How unhealthy relationships affect your mental health and when to seek help

How unhealthy relationships affect your mental health and when to seek help

It can be difficult to accept if you are in an ‘toxic’ or unhealthy relationship. You might be questioning the signs you are seeing or wondering if you are overthinking them. 

But if another person is affecting the state of your mental health, this indicates you have an unhealthy relationship. Read our blog to learn how unhealthy relationships affect your mental health and when to seek help.

Healthy and unhealthy relationships

Relationships with other people should be mutually beneficial.

At the very least, you should feel respected by the other person and secure in your relationship. With a partner, you are likely to experience ups and downs, but on the whole, you should feel happy and energised by your relationship.

A mostly-negative relationship that causes you to question yourself isn’t a healthy one. Visit our blog to learn the signs of an unhealthy relationship. An unhealthy relationship can affect your social, physical, mental and emotional health. 

If your health is affected by your relationship, you might want to speak to a professional, such as a therapist, for advice.

Social health

An unhealthy relationship can impact your social health if the other person demands all of your time and attention. They may say or do things to limit your contact with other people or change your opinion of the people around you; this is an isolation tactic.

If one of you lacks self-awareness or social skills, one of you might push people away without realising. A therapist can also help you identify social areas to work on and offer advice on how to.

Physical health

If your relationship causes you to feel stressed or anxious, you may experience trouble sleeping. You might also start to feel depressed, which can lead to oversleeping. Both can cause you to feel more tired than usual. 

A therapist or another mental health professional can help you understand what is causing your physical symptoms.

Physical effects of an unhealthy relationship:

  • Memory and speech problems
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Weak immune system
  • Hormonal changes
  • Feeling tired often
  • Digestive issues
  • Skin flare-ups
  • Body aches
  • Tight muscles

An unhealthy relationship can also affect your physical health if another person pressures you to look a certain way. They might try to persuade you to do a cosmetic procedure or lose weight, for example.

Mental health and relationships

People with a mental illness may be more susceptible to unhealthy relationships, such as people with bipolar disorder or depression, as these conditions can make you more sensitive to negative emotions.

Though, it’s possible to confuse the side effects of an unhealthy relationship with the symptoms of a mental health condition, especially if the other person suggests that your concerns are “in your head” or invented.

Talking with other people outside of your situation may help you understand what is happening, though bear in mind that unhealthy behaviours are often only shown when you are alone. Meaning the other people around you might find it hard to believe your lived experiences, as they haven’t seen this side of the other person.

Psychological effects of unhealthy relationships

Low self-esteem

If someone is constantly belittling you or making passive-aggressive comments, it can impact your self-esteem negatively. You might also feel helpless or insecure in your relationship. 

Having low self-esteem can also put you at risk of being in an unhealthy relationship. 

Low confidence levels may lead you to believe that the negative things the other person is saying are true. You might also find that you insult people as a way of feeling better about yourself.


You might find yourself often thinking of what the other person could do or say to you next. Viewing another person as a threat in this way can cause anxiety.

If you worry that they might publically embarrass you or mock a thoughtful gesture as not being good enough, you are likely in an unhealthy relationship. 

If you are in an unhealthy relationship, the other person might try to convince you that you aren’t good enough for them. Whether that be as their child, partner, friend, or employee.

Likewise, anxiety can lead you to overthink what you’ve said or done. If you find yourself worrying that your friend or partner will no longer want to speak to you because of something you’ve said, this could be a sign that you have anxiety.

A therapist can help you figure out whether your fears or worries match the situation you are, or were, in. They can unpack the reasons you feel the way you do. 

Has the other person said or done things that suggest they won’t be happy with you, or is this related to an external factor, such as anxiety?


Relationship stress is normal now and then, but your entire relationship, or most of it, should not be stressful. 

If you are in an unhealthy relationship, you might find that even the thought of spending time with this person has become stressful. You might worry about how they will behave or feel as if you need to be on your best behaviour.

It can be hard to cope with, as ongoing stress can be physically and emotionally overwhelming.


Being constantly around someone who drains your energy will affect your mental health. An unhealthy relationship can lead you to feel depressed, especially if you are living with the other person.

Infidelity or abuse in a relationship can also lead to an episode of depression as it can cause distress and distrust. This includes emotional abuse, which might involve controlling, manipulative behaviour or behaviour designed to subdue or punish you.

An unhealthy relationship might also worsen your depression.

Seeking help for an unhealthy relationship

Even when you have recognised the signs of an unhealthy relationship and can see the effect on your mental health, it can be hard to take action or leave.

The other person may try to guilt you into regretting bringing up their unhealthy behaviours or the idea of ending your relationship. It’s important to have someone that you trust to be able to confide in with this.

If the other person tries to make you question your experiences by denying that certain events happened or claiming that you have interpreted the situation wrong, they could be gaslighting you. 

Gaslighting: a form of abuse meant to challenge your sense of reality. A gaslighter might say that you are “crazy” or are being “too sensitive” when you mention something they have said or done that has hurt your feelings.

To make a change in your relationship, both parties need to recognise that there is a problem and agree to work on it together.

If the other person refuses to talk about a certain issue or talk at all when they feel you have upset them, we call this stonewalling. Stonewalling can be a form of abuse in a relationship when the other person stops communicating with you as a form of punishment.

A therapist can help when feel you need an impartial person to discuss your concerns with. We offer a confidential space where we won’t judge, punish or mock you for your thoughts or experiences. Read our blog to understand how you can build a trusting relationship with your therapist.

If an unhealthy relationship is affecting your mental health, we recommend asking a professional for help managing this.

Book an appointment

If you recognise the signs and negative effects of an unhealthy relationship, you may consider seeing a therapist.

We offer expert advice on how to approach the difficulties you are having in a healthy way. We also provide a safe space to process the trauma and emotional abuse that you have experienced.

Contact us today to discuss your options and find out how we can help.

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