Can a bad relationship cause mental illness? 

This blog will cover topics like unhealthy relationships, signs of toxic relationships, differences between an unhealthy and healthy relationship, ways to cope, and frequently asked questions.

Can a bad relationship cause mental illness? 

Yes, a bad relationship can cause mental illness. Relationships form a very major part of our life. When we are in a relationship, we tend to spend a major part of our day and life with our partners. We have all had moments where the other person can hurt us, make us feel irritated, or annoy us. 

However, in some relationships these feelings become constant. An emotionally exhausting relationship can have a negative impact on your mental health in ways you may not realize at first.

According to Susan Bartell, PsyD, a psychologist who deals with couples, if a relationship isn’t going well and you don’t acknowledge it, it can induce worry, insomnia, depression, and lower your self-esteem.

You can start to doubt yourself and continuously worry that you’re doing something wrong if you’re in an unhealthy relationship where one person’s demands are met but the other person’s wants aren’t met.

In general, you can tell if a relationship is impacting your mental health if it starts to feel like a burden with almost no happy moments and you don’t feel like it’s helping you grow. 

What is an unhealthy relationship? 

An unhealthy relationship makes you feel abandoned, misunderstood, devalued, or attacked. On a fundamental level, any relationship that makes you feel bad rather than good about yourself and others over time might become unhealthy. 

Unhealthy relationships can exist in a variety of settings, from the school, the office, and the bedroom. You might even have to deal with toxic familial relationships.

People with mental disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder are more likely to form unhealthy bonds since they are already in a vulnerable position in their life. 

Signs of a toxic relationship 

Only you can determine whether the bad in a relationship outweighs the good. A toxic relationship is one in which someone constantly undermines your well-being through what they say, do, or don’t do.

Toxic relationships are defined as those that involve physical or verbal abuse. However, there are additional, less obvious indications of an unhealthy relationship, such as:

  • You feel as if your partner doesn’t value you because you are always at the giving end of the relationship
  • Your wants and needs in the relationship often go unnoticed
  • It negatively impacts your self-esteem
  • After conversing or being with the other person, you feel unhappy, irritated, or fatigued.
  • You accentuate each other’s flaws. Your competitive friend, for example, brings out a spiteful competitive streak in you that you don’t enjoy.
  • When you’re around that individual, you’re not your best self. They may, for example, bring out your possessive side by constantly instigating you. 
  • You feel like you have to tread carefully around this person to avoid being a victim of their manipulation. 
  • You devote a significant amount of time and emotional energy to trying to cheer them up.
  • You’re always the one to blame. They flip things around such that what you believed they did wrong is now your responsibility.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Unhealthy v/s healthy relationships 

It’s vital to look at which habits are expressed the most frequently in a relationship when deciding if it’s causing toxicity. To put it another way, if one or both of you are persistently selfish, negative, and disrespectful, the relationship may become toxic.

 However, if you’re primarily encouraging, caring, and courteous, there may be some certain issues that might be creating toxicity and need to be addressed.

It’s critical to spot the indicators of toxicity, whether in yourself or in the other person. Here are some indicators of a person in a healthy relationship: 

  • Secure attachment style
  • Loving
  • Caring
  • Respects your opinions
  • Values you 
  • Mutual understanding and trust
  • Communicates his/her feelings
  • Expressing his/her wants and needs
  • Takes responsibility for their actions 

How does an unhealthy relationship impact your mental health? 

  • Increases stress

Interacting with your partner causes you stress. You feel physically and mentally lethargic after spending time with them. Headaches, upset stomach, chest pains, sleep difficulties, teeth-grinding, and a general lack of energy are some of the physical signs of stress. If you discover yourself having these symptoms in regard to a partner on a regular basis, there’s certainly something wrong that needs to be addressed. Even if you establish that your stress is caused by something else, there’s still a chance that it will cause a rift in your relationship if those feelings aren’t addressed.

  • Low self-esteem 

It’s difficult not to feel like an issue in one of our intimate relationships is a reflection of who we are when anything goes wrong. Internalization, even when unwarranted, can delve into deep-seated fears. Insecurity can be exacerbated to disastrous levels if partners have a tendency to transfer their displeasure onto others, making both parties feel worse about themselves after a dialogue.

  • Facing domestic violence 

Becoming a Domestic Violence Victim. Most of these relationship issues can be addressed in a positive manner depending on the context, but when the relationship has become abusive, even talking about one’s displeasure can be dangerous.  Domestic abuse is harmful not just physically, but also emotionally, leading to poor self-esteem, self-doubt, and even suicidal tendencies. 

  • Triggers anxiety

The stress caused by an unhealthy relationship causes anxiety by always keeping us on an edge. When there is uncertainty regarding the future, safety, and finances of a relationship it can cause a lot of worries. While this is unlikely to result in the formation of a diagnosable anxiety disorder, it can certainly result in the presentation of “subclinical” symptoms.

  • Social anxiety 

People with social anxiety can benefit from an empathetic relationship since it encourages them to come out of their shells. However, if a significant other makes their partner feel guilty or inadequate when they engage with individuals outside the relationship, a possessive relationship can exacerbate social anxiety. If left uncontrolled, this type of worry can lead to a lack of focus on obligations or other relationships, as well as all of the negative, mind-altering repercussions of prolonged isolation.

  • Depression 

If anxiety is caused by fear about the future, depression is caused by a sense of hopelessness, which manifests as sluggishness, disengagement, and a lack of motivation. Relationships that challenge our self-esteem and self-worth, such as a partner or family member who routinely dismisses our contributions are the most likely to cause 

  • Developing co-dependence

Co-dependence is defined as a relationship in which partners routinely validate one another’s conduct or views to an unhealthy degree. Codependency, according to Floyd, can apply not only to people who indulge in substance abuse but also to psychopathologies or ways of thinking shared by both partners. If you have two emotionally unavailable individuals, it’s possible for them to enable each other to the point where they’re practically at ease with their symptoms.

Coping with unhealthy relationships

While it is impossible to prevent all toxic relationships, especially those between coworkers or family members, they can be managed with appropriate boundaries, self-care, and awareness.

If you’re in a toxic relationship where you bring out the worst in each other (or just fail to bring out the best), you might want to work on it and change the dynamic—especially if the relationship has other benefits.

Here are some ways for coping with unhealthy relationships:

  • Communication is the key. Discuss with your partner things that have been bothering you. Be clear while expressing your wants and needs and accept responsibility for your part in the issue.
  • Discuss the issue and determine jointly whether you want to change the current scenario to guarantee that both of your needs are met.
  • Review your connection and ask yourself: Is this person causing me actual harm in terms of my self-esteem and mental health?
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend with people who cause you to be frustrated or unhappy. You may need to limit interactions if this individual is someone you need to interact with, such as a family member or coworker.
  • Use “I feel” sentences to describe your sentiments and emotions when you choose to communicate about your problems. This prevents them from becoming defensive.
  • Recognize that sometimes no matter how badly you want to, you can’t change some people. And that’s okay. In such cases, the best thing to do is to cut off the toxic ties and move on with your life.
  • When the occasion calls for it, try to stand up for yourself in a non-confrontational manner.


It’s critical to prioritize your health and well-being when coping with any form of an unhealthy relationship. If you’re in a relationship with someone who saps your strength and happiness, consider parting ways with them, or at the very least reduce your interaction with them. Also, if you’re being abused emotionally or physically, seek help right away.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Can a bad relationship cause mental illness?   

Is it true that relationships have an impact on one’s mental health?

There are various advantages to having good social relationships.  Lower anxiety and depression rates, more self-esteem, greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships are all proven linkages. All this leads to good mental health. 

What do the consequences of being in a toxic relationship look like?

According to Wilkie, the effects of a toxic relationship on our physical and emotional health can be severe and unpleasant. Poor sleep, an increased chance of cardiac problems, increased blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, weight gain, a weak immune system, and organ failure are all physical impacts, according to research.

Is it possible to become toxic as a result of being in a toxic relationship?

While one partner in the relationship may engage in more destructive behaviors than the other, neither person has complete influence over the other. Instead, one or both partners indulge in harmful behaviors, sucking the vitality and joy out of the relationship and turning it into a chore rather than a source of support.

Is it possible to get sick from a terrible relationship?

It’s possible that being in a relationship with someone who is extremely critical, distrustful, or possessive is making you unwell. A bad relationship can lead to feelings of pessimism, dread of desertion, and a sense of loss for unmet goals or any chance for happiness.

What are the long-term consequences of a toxic relationship?

Relationships that are unhealthy, abusive, or aggressive can have both short and long-term detrimental consequences for a maturing youngster. They have a bad academic record and have reported binge drinking, suicide attempts, and physical fights. Victims may take their violent tendencies into future relationships.

Why am I in such a bad relationship?

Couples can be unhappy if they are bored in their relationship or if both partners have lost the physical chemistry they once had. In other instances, the relationship may be characterized by excessive jealousy or a severe case of emotional manipulation.


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