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How Can I Make Friends When I'm Struggling With Depression?
This one-sentence question came from a young woman who feels depressed and isolated.
When you’re depressed, it can feel close to impossible to make and keep friends. But oftentimes, that’s when we need them most.
How can I make friends when I’m struggling with depression?
Admittedly, it’s tough to make friends when you’re feeling depressed…even if you feel like you desperately want someone to talk to, confide in, or with whom to go to a movie.
Depression may rob you of sufficient energy or initiative to reach out to others. When you’re depressed, it’s normal to feel worthless and wonder why anyone else would want to befriend you.
Also, you may be hesitant to make plans for next week or next month because you don’t know if you’ll feel up to it when the time of the actual event arrives.
You may also worry about whether you’re capable of keeping up your side of the friendship - even your side of a conversation - realizing you may not be good company right now.
For these reasons and others, depressed people often isolate themselves, perpetuating their feelings of sadness and loneliness. While there are no simple answers, here are a few suggestions for you and others:
Depression is a treatable illness. Check in with your therapist or physician to make sure that your condition is being treated as best as it can be. Your medication may need a minor adjustment or major overhaul. Your doctor may be able to offer other recommendations.
Confide in your therapist and explicitly discuss your problem in making friends. Like depression, friendship problems are real, too. Yours may be a byproduct of your depression and/or may stem from something else.
Join a support group of people with mood disorders to learn some practical tips to minimize the effect of depression on your social relationships.
It’s easier to make friends in natural settings where there’s less pressure to socialize. Survey your workplace, school and/or neighborhood to explore groups or activities that might interest you. Take an adult education class, participate in an exercise class at a gym, or volunteer to help others.
Get moving. Get dressed and make an effort to get out of the house regularly, even if it’s to take a short walk or bicycle ride. A number of studies have shown that exercise has a big effect on improving mood.
Have you neglected your own friends because of your depression? Take the risk of contacting an old friend with whom you have some history. Let that person know you are interested in getting together. Sometimes friends don’t know how to react to someone who is depressed. If they’ve been turned down or shut out repeatedly, they may stop initiating contact.
When you forge a new friendship, figure out what positive things you can bring to it. Be cautious about demanding too much too soon: Don’t treat new friends as therapists. But don’t be lazy, either. Instead, make sure there is give and take in your relationships.
Recognize that your depression is likely to have ups and downs. Don’t beat yourself up when you feel so down that you can’t handle being with other people. Take one day at a time.
We hope you’re able to take action on some or all of these suggestions.
Sheryl & Irene
It’s especially tough to make friends when you’re depressed. Go easy on yourself and take one day at a time.
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