Relationships and Major Depression
Social Isolation and Loneliness
At times, symptoms of major depression can make you may feel like the loneliest person on the planet. You're uneasy about socializing, so you limit contact with others, but being alone makes you feel more depressed and withdraw further. It's easy to get trapped in a cycle of isolation and loneliness. In his book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, Andrew Solomon writes, "Syndrome and symptom cause each other: loneliness is depressing, but depression also causes loneliness." To the brain, isolation can feel like physical pain, some researchers say. One of the best strategies for disrupting this isolating depression pattern is having people in your life -- friends and family -- that...
Your Social Network
Imagine living where it could rain at any minute, so you always carry an umbrella. That's what your depression social network is like. It's shelter from a storm. Having dollar-store umbrellas stashed all over is OK, but one or two really good umbrellas you can depend on will also do the trick. Same goes for relationships: it's about quality, not quantity. You need one or two people you can call anytime, people who want the best for you (and vice versa). Author Andrew Solomon believes his depression taught him the value of intimacy. He writes, "Recovery depends enormously on support. The depressives I've met who have done the best were cushioned with love. Nothing taught me more about the love...
Relationships Help with Depression
Depression can dull a person's desire to take part in relationships, whether existing or new. But based on his studies of how social life impacts health outcomes, psychologist Bert Uchino says having emotionally supportive relationships can help you think in ways that make problems seem less severe or, in some cases, help you see that problems are really non-problems. Says Uchino, "By having a secure relationship and feeling loved, people live much more secure, calm lives." This healthier response to stress has a ripple effect that can strengthen your sense of well-being, purpose, and meaning, and reduce anxiety, fear, and risk of substance abuse. For people who suffer from symptoms of major...
Social Support from Many Sources
All relationships are different, and each one serves a different purpose in your life and in your depression recovery. "Not every friend will provide everything you need" says Morton J. Mendelson, psychology professor at McGill University. Friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers provide social support on an informal and ongoing basis. When you need more formal or structured support to help you get through depression symptoms or make progress in overcoming depression, you'll want to turn to members of your healthcare team -- such as counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, clergy, or therapy or support groups.
What Does Social Support Look Like?
Social support for major depression from friends, family, and your healthcare team can be practical and tangible, such as running an errand or making meals. Or it can be emotional, such as providing comfort, companionship, feedback, advice, and a sense of belonging as you work to overcome depression. According to Uchino, "Friends and supportive people can make life easier on a basic, everyday level. They can lend you money, offer rides or provide baby-sitting. They can also encourage you to have better health practices, see a doctor, exercise more. They may also help you indirectly by making you feel you have something to live for."
Relationships Boost Longevity
"Make two friends and call me in the morning." That's the living-longer advice of RealAge experts, Drs. Roizen and Oz. Recent research reveals, "Having friends is as powerful as quitting smoking. Not having them is even more life-threatening than becoming obese or so inactive that just getting off the couch is a challenge." An analysis of 300,000 people revealed that having solid friendships gives you a 50% better chance of living longer than people who don't have good friends. According to RealAge calculations, having a strong social network can make you up to 2.8 years younger by acting as a cushion against stress, taming inflammation, making your blood less likely to clot when you're tense,...
Stronger Relationships and Friendships
Relationships change with time, but it's never too late to build friendships or get more involved with your current relationships. For example, open, honest communication will go a long way toward building good relationships. Don't keep your feelings -- positive or negative --bottled up. It can lead to frustration, resentment, and misunderstandings, while owning up to negative emotions and talking through problems helps defuse them. Look for opportunities to express gratitude and say "Thank you " or "You mean a lot to me." Forgiveness, whether spoken or silent, can also help. Letting friends and family know they're important can help keep their support strong when you need support for dep...
Communication and Your Relationships
For better communication, make a point to remember what's going on in your friends' lives and ask for updates. Think about what you don't know about friends and family -- then ask to hear their stories. Be curious, ask questions; then listen and absorb. Maintain eye contact, talk about similar experiences you've had, and share details about your life. Pay attention to your friends' facial expressions, body language, and comments, too. Know that what you say or do affects your friend and your relationship -- for better or worse. If you're talking about important issues or having one-on-one time, turn off the TV, radio, and cell phone. Give your friend your undivided attention. Taking these...
Building Your Social Network
Socializing can be stressful, especially if you struggle with major depression. But even very social people find themselves in awkward social situations sometimes. To make socializing easier, form friendships with people who share your goals or interests. Here are two examples.
Find an exercise buddy. Take yoga classes, train for a walk or race, or do laps at the local mall. You'll get to know each other while you work out.
Volunteer your time. Hospitals, places of worship, community centers and other groups often need help. You can form strong connections with other volunteers. And the benefits of helping other people adds to your well-being.
Therapy for Social Support
Really need to talk something out? Major depression affects your life in many ways. So there may be times when you prefer to get social support in a more formal setting, such as a depression support group led by a therapist or counselor. Therapy or counseling can provide you with support for depression symptoms, as well as a safe place to share and receive feedback on depression-related challenges. The first step is to be honest with yourself and your doctor about how symptoms of depression are affecting your life. Together, you and your doctor can determine what additional social support to add to your treatment plan.