Can Being Single Cause Depression?

Individuals who thrive in relationships may find it challenging to be single, leading to feelings of sadness about their relationship status. Although being single does not directly cause depression, factors such as self-esteem, attitude, or life circumstances can contribute to feeling depressed about being single or increasing vulnerability to depression.

1. Being single does impact your well-being

Our emotional state and well-being are significantly affected by relationships, and being without one can have an impact. A study published in Current Psychology in 2015 found that single individuals reported lower emotional well-being than those in relationships. However, there was no significant difference in somatic symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia, between single participants and those in relationships. While being single does not cause mental illnesses such as depression, it can still affect our emotions.

2. It depends on your stance

Individuals have different responses to being single; some enjoy it, while others struggle with it. Those whose self-worth and self-esteem are tied to being liked by others or always having someone to date after a breakup may find being single challenging. Current Psychology research showed that people who saw themselves as choosing to be single were less likely to experience poor mental health. In summary, your perspective, not your circumstances, determines how being single affects you.

3. It depends on other circumstances in your life

If you lack a strong support system, being single can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and potentially lead to depression. Our mental health is affected not only by our romantic relationships but also by our relationships with family and friends.

4. A breakup can cause depression

Psychologist Lori Ryland suggests that breakups, divorces, or the death of a loved one can trigger depression, particularly due to the accompanying feelings of loneliness. Such situations can be devastating, especially when there was a shared sense of a future together.

5. Depression is not the same as sadness

Experiencing sadness is a natural response to being single or going through a breakup, but it's important to distinguish it from depression. While sadness is usually a reaction to something, such as being dumped, depression can manifest as a persistent feeling of sadness or numbness, even without any apparent reason. Being single may make you feel sad, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're depressed, especially if the sadness is related to your relationship status.

6. Being single can be stressful

Although relationship problems can be stressful, being single can also be challenging. As we age, there is increasing societal pressure to find a partner and settle down, which can lead to constant remarks and pressure to date. This can be irritating and may result in feeling behind in life or not meeting specific milestones, causing significant stress. According to David Prescott, a professor at Husson University, chronic stress can increase the likelihood of depression.

7. Missing milestones can be upsetting

It's important to remember that everyone's life progresses at their own pace, and there's no shame in experiencing certain milestones later than others. However, if you've been single for an extended period, it's understandable to feel like you're missing out on important experiences, which can negatively impact your well-being. It's important to note that one's perspective plays a significant role in how they view these situations; some people are comfortable with their circumstances, while others may feel anxious or desperate to move forward.

8. Unfulfilled life plans can bring you down

Everyone approaches life differently. While some people plan out their lives meticulously, others go with the flow. However, the healthiest approach falls somewhere in the middle. While having a life plan is admirable, setting strict deadlines and planning every detail can lead to disappointment. For instance, if your plan included meeting your future partner by a certain age, getting married and having children by specific ages, and it doesn't happen as planned, it can be devastating. It's essential to remember that life is unpredictable, and it's okay not to have everything figured out.

9. Toxic relationships can destroy your self-esteem

Toxic relationships can significantly impact your self-esteem. If your ex-partner regularly criticized you or cheated on you, it's challenging to feel good about yourself. Additionally, having a history of disappointing relationships and blaming yourself can also harm your self-esteem. Low self-esteem can make individuals more susceptible to depression. Even though you might think that leaving a toxic relationship would make you happy, healing takes time, and it's natural to feel depressed when you're single. If your self-esteem is based on external factors, such as validation from others, it's normal to feel down when you're single.

5. Co-dependency makes you depressed

Co-dependent individuals struggle with being single because they rely heavily on their partner for emotional, physical, or financial stability. They often have low self-esteem and no independence, making it hard for them to function without their safe person. If left unaddressed, co-dependency can lead to mental health issues like depression and eating disorders.