Highlights
  • A new research study by Thriveworks reveals the extent to which romantic relationships affect mental health in the United States.
  • Over a third of Americans identify their past and present romantic relationships as the primary cause for their mental health concerns.
  • A large percentage of Americans still suffer psychological fallout from negative experiences with previous partners who love bombed, cheated on, or gaslit them.
  • Relationship anxiety is widespread, but Thriveworks offers numerous resources to help partners achieve emotional safety in their intimate bonds.

According to new research* from Thriveworks, over a third (34%) of Americans believe that their romantic relationships (current or previous) are the leading cause of their mental health concerns. 

Love, attachment, and intimacy can all trigger buried fears, past traumas, and self-esteem issues. And yet we still seek connection with each other, wanting our mutual affection to outweigh our collective baggage. We root for love to triumph despite our past heartbreaks. But it’s precisely those heartbreaks that we want to look at today. Let’s dive into the numbers.

Chart showing 34% of Americans believe that relationships are the main cause of their mental health concerns

Chart showing percentage of Americans who believe that relationships are the main cause of their mental health concerns broken down by age

A Nation of Cautious Lovers

The vast majority of people (77%) say that their negative experiences with past partners have influenced the way they show up for present-day and future relationships. For example, 35% of respondents no longer trust people, and 30% of respondents suffered damage to their self-esteem due to previous romantic experiences. Even more people (36%) reported heightened vigilance toward relationship “red flags”. And 18% of respondents claim to have stopped dating altogether because of prior experiences. 

Chart showing 77% of Americans show up differently in relationships due to past experiences

Chart shows effects varying past experiences had on Americans in future partnerships

According to Thriveworks survey data, peoples’ mental health concerns seem to be due to poor behavior from past and present romantic partners. A whopping 82% of Americans have been treated in ways that have proved damaging to their mental health. The number of distressing behaviors that people report experiencing with their significant others include: 

  • Cheating: 42% 
  • Gaslighting: 28% 
  • Misrepresentation: 28% 
  • Ghosting: 27% 
  • Love bombing: 20% 
  • Receiving false information on dating apps: 19% 
  • Entitlement: 19% 
  • Misogyny: 7% 
  • Misandry: 3% 

Granted, some relationship deal-breakers aren’t necessarily a partner’s fault. For example, 16% of respondents blamed mismatched attachment styles for their mental health issues, and 36% blamed differing values (which are notoriously hard to change). 

Chart shows 82% of Americans have experienced behaviors in relationships that can be detrimental to mental health

Chart shows the most commonly experienced behaviors in relationships that can be detrimental to mental health

A Breakdown of What Gives Americans Relationship Anxiety

People report different causes of anxiety depending on what stage of a romantic relationship they’re in. For example, early on in a relationship, people report feeling anxious about the following:

  • Asking someone out (55%)
  • Talking about the future (49%)
  • Waiting for a text back from someone you’re dating (49%) 
  • Waiting for a match (27%)

People who consider their relationships to be more established worry most about the following:

  • The relationship ending (66%)
  • Meeting a partner’s family and friends (58%)
  • Getting married (52%)
  • Moving in with a partner (48%)
  • Waiting to get engaged (44%) 
  • Deciding whether or not to have children (38%)

Chart shows top relationship milestones that make Americans feel anxious

Men Report More Relationship-Based Mental Health Concerns  

One surprising result of the Thriveworks research is that more men than women attribute their mental health concerns to romantic relationships. Data shows that 37% of men versus only 31% of women attribute their psychological distress to relationships. 

Chart shows 37% of men believe that relationships are the main cause of their mental health concerns

Also, men are more likely than women (32% vs 15%) to believe that you can’t be happy if you’re single. Overall, while 23% of Americans think that happiness requires a romantic partner, a larger percentage (32%) feel pressured to find that partner. And this is even more true for men (34%) than women (29%). 

Chart shows 23% of Americans believe you can't truly be happy if you're single

Chart shows 32% of men believe you can't truly be happy if you're single

Chart shows 32% of Americans believe there is too much pressure on them to find a partner

Chart shows 34% of single men believe there is too much pressure on them to find a partner

Overcoming Relationship Anxiety

The first step to overcoming relationship anxiety may be to recognize how common it is, as Thriveworks research indicates. Most of us have been damaged by past romantic relationships, but there are actions we can take to discontinue the cycle of distrust and maltreatment of our partners. Thriveworks has curated some resources that we think can help:

*A study of 1005 Americans commissioned by Thriveworks and conducted by Censuswide in January 2022.