Friendship and Depression
Part 46: Men Fighting Depression.
Part 46: Men Fighting Depression.
"By being honest, understanding, realistic, and patient, you can ensure that you are doing everything in your power to be a good friend, and build friendships that can support you through your depression and into the future. "
If you find that you’re having trouble maintaining friendships while dealing with depression, you’re not alone. In fact, a lack of motivation and interest in maintaining relationships is one of the symptoms of depression.(1)
It’s pretty standard for guys to want to withdraw from relationships when they’re depressed, but it’s really important to fight the urge. Studies show that increased social support is correlated with decreased levels of depression,(2) and maintaining your friendships is a critical way of ensuring this support. You don’t have to fuss over the number of friends you have, as the quality of your friendships is more important than the quantity.(3) Having a couple of supportive friends is more beneficial than having 20 superficial ones.
It’s important to remember that seeing your friends in person (rather than only online or through social media) will help the most. This has been tricky to do over the last year with COVID-19 precautions, but as things open up, we need to make an effort to see our friends in person. One study found that receiving support from friends on Facebook didn’t have any measurable impact on reducing depressive symptoms.(4) Thus, while online friendships can play an important role in our lives, it’s more important to connect with people you can also meet in person.
To keep things simple, we’ve organized this article into two parts: 1) tips on maintaining your friendships while dealing with depression, and 2) tips on how to make new friends. There are also some extra tips that apply to all kinds of friendships.
When we’re depressed, we tend to envision worst-case scenarios (like our friends abandoning us or not understanding our struggles), but don’t under-estimate your friends. Just like you would support them, your friends are probably more willing to help than you may think. Here are some things to focus on:
Lean on your friends:
Recognize when a friendship isn’t healthy:
Receiving support from friends is an essential part of recovering from depression.(2) Depending on what friends you have, you may want to bring some new company into your life. While making new friends can be helpful, it can also be pretty tough – especially when depression may lead you to take things more personally or blame yourself if things don’t go well.
Find others with shared interests
Look for ways to meet new people with similar interests.
Join a group
Give your friendships time to grow
If there is something your new friend is interested in that you don’t know much about, ask them to teach or show you. People often like to share their passions with eager listeners.
Be patient with yourself
Give yourself credit
Although it can be difficult to stay connected to others when depressed, it’s important to not withdraw and isolate yourself from the important people in your life. The science is pretty clear that maintaining social connections is key to maintaining good mental health.(5) Following the above tips may not yield strong friendships right away, but stick with it. By being honest, understanding, realistic, and patient, you can ensure that you are doing everything in your power to be a good friend and, hopefully, over time build friendships that can support you through your depression and into the future.