The Sneaky Ways Anxiety & Depression Erode Relationships (Without You Even Realizing)

Your depression and anxiety are a part of you and affect every relationship you have.

Woman surrounded by her overwhelming thoughts zimmytws's Images, Satrio Ramadhan | Canva

When suffering from anxiety or depression, you know how it feels for you — you feel it constantly — but have you considered how it affects your relationship with others?

Even when you’re not thinking about it, anxiety and depression always end up affecting your mood and actions.

RELATED: What It Feels Like To Have Anxiety And Depression At The Same Time


Here's how anxiety & depression affect your relationships with friends, family, & romantic partners:

1. You see the effects differently than others

The signs of depression and anxiety and their effects may feel like they are just part of your everyday life. It becomes normal.

Yet, the people you love and interact with view your conditions through a different lens. They may misinterpret or not understand your actions or might judge you from their perspective. They may, in turn, treat you differently than they usually might.

Whether you are talking with a store clerk, a friend, a coworker, a child, or a significant other — your behavior influences how they react to you. Additionally, their reaction to you can change how you respond to them.


Everyone wants to have healthy relationships in their lives. So, it's important to explore this connection between your depression or anxiety and your relationships. Recognizing how depression and anxiety symptoms affect relationships is one of the steps in recovering from these conditions.

When you realize the impact of depression and anxiety disorders on your relationships, you are in a much better position to overcome these hurdles.

2. How it impacts work relationships

Every day, you interact with your clients, boss, staff, and colleagues and seek to earn their respect, business, support, and confidence. As you do, you want to project competency.

But, if you are suffering from depression or anxiety at times, you can see that goal dissolve before your eyes.


The influence of depression and anxiety on work lives was one of the reasons the American Psychiatric Association created its Center For Workplace Mental Health. They provide employers with tools to support employees in accessing help. These disorders respond well to treatment.

You can recognize that you control what feels uncontrollable.

In the workplace, anxiety and depression can fill you with a fear of failure. Instead of accepting an assignment, anxiety might drive you to defer the task to a coworker.

Your boss may view that as an unwillingness to take on challenges. When the next assignment arises, your boss may immediately go to your co-worker and not to you. This makes you feel even less competent, more anxious, and depressed.


A vicious, never-ending cycle is now in motion. It only fuels your low self-esteem. This makes you even less likely to speak up or give your input. When given a task, you can become so obsessed with the challenges that you do not handle them efficiently.

This can lead to further isolation, failure to communicate with colleagues, low motivation, and hypersensitivity to criticism. You may feel like you are not taken seriously, so there may be strained relationships with your coworkers.

You may begin to perceive your environment as hostile. You may create ways to be absent from work. This exacerbates the perception of your boss, and you may miss out on a promotion again. That only fuels the downward spiral that it all feels inescapable.

The good news is that this cycle of depression and anxiety effects on work relationships is not inescapable. You can break the cycle. Help is available and effective. Your work relationships don’t have to be affected by depression and anxiety.


3. The effect on social relationships

Maintaining an active and fulfilling social life can also feel impossible if you have anxiety or depression. While Social Anxiety Disorder is a specific diagnosis, any variant of anxiety or depression can impact your social life.

Anxiety and depression inhibit your relationships with people you know and your ability to make new friends. These conditions influence your behavior. Others may misinterpret your actions and treat you based on these interpretations.

For example, they may see you as withdrawn or standoffish and keep their distance from you.

Fear of being in situations with unknown people creates a worry that people feel your anxiety or depression prevents your personality from shining. You may find eye contact, joining conversations, or being the center of attention are difficult. You may fear others judging you.


All of this leads to further negative thoughts. You begin to make excuses to avoid parties or dinner with friends. When you force yourself to be a part of these things, your enjoyment is not what it used to be. You then feel worse.

You've probably now lost all desire to go out. Isolation begins to feel like a haven. You begin to feel disconnected, lonely, and as if you have no friends. This leads to losing contact with old friends and finding no new ones.

It can feel like a free fall into a dark chasm that cannot be stopped. These feelings lead to more anxiety and increased depression. You may feel complete despair over your situation.

It is not a fall; it is a process. And it is a process that can be reversed with appropriate treatment.


RELATED: 10 Things To Do When You’re Ready To Overcome Your Depression And Anxiety

4. How family relationships are impacted

Your family knows you best. Indeed, you count on them for support and understanding while you deal with your anxiety or depression. Undoubtedly, they are willing and eager to help. But, as with every other relationship, your anxiety and depression can impact them.

Your anxiety or depression can make you more isolated and withdrawn from your family. You might find little enjoyment or pleasure in doing once fun things. Your withdrawal may cause your family to also withdraw from these family activities.

You may find it challenging to open up and discuss your condition with your family. However, despite this "I don't want to talk about it" feeling, your family may become your outlet for frustration and anger. They are closest to you, your safe harbor where you let down.


So, paradoxically, they are the ones to receive your negativity, complaints, impatience, and criticisms. This erodes emotional closeness. Your family may feel resentful or blame themselves for your symptoms. They may feel alienated from you.

As depression and anxiety cause you to focus more on yourself than on your family, you cannot attend to their needs as you did before. They may withdraw from you.

Your family may also feel guilty about being unable to help you. At the same time, they may find the situation draining, all while feeling upset and worried for you. They may even begin to develop their psychological issues.

For example, many studies have shown a connection between parental depression and a child's anxiety. Young children are the most susceptible to this. They may act out and rebel against you. As you notice all of this, you may feel even more alone. The ones closest to you are drifting further away.


So, your anxiety or depression becomes even worse. Once again, that spiral of despair kicks in.

But it is, in fact, not hopeless. There is help available, and it works.

5. The influence on romantic relationships

When you are in a relationship and trying to maintain or develop that romantic involvement, suffering from depression or anxiety presents another challenge. In an existing relationship, you will face new obstacles. Establishing a new bond may feel unattainable.

Any close relationship needs nurturing from both parties to thrive.

So significant complications arise when one or both persons in the relationship lack energy or motivation, suffer low self-esteem, or generally withdraw from the world. Or if you constantly doubt and question yourself, you convey this to your significant other.


If you have anxiety or depression, you likely find it hard to discuss your feelings with your partner. You may become overly clingy or suspicious or begin to exhibit jealousy. You can become defensive and impatient. You may lose interest in having sex. You begin to perceive a loss of support from your partner.

Your partner may become exhausted with the effort required to connect with you. That person may feel hurt or alienated. They may feel guilty that they cannot help you. They may view your sadness as their weakness.

Your partner may shut down and stop talking to you. You might be perplexed that they can't help you.


All of this tends to stop communication. You feel each other drifting apart. You both feel guilty and inadequate. The love you felt for each other, or the love you could develop for each other, seems to dissolve into a mist.

RELATED: How To Save Your Marriage When Depression Is Tearing It Apart

6. Fixing what feels unfixable and hopeless

Perhaps you recognized yourself in some of these. Maybe you see a friend, family member, or co-worker in some of this discussion. The good news is that depression and anxiety do not have to be permanent — you can get help.

The most challenging step is the first one: reaching out to a trained professional. But making that call or writing that email can begin to make everything that seemed impossible now within your grasp.


Relationships can be healed and restored. There is no magic wand, but consulting with the right therapist can start you moving to the life you want.

Effective therapies can bring you back from the hold anxiety and depression have had on you and have a healthy relationship with the people you love that you so want and deserve.

RELATED: Why Am I So Sad? 6 Common Reasons People Struggle With Depression And Anxiety

Jean Tschampa is a co-owner and principal therapist at Life Care Wellness, a group psychotherapy practice. She specializes in wellness, life transition, anxiety, and addiction treatment and is a Board Certified Coach and professional counselor.