Can A Bad Relationship Literally Make You Sick?

photographed by Ashley Armitage; produced by Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez; modeled by Lorlei Black; produced by Megan Madden; modeled by Sebastian Rosemarie.
Almost everyone has experienced moments where they've had doubts about their relationships, or where they haven't felt 100% happy in a relationship. But sometimes, an emotionally draining coupling can take its toll on your mental health in ways you might not even notice at first.
If you or your partner are managing a mental illness, that's also a conversation you need to have, but even if neither of you are, relationships can still affect your mental health.
Susan Bartell, PsyD, a psychologist who works with couples, says that if a relationship isn't going well and you're not acknowledging that it isn't great, it can cause anxiety, trouble sleeping, depression, and can impact your self-esteem.
If you're in an unbalanced relationship where one person's needs are being met and the other person's needs aren't addressed, she says, you might start to doubt yourself, and constantly worry that you're doing something wrong.
In general, she says, you can tell a relationship is affecting your mental health if it begins to feel more negative than positive, and you don't feel as if it's elevating you.
"If you’re feeling depressed, you’re feeling like you want to avoid them, you’re crying a lot, if you’re not feeling good about it or you don't want to be with them, or you worked really hard to rationalize to yourself why it is a good relationship — these are all signs the relationship is taking a toll on your emotional health," Dr. Bartell says.
She adds that she often sees young adults in their 20s and 30s in relationships that aren't necessarily supportive, often because they're generally more vulnerable and less secure than older people.
"I think sometimes people go into relationships insecure, and the way they try to make themselves secure is to put someone down," she says. "If you really want to be in a relationship and you’re vulnerable to that, rather than putting that down and saying, I need to look for something healthy, you’re vulnerable to staying in that relationship even though the person is making you feel bad about yourself."
If you're in a relationship that's impacting your mental health, Dr. Bartell says it's a good idea to address that right away by bringing it up with them, especially if this is someone you still want to be with for the long-term.
"I would say you should address it almost immediately," she says, adding that if your partner is going through something difficult like the death of a family member or friend, or losing a job, you might want to give them time to work things out.
"But after a few weeks you have to address it with the person," she says.
If your partner is making you feel bad most of the time, they're critical of you, put you down, blaming you for their behavior or treatment of you, Dr. Bartell says that's when it might be a sign of emotional abuse.
And, if things don't change, it might be time to reconsider your relationship.
If you are experiencing depression or anxiety and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Centre’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

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