How Long-Distance Relationships Affect Your Mental Health

woman lying in bed looking at her phone smiling on facetime

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Long-distance relationships can be problematic for the growth of a healthy relationship. The ramifications can also affect your mental health in negative ways. But it's also possible to thrive in a long-distance relationship. Distance can indeed make the heart grow fonder.

What Being Apart Does to Your Brain

When you’re not living in the same household or near your partner, distance alone can increase your levels of stress. Results of one study indicated that being in a long-distance relationship was associated with more individual and relationship stress than being in a proximal relationship.

Because you are physically, mentally, and emotionally not as close to your partner, you might not get enough of the feel-good neurotransmitters or “happy hormones”: dopamine and serotonin. Both affect your gut health.

Dopamine also affects movement. This happy hormone is associated with pleasure and rewards. Substance abuse can, however, lower your levels of dopamine. Low levels of dopamine can adversely affect your neurocognitive functioning and is linked to major depressive disorder.

Here are common symptoms to let you know you might have inadequate levels of dopamine:

  • Inattentiveness
  • Lacking motivation or drive
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Anxiety

Serotonin is associated with feeling good, too. You can compensate for not seeing your partner regularly by adjusting your diet, exercising regularly, and spending time in the sunshine.  The Cleveland Clinic says serotonin plays a key role in the regulation of your mood, sleep, and sexual desire. 

Signs of serotonin deficiency you should pay attention to include:

  • Mood fluctuations
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Appetite loss
  • Problems with memory and learning


When you’re not residing in the same city and you can’t reach your significant other, your imagination might take over. Are they out with someone else? Are they being unfaithful? Do they still care?

The physical distance between you both influences the development of romantic relationships or the demise of them according to one study. Scientists analyzed the partnership progression of couples in nonresidential relationships. Participants included couples aged 20-40 years old. They focused on the variable of distance in travel time between the partners’ homes.

Short-distance relationships meant the partners had to travel less than one hour. Long-distance relationships required travel of one hour or more.  Findings showed that couples in long-distance relationships were more likely to separate than those living a short distance away. 

Lack of trust might have contributed to the end of these relationships. Without trust, some people are filled with fear and anxiety. Just ask yourself if you’re suspicious about the other person, are you being reasonable? Or perhaps you might realize this lack of faith in your partner stems from your own low self-esteem, childhood trauma, or negative past dating experiences. 


Effective communication enables you both to feel seen and heard. Both people in a couple need to be on board with committing to and maintaining the relationship, especially when miles separate you.  It’s a good idea to plan regular times to catch up and share your experiences so you both feel secure in knowing when you’ll connect.

Using texts and Facetime can facilitate more communication and increase the odds that you will stay together. Good morning and good night texts are nice to receive, too. Based on a recent study, texting helps long-distance relationships by keeping both people in touch.

Be sure you don’t argue over texts and don’t rely solely on texts. Texts don’t replace hearing the other person’s voice and tone via phone. Nor does it take the place of reading their body language through video conferencing.

Here are some tips to enhance your communication when you’re dating long distance:

  • Listen with empathy
  • Validate your partner
  • Eliminate defensiveness
  • Don’t avoid difficult conversations
  • Add levity
  • Try not to be critical
  • Remind yourselves of the positives in the relationship
  • Hang out together when doing chores
  • Send little gifts
  • Plan times to be together

Physical Intimacy

Touch is critical to the health and well-being of human beings. Cuddling, holding hands and kissing are ways couples show affection to each other. Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, helps bond us to each other in a relationship.

So, if your partner is living and working on the other side of the country, for the sake of your mental health and your relationship, be sure you get hugs from friends and family or book a massage. Physical touch is still super important for your well-being, even if it's not from your partner.

One of the most important factors in sustaining a healthy romantic relationship is healthy sex and physical intimacy. So if you can’t be together, you can text flirty messages or participate in phone sex. Be spontaneous. If you get yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit, you might be surprised by how it goes.

A Word From Verywell

 Relationships fail due to challenges with trust, communication and intimacy. If you’re having problems with these issues, turn to a trusted psychologist or online therapist and don’t give up. Long-distance relationships can thrive if you work together.

Be sure to also take care of your own needs and have an open mind. Safeguarding your mental health while participating in a long-distance dating relationship or a long-distance marriage is crucial.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Du Bois SN, Sher TG, Grotkowski K, Aizenman T, Slesinger N, Cohen M. Going the distance: health in long-distance versus proximal relationships. The Family Journal. 2016;24(1):5-14.

  2. Krapf S. Moving in or Breaking Up? The Role of Distance in the Development of Romantic Relationships. Eur J Popul. 2017;34(3):313-336. Published 2017 May 24. doi:10.1007/s10680-017-9428-2

  3. Holtzman S, Kushlev K, Wozny A, Godard R. Long-distance texting: Text messaging is linked with higher relationship satisfaction in long-distance relationships. J Soc Pers Relat. 2021;38(12):3543-3565. doi:10.1177/02654075211043296

By Barbara Field
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.