If you have depression, going out and interacting with people, even if they are loved ones or close friends, can feel daunting. Social withdrawal is a very common symptom of depression, and people with the condition tend to avoid socializing altogether. Isolating from others, though it may feel like the right decision in the moment, can actually cause more problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that isolation can increase feelings of loneliness. Researchers say that depression and loneliness reinforce each other and their relationship is quite vicious. The social withdrawal that occurs with depression can make you feel lonely, and that loneliness can worsen depression symptoms, according to licensed therapists. The more depressed people get, the more they isolate, which only enhances feelings of loneliness.
One study from 2020 observed adults over age 50 in the United Kingdom who practiced mandatory social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The results indicated that feelings of loneliness were linked with worsened mental health symptoms, depression being one of them. Among social withdrawal, persistent sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness may also lead to loneliness. The sad reality is that symptoms of depression result in behaviors that create more intense feelings of loneliness.
The good news is that there are ways to help people with depression stay connected to those around them. Read on to learn more about them.
Try New Social Activities
It can be very difficult to step outside your comfort zone, regardless of your depression status. If you have depression, though, this can be very difficult, especially if you find social interactions terrifying. Finding a new activity that makes you happy can help connect you with others and eliminate feelings of loneliness. Not only does a new activity spark joy, but it also reinforces supportive interactions. Potential social activities to try include book clubs, exercise classes, or classes at a community center, such as cooking, foreign language, or art classes. These activities promote interactions with others, and you may even form a tight knit community.
Consider Joining A Support Group
A support group that consists of other people battling depression, or other mental health conditions, can help you remain connected to others. In fact, mental health professionals state that people in mental health support groups help maintain connections with existing family and friends. According to research studies, peer mental health support groups were helpful for men experiencing mental distress and social isolation. If you need help finding a support group, there are various organizations and online resources that have directories of support groups to join. Support groups are available for people with both physical and mental health conditions and they help people share a better understanding of each other’s experiences. That alone can provide better social connections among group attendees.
Tell Your Therapist If You Struggle With Loneliness
If you see a therapist, be it in person, on the phone, or telehealth, for your depression, open up to them if loneliness is affecting you. How has loneliness affected your daily interactions? Do you find that you avoid people more than you did before? A therapist can help you find ways to reduce feelings of loneliness. Your therapist may also help you reduce the impact of certain behaviors that are linked to loneliness, especially social withdrawal.
Connect With Loved Ones
Mental health experts state that more one-on-one social interactions can be highly beneficial for people experiencing both loneliness and depression. Human connection is often a powerful antidote to loneliness and depression. As an exercise, take the time to call one additional friend or family member that you did not plan on talking to each day. Not only is that great practice for social engagement, but it also helps deepen your connection with people you already trust. If you struggle to leave the house, video chatting may be a great first step to establishing better connections. In fact, one study found that video chatting may help lower the risk of depression in aging adults.