The Person In High School Who May Have Triggered Your Depression, According To Research

A psychological study found that early relationships can often reveal the first signs of depression.

Last updated on Nov 16, 2023

High school couple energyy | sshepard | Getty Images Signature / Jacob Lund | Canva

For many young people, high school love is full of relationship firsts. You can probably think of a few yourself — first relationship, first kiss, first heartbreak or even the first time. However, we're betting you would've never guessed this first would ever be added to the list.

Researchers at the University of Maine performed a psychological study that brought to light a new first for kids in love, and it has nothing to do with magical moments. They found that early relationships can often reveal the first signs of depression.


According to a 2011 study published in the UMaine News, a young guy or girl who "excessively seeks reassurance in their romantic relationships" has a higher chance of developing depression later in life.

UMaine Doctoral Research Fellow, Jessica Fales, observed 110 young pairs aged 17 to 26 who had been in committed relationships, on average, for around 12 months. While both men and women seek this sort of approval from their partners about the same amount, women showed far greater negative results.


RELATED: 17 Signs You Or Someone You Love Is Addicted To Validation

The study indicated that this phenomenon — constantly wanting partners to show how much they really care — directly impacts these symptoms of depression. It's more than just a contributing factor to an unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship; the correlation is pretty exact.

"Greater excessive reassurance-seeking, co-rumination, and poor romantic relationship quality each uniquely predicted depressive symptoms for young women," the report stated. Yikes.

RELATED: 7 Ways Your First Love Affects You Forever, Per Psychology

So when does a simple wish for outward affection turn into an overzealous need for comfort? Fales is looking to make those blurred boundaries clearer.


"In younger children, it's normal for them to seek reassurance," she said. "We don't know where the unhealthy line is, but a starting point is when excessive reassurance seeking starts to annoy other people, to the point that they begin to withdraw from the relationship."

RELATED: The 8 Types Of Depression (And The Best Way To Handle Each)

It's a tough set of facts to swallow since it's highly doubtful youthful couples will be equipped to alter their ways without some help. But Fales thinks young women could change the course of their future if they learn healthier behaviors early on.

“These are behaviors and can be changed," she said. "They can more readily be targeted through intervention. For example, because we know that dwelling on negative topics or problems with others can lead to depressive symptoms, we can talk to young people about more active problem-solving.”


If that happens, maybe we can keep those young relationships experiencing more of the happier firsts.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Your Intense First Love Was Actually A Mind Game

Jenna Birch is a former author, journalist, & editor. She currently leads narrative & communications at a venture capital firm.