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  • Writer's pictureHeather Steele

Relationships and Mental Health- How are They Connected?



According to several key studies, your mental health and the quality of your relationships are deeply intertwined. This makes it crucial to keep your mental and emotional well-being in check in order to have a positive relationship and vice versa.


A dip in one causes a dent in the other, whether it's a personal or professional relationship. Unsound mental health can negatively impact relationships, and a poor relationship can be detrimental to one’s mental health. This ultimately affects a person’s quality of life at home and in social or work environments.


Let’s explore this further.


The Role of Relationships in Mental Health


Maintaining healthy relationships is essential to achieving a sound state of mind. Positive relationships can provide emotional support, help build self-esteem, and offer a sense of belonging and connectedness. Conversely, unhealthy relationships can induce anxiety and stress, inflict harm, and limit a person’s growth potential.


A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that an unhealthy relationship, especially romantic relationships, can lead to mental health issues like depression, trauma, anxiety, or substance abuse. Having a supportive partner contributes to psychological soundness, while stress and conflict arising from a relationship can negatively impact mental health.


Staying in or tolerating an unhealthy relationship can drag the person to a web of destructive thoughts and emotions and may lead to depression, trauma, or suicidal thoughts.


Our team at MCC is here to help people overcome negative relationships or any mental health issues that may hold someone back from forming positive relationships.


Maintaining Healthy and Satisfying Relationships


Here are the key relationship aspects that need to be nurtured for the benefit of both the relationship and the parties’ mental well-being. Failing in these could lead to relational problems that could aggravate negative thoughts and emotions.

Communication


One of the most essential factors in maintaining healthy relationships is effective communication. Where there's a communication deficit, the fabric of the relationship can weaken and break down because both parties feel disconnected. A lack of communication is a fertile ground for misunderstanding, distrust, neglect, apathy, or self-pity.


Expressing yourself clearly and listening actively to your partner can help build trust and understanding, crucial elements in any relationship. Expecting your partner to simply read your mind leads to confusion, dissatisfaction, and misjudgment.


Set Boundaries


It is also essential to be able to set boundaries and assert oneself in a relationship while also being respectful of the boundaries of others. This means that being in an intimate relationship doesn’t mean losing yourself while caring for your relationship. Pleasing your partner while neglecting yourself can cause you to dry up emotionally.


Make clear to people what you can and cannot tolerate in the relationship, and be consistent with it. Whether in marriage or other relationships, keeping your personal space and boundaries sacred is vital so that others will not overstep the line and cause you to feel negatively toward them.


Not setting boundaries may lead to abuse and stress that can affect a person’s self-esteem and disrupt their sense of peace.


Self-care


Taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and mentally is crucial in fostering positive relationships, and being unwell limits one’s capacity to be a good partner. Be sure you get enough sleep, healthy food, exercise, and engaging activities that bring you joy and relaxation. When you’re sick or often tired, you won’t be able to give time and energy to your loved ones, which can negatively affect your bond.


It is also important to take time for oneself and prioritize one's own needs and well-being. You cannot give from an empty cup. Fill yourself first so you can give more to others from your overflow.


Be mindful and recognize when a relationship is toxic and causing harm to your mental health. Such relationships often involve patterns of abuse or manipulation and can leave individuals feeling anxious, depressed, or worthless. You must know when to leave or seek help before your mental and physical health breaks down. A relationship is supposed to be a safe space for a person to grow and flourish, not to feel insecure, alone, and scared.


Mental Health’s Role in Relationships


Now we explore the other side of the equation. While relationships can profoundly impact mental health, it is also essential to know that an individual's mental health can impact relationships.


Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder can make it more difficult for someone to maintain positive relationships. A mentally or emotionally unfit person will find it hard to keep, much less nurture positive relationships.


Mental Issues That Can Damage Relationships


Mental issues can disrupt and impair relationships. Having depression, paranoia, social anxiety, deep-seated trauma, and other mental issues can limit a person's ability to interact effectively with others and form strong bonds. They tend to avoid people, show erratic behaviors, or feel unable to show their authentic selves for fear of rejection or ridicule. Because they are withdrawn, people tend to avoid them, too, for fear of being deemed intrusive and unwelcome.


Depression


A study found that people who suffer from depression tend to have more negative social interactions and are less likely to get support from others(1). This lack of support system makes them more prone to a negative thought life, leading to worsened depression symptoms.


People who are depressed usually keep to themselves, making it hard for people around them to form a connection and bond with them. They keep their walls up that others cannot penetrate, even those close to them, like parents, children, or spouses.


In marital relationships, a depressed partner can potentially trigger marital dissatisfaction and conflict, especially when communication breaks down.


Social Anxiety Disorder


A study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders reveals that individuals with social anxiety disorder find it hard to build and sustain intimate relationships(2). This inability, in turn, worsens their anxiety symptoms.


Socially anxious individuals feel they are constantly being watched and negatively judged by others. They have unfounded worries about being in an embarrassing or humiliating situation. They are also highly conscious and think people will notice their anxiety and form unfavorable opinions.


This makes it hard for them to interact with strangers, engage in conversations, or be with a crowd. This kind of thinking prevents them from forming and maintaining friendships or professional relationships and may limit their performance in the workplace.


Trauma


People with trauma may find it hard to trust people they are in a relationship with. They tend to have negative expectations like harm and betrayal from others without any valid basis. They are vulnerable and have an unclear sense of what is safe. To them, a person they are with may potentially hurt or abandon them one way or another, causing them to have irrational behaviors like distrust, withdrawal, paranoia, and fear.

A traumatic event or circumstance- whether the sudden death of a loved one, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, child abuse, physical assault, hate crime, war, or tragedy- can cause emotional and relational disruptions. They tend to be aggressive or controlling because they easily feel threatened by people around them.


Bipolar Disorder


People diagnosed with the bipolar or manic depressive disorder tend to withdraw from people they’re in a relationship with or overly engage them, causing confusion and concerns.


Their unpredictable behavior and intense mood shifts may affect the relationship's stability and quality of communication, intimacy, and dependability. Being manic-depressive can cause disruptions in a person’s personal and professional connections. In fact, divorce rates in marriages with a manic-depressive partner are three times higher than the average population.


Seeking Treatment, Enhancing Relationships


Seeking treatment for mental health conditions can help individuals better manage their symptoms and improve their relationships. Leaving these psychological issues unchecked and untreated could only exacerbate negative feelings and toxicity in relationships, leading to unhealthy lives.


Therefore, it is imperative to seek therapy and treatment from the right professional to bring order to the mind and enable connections to form and flourish. Developing effective communication, self-care practices, and setting boundaries can bring to light any relationship issues and mentally impairing risks that can threaten the relationship.


Psychological challenges require proper management and treatment because they can negatively impact other aspects like career, physical health, hygiene, finances, etc.


Recognizing the correlation between mental health and relationships and addressing any issues or risks can lead to a gratifying quality of life. It’s an inescapable truth that needs proper attention and care.



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