The Impact of Depression on Family and Relationships

May 31, 2017 5 min read
The Impact of Depression on Family and Relationships

Too many people end up in therapy because of someone else’s issues, and its impact on their lives, leaving them feeling stuck and trapped in misery.


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Living with somebody who’s depressed is never easy as it slowly seeps into the lives of relatives, partners, and friends. The impact of this disease on others has a slow dripping effect that isn’t always felt straight away.

At least not until we begin to realise that we spend much of our time in the company of a depressive, which some family members can describe as “feeling like they're walking on egg shells”. That's why it is important to understand the impact of depression on family and relationships, and identify the signs and symptoms of depression in loved ones.

Helping someone with depression

For anyone who is depressed, their negative thought patterns and feelings are consistent much of the time.  However, for the person who lives or spends regular time with a depressed person, there is a marked contrast in how they feel on the spectrum of positive and negative feelings.

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How does living with a depressive impact others?

Being depressed is truly a difficult situation all round for all concerned. The person who is depressed feels guilty for spreading their misery onto others and the person trying to cope living with a depressive feels guilty for struggling with it.

We often describe people’s personalities as someone whose glass is either half full or half empty and we all know that for someone who is depressed, that the glass is well and truly not far of empty.

As we know, scientifically, negativity just like positivity has energy vibrations. Both negativity and positivity will have an impact on the people that come into contact with them; helping a depressed person can be draining and even bring the supporting individual into the same path.

How to know if someone's depression is affecting you

Are you...

  • Experiencing a feeling of doom and gloom as you approach your home not knowing what kind of mood to expect from the depressive when you get there
  • Avoiding meeting up with or visiting someone depressed or feeling duty bound to make the effort when you don’t want to
  • Avoiding taking the calls of a depressed friend or depressed family member when you see its their phone number, or going through the motions of listening to their negativity when you don’t want to hear it anymore
  • Making excuses to others for a diminishing social life or loss of your own grip and focus on situations such as parenting and other responsibilities
  • Feeling irritable in the company of someone who is depressed and negative, and maybe feeling resentful of the depressed person and guilty for not being more tolerant
  • Feeling guilty because you’ve had a good day and they haven’t, so you feel unable to share your positivity and allow yourself to get caught up in a depressive’s negativity instead
  • Feeling powerless and afraid of what might happen if the situation continues, fear of suicide of the person you love or know, or, of yourself not being able to cope if there is hardship through loss of employment or taking sole care of dependents
  • Using avoidance techniques such as staying away from home or using unhealthy coping strategies such as alcohol or illegal substances to switch off from the negativity of someone with the illness
  • Wishing you could live somewhere else, rather than with the depressed person
  • Feeling guilty for feeling okay yourself in your own life when you’re not with them
  • Feeling held back, stuck, isolated and alone in a dual and contradictive existence

All of these feelings and reactions to helping someone deal with depression can be normal for supporters. If you are supporting someone that is depressed, tap into your own feelings and take care of yourself, so that you can both continue supporting the depressive and not fall into the same path yourself.

How to help someone that is depressed & support yourself in the process

Stop aiding and abetting the situation as if there’s a white elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. Being honest about the situation is a good place to start, by sharing how you actually feel about your loved one being depressed, and what kind of impact it is having on you.

Recognise that if someone you care for is depressed — there is a serious problem.

To help yourself and the person you are supporting, find out all you can about the disease and what can be done. For example, many types of depression, such as postnatal depression for men is often overlooked as something normal and an issue that does not get enough proper attention.

There is plenty of information online from qualified professionals, both online and in-person support groups, and professional therapists and counsellors that can help you and your depressed friend or family member. If price and distance are a constraint to getting help for this problem, online therapy and talking to a doctor online, as well as other telehealth solutions, could be an option to look into.

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Seek appropriate professional help and use persuasion to gain cooperation with this from the depressed person. If you are ready to take the next step and seek help for yourself, here are tips on how to find the right counsellor, and how to make the most of your first session.

If you're thinking "I need a therapist near me" but dont know where to start, get in touch with Elizabeth below or try the RingMD therapist directory. We will help you find the right therapist for YOU!

Give yourself permission to be yourself, as you normally are and not take ownership of another depressed person, as it doesn’t belong to you, it’s not a healthy illness to adopt second hand.

Be kind to yourself, be vulnerable & be authentic

Being kind to yourself is nurturing and positive. Be true to your own feelings and aim for happiness and achieving your own growth potential. Too many people end up in therapy because someone else is depressed and its impact on their lives, leaving them feeling stuck and trapped in misery.

Finally, have the courage to share the burden you live with and you’ll find you are most definitely not isolated but one of very many, who live or know someone who suffers with the awful blight of this serious issue.


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To find out more about depression or seek treatment from Elizabeth Van Rein, you may contact her directly through her profile (here). She offers online therapy and counselling, and is an accredited therapist in counselling and psychotherapy. She is also a fully qualified hypnotherapist practising in medical hypnotherapy and hypno-analysis.