How Does Clinical Depression Affect the People Around You ...


Humans are social creatures. We react to others and care about what others think of us. We define our lives based on the roles we have in society and in our immediate relationships. With this context in mind—“No man is an island”—how does depression affect those around us?

Our families

The lack of energy, irritability, bursts of anger and sadness all upset the family dynamic. Children who rely on parents to be stable and responsive either won’t understand or may even think they share some fault. Much like a divorce, children tend to think the problem revolves around them, even though they really have nothing to do with it.

Spouses are affected because they have to shoulder more responsibilities and become the caregiver. Gradually, this burden can lead to feelings of resentment or generate a “me too” reaction where they begin to demand their share of time and attention.

Relatives are affected to the extent they are involved or outside observers. They may see the problems without knowing how to help. When they are involved as a confidant or support person, relatives share the same psychic burdens a spouse may have. And the reason is much the same: they care about the depressed person and want to fix the problem, even though the problem isn’t “fixable” in any direct way.

At Work

There’s a reason corporations focus on positive energy in the workplace. They know it generates loyalty and makes for a more pleasant work environment. Because of this, an obvious lack of motivation and a “downer” personality is thought to lower performance of the operation as a whole. If your coworkers don’t know or understand that you are depressed, the fatigue and inability to enjoy interactions can be misinterpreted as disappointment in them or the job itself. This is especially so when you are normally a person with “positive energy.”

The results can be avoidance by other workers. They don’t want to catch what you have and may even feel emotionally drained themselves when dealing with you. In the extreme, the depressed person may just not feel the job is worth it and either quit or arrange to get fired.


Depression can put a real stress on friendships. Since part of the relationship is enjoyment of one another’s company, when that is missing, the friendship can breakdown. The friendship can quickly turn into a cycle of dumping your problems on your friend in a one way fashion that drains all the life out of the relationship. Friends may avoid you or cut interactions short if they sense you are “going there.”


The problems depression generates in our relationships can build on themselves. Because part of being depressed is withdrawal and a feeling of isolation, the disease can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy – the negative emotions lead to withdrawal when people don’t enjoy your company and this leads to more isolation and further withdrawal.

Breaking this cycle is critical to overcoming depression. Therapy is useful and isn’t limited to the depressed patient themselves. Significant others, children and even friends can benefit if they understand more about the disease. Getting outside information adds authority – it’s not all coming from the depressed person.


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