose their struggles with depression, leading them to suffer in silence. Society's tendency to romanticise relationships can further perpetuate the stigma, as individuals feel pressure to maintain the facade of a perfect partnership. This can create a barrier to seeking help and support, prolonging the cycle of suffering.

How to overcome the Stigma around Depression in Relationships:

Overcoming the stigma surrounding depression in relationships begins with open and honest communication. Partners must create a safe space where they feel comfortable discussing their mental health without fear of judgement or shame. This requires vulnerability and empathy, as both individuals navigate the complexities of their emotions and experiences. Breaking the silence also involves challenging societal norms and stereotypes that perpetuate stigma. By sharing their stories and advocating for mental health awareness, couples can help dismantle harmful misconceptions and foster a culture of acceptance and support.

It can also be very helpful for individuals with depression to ask for what they need, whether it is space, time, communication, or support. Through honest communication, partners can ask for what they want, with the consent of their partner, and this allows them to share what help they would need. This also helps them feel less like a burden to their partners. 

Building a supportive environment for partners struggling with depression requires patience, empathy, and active participation from both individuals. Educating oneself about depression and its symptoms can help partners better understand what their loved one is going through and how they can offer support. This may involve accompanying them to therapy appointments, learning coping strategies together, or simply being a compassionate listener. It's essential to recognize that supporting a partner with depression is not about "fixing" them but rather standing by their side as they navigate their journey towards healing.

While support from loved ones is invaluable, it's essential to remember that depression is a complex mental health condition that often requires professional intervention. Encouraging a partner to seek therapy or medication, if necessary, can be a crucial step towards managing their symptoms and improving their overall well-being. Couples therapy can also provide a safe space for partners to explore their relationship dynamics and develop healthy coping strategies together. Couples therapy can help with better and more efficient communication, intimacy, and tips to spend time together in a non-exhaustive way.  

Caring for a partner with depression can be emotionally taxing, and it's essential for individuals to prioritise their own well-being as well. Engaging in self-care activities, such as exercise, hobbies, and spending time with friends, can help alleviate stress and prevent burnout. Setting boundaries and seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can also provide much-needed respite for partners struggling to cope with the challenges of supporting a loved one with depression.


Depression can impact all kinds of interpersonal relationships, especially romantic relationships. By breaking the silence and overcoming stigma, couples can navigate its challenges together with compassion and understanding. By fostering open communication, seeking professional help when needed, and prioritising self-care, partners can create a supportive environment where both individuals feel seen, heard, and valued. Together, we can rewrite the narrative surrounding depression in relationships, replacing stigma with empathy and understanding.

If you or your partner are struggling with depression in your relationship, it's important to remember that you're not alone. Seeking help and support is a courageous step towards healing and fostering a healthier dynamic. Consider reaching out to Rocket Health for online therapy and support tailored to your needs. Our qualified therapists provide a safe space to explore your emotions, improve communication, and strengthen your relationship. Take the first step towards overcoming stigma and building a stronger, more resilient partnership today.


Davila, J. (2001). Paths to unhappiness: The overlapping courses of depression and romantic dysfunction. In S. R. H. Beach (Ed.), Marital and family processes in depression: A scientific foundation for clinical practice, (pp. 71-87). American Psychological Association.

Mackinnon, S. P. et al. (2012). Caught in a bad romance: Perfectionism, conflict, and depression in romantic relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(2), 215-225.

Sharabi, L. L. et al. (2015). In their own words: How clinical depression affects romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33(4).

“What is depression?” (2020, October). American Psychiatric Association.