As one of the most widespread mental illnesses, it’s unsurprising that depression can manifest in a mixture of ways. Though the illness is often measured by its impact on your daily obligations — whether you make it to work every day, for example, or whether you’re managing to shower regularly — depression can also significantly affect your social life. And that’s no minor issue. According to the Mental Health Foundation, “People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected.” In short, there’s nothing trivial about your social life, and it’s absolutely worth tackling if your depression is complicating it.
It’s not, of course, as easy as popping round your BFF’s flat for a catch-up. Depression can make socializing exhausting, or terrifying; sufferers might feel like their friends don’t understand or might judge them for their illness. If your social life is floundering as a result of your depression, however, it’s important to recognize the issue and speak to your therapist or doctor about the steps you can take to remedy it. Wondering if that might apply to you? Read on for some of the most common ways depression can alter your social life.
1. You Socialize Less — Or Stop Altogether
In 2017, the BBC reported that 55 percent of those suffering from a mental illness “stopped socializing or going out”, according to a survey conducted by the charity Time to Change. Socialising can be especially difficult if you’re dealing with depression, when even seemingly small tasks like showering can become physically and emotionally overwhelming. Don’t minimize the significance of your social life; if you’re struggling to see your friends or even respond to texts, bring it up with your doctor or therapist.
2. You Feel Like Your Friends Don’t Understand
However well-intentioned your friends may be, even the most sensitive might make a thoughtless or unhelpful comment about your depression. While it might be tempting to withdraw from them in order to avoid further hurt, consider having a chat with them about the impact of their comments — a good friend will take care not to repeat their error. You could also try pointing them towards Mind’s guide to depression for friends and family, explaining how to support a loved one with the illness.
3. You Stop Sharing With Your Friends
There are several other reasons, alongside a fear of not being understand, why you might not share your difficulties with your friends. You might be afraid they’ll judge you, be reluctant to burden them, or simply struggle to find the right words to explain. In the Time to Change survey mentioned above, 54% of respondents said they’d lost contact with a loved one while dealing with a mental illness. You don’t have to withdraw from your friendships, however, and there’s several resources available to help you open up.
4. You Keep Snapping At The People Around You
According to the NHS, “feeling irritable and intolerant of others” is a frequent symptom of depression, and it’s one that might impact on your relationships with your friends. How to cope with it? Above all else, ensure your doctor or therapist is aware of the issue and ask them for suggestions on how to deal with your anger healthily; beyond that, being honest with your friends about why you’re snappier than usual can go a long way. Do your best not to beat yourself up, either: remember, your depression is not who you are.
5. You Care For Your Friends, But Won’t Let Them Care For You
People with depression can often feel as though they’re not worthy of happiness, and don’t deserve their friends’ support. What’s more, Psych Central lists guilt as a common symptom of depression, a feeling that can lead sufferers to believe they’re failing their friends and subsequently overcompensate by devoting all their energy to them. While no one would suggest supporting your friends is a bad thing, it’s worth noting that neither is prioritizing your own wellbeing when you’re struggling, or reaching out to them when you need support too.
6. You Lose Your Social Confidence
According to Mind, a common symptom of depression is having “no self-confidence or self-esteem”, an issue that can easily impact upon your social life. You might find yourself shyer around others than you once were, or struggle to engage in conversations without doubting your contributions. Plus, according to the Mayo Clinic, depression is often co-morbid with anxiety, another mental health issue that can compound social difficulty. Again, it’s crucial not to consider social issues as secondary to other concerns — if your social confidence has taken a hit, speak to your doctor.
So what to do next if you recognize yourself or your social life in any of the aspects described above? Though I’ll admit to repeating it approximately 800 times in this article, it’s worth saying one last time: speak to your doctor or therapist about your concerns. And another crucial reminder: your social life is important, and so are you.