Am I Unhappy in My Relationship or Depressed? How to Tell

Wondering if you’re unhappy in your relationship or depressed? There are distinct differences between the two. Find out more on HealthyPlace.

Are you just unhappy in your relationship or depressed? Although there are major differences between unhappiness and depression, it can be hard to differentiate a mental health problem from events happening in your life, particularly if you’re going through major life challenges. While a toxic or unfulfilling relationship can lead to symptoms of depression, this is not the same as having major depressive disorder. Let’s look at the differences between unhappiness and depression in relationships so you can find the best path to recovery.

Help! Am I Unhappy in My Relationship, or Am I Depressed?

Being unhappy in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re depressed. Similarly, having depression present in your relationship doesn’t mean there are other problems in the relationship. Sadness, low self-esteem and anger are all normal human reactions that occur when life doesn’t go as planned. That said, our partners tend to be the people we spend most of our time with, so there is naturally an interplay between our romantic lives and depression.

The "nature vs. nurture" scenario has long been debated by scientists when it comes to the causes of mental health problems, but depression is thought to be caused by a complex set of genetic and environmental factors. Therefore, although a relationship or person alone cannot cause depression, it could certainly act as a trigger.

“Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”
― Barbara Kingsolver

Signs Your Relationship Is Making You Depressed

So, are you unhappy in your relationship or are you depressed? And can bad relationships even cause depression?

According to, any relationship can be hazardous to your health. The problem is, many people don’t know they are in an unhealthy relationship, even though they’re not happy. In situations where emotional abuse is present, for example, the abusive person will often blame all of the problems in the relationship on their partner. If this sounds familiar, you may believe that it’s not the relationship that’s toxic – it’s you. This is just one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to untangle relationship conflict from mental health.

There are, however, some common characteristics of toxic relationships. Here are some signs that your relationship is making you depressed:

  • You feel tired, bored and unfulfilled when you are together
  • The relationship makes you feel bad about yourself
  • You don’t feel safe when you are with your partner. You may even feel physically or emotionally threatened
  • You feel like you are the only one trying to “fix” the relationship
  • There is a lot of conflict in the relationship
  • You often feel anxious, even if you can’t pinpoint why
  • Your partner is rarely happy or appreciative
  • You feel as though you must change to make your partner happy.

My Relationship Is Making Me Depressed: What Should I Do?

Recognition is the first step towards ending the toxic cycle of an unhappy relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean terminating the relationship itself, but you do need to talk to your partner and both commit to making a change. It may be possible to work through some of your issues in individual or couples’ counseling. However, both parties must be ready to accept the problem and try to change their behavior.

If symptoms of depression are persistent, despite changes to your relationship or breaking up with your partner, you should consult your doctor.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2022, January 4). Am I Unhappy in My Relationship or Depressed? How to Tell, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Last Updated: January 10, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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