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How Relationships Can Cause Depression

author image Jill Avery-Stoss
Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.
How Relationships Can Cause Depression
couple fighting in living room Photo Credit Ana Blazic/iStock/Getty Images

Problems in relationships with those you care about can be considerably trying. They can trigger confusion, emotional upset and questions regarding the future of the relationship. In some cases, these problems can contribute to the development of depression or of a depressive episode. Although some relationship dynamics affect the incidence of depression, they are not inextricably linked, according to Dr. Fredric Neuman in an article for "Psychology Today" titled "Can Unhappy Events Cause Depression?"

Role of Biology

Everyday stressors, such as conflict with a loved one, can trigger periods of depression independently of other contributing factors. In some cases, though, relationship turbulence can act in conjunction with the biological issues that predispose some people to depression. Major depression can reoccur throughout a lifetime and is sometimes effectively managed with medication, states Dr. Neuman. Another article for "Psychology Today," titled "What Causes Depression?" and written by clinical psychologist Michael Yapko, Ph.D., states that biology indeed plays a role in causing depression through "genetic and neurochemical factors." The ways that relationships contribute to depression, therefore, can vary depending on biology.

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Role of Stress

There is also a connection between stress and depression. The stress of relationship conflict or the grief resulting from the loss of a relationship, then, can be a causal factor of depression if it persists, according to the PLOS ONE study "Social Relationships and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up from a Nationally Representative Study," by Alan R. Teo, HwaJung Choi, and Marcia Valenstein. If you are in a serious, long-term relationship with an abusive partner, for instance, you are at risk for developing depression. If you are devoting most of your time to caring for your ailing mother, whom you adore, you may also be at risk.

Family of Origin

Relationships within your family of origin can also be contributors of depression. In addition to being biologically susceptible to it, or at risk due to an immense amount of stress in your life, you may have learned it growing up. If your parents were consistently critical of your intelligence, athleticism and appearance, for instance, you may have been coached into depression. Moreover, if you were never taught how to manage problems or communicate assertively with others, you might become depressed as a result of an overwhelming inability to do so in adulthood.

Romantic Relationships

The PLOS ONE study also found that negative relationships in general are unhealthy contributors to stress and depression. This might be especially true in light of the intensity of some romantic relationships. This risk of being rejected emotionally or sexually creates a different dynamic than those found in other relationships. People in long-term, committed relationships tend to identify themselves in relation to one another -- as half a partnership. Losing such a relationship after making such an investment of time, energy and feeling can rattle the sense of self and perpetuate depression.

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