When Depression Is A Factor In Your Loneliness And Social Problems

Some people who are lonely, shy, or socially awkward also feel depressed. This article will give a brief overview of depression, and then focus on how it affects socializing. Of course, this is a big topic, so it won't cover everything. If you have more severe depression you'll likely need to see a doctor or a therapist to get additional support.

Causes of depression

Some depression truly seems to come out of nowhere. Someone with it honestly can't come up with a reason they may feel that way. These cases can have a biological or genetic cause. The root of the issue may also be unconscious.

More often depression develops in response to legitimate problems in a person's life. If someone has real issues they're struggling with it's only reasonable they might become sad and hopeless in the face of them. Also, if someone's going through a naturally stressful transition (e.g., moving cities, starting college, ending a relationship) they may become down temporarily and then start to feel better as they adjust to their new circumstances.

The relationship of depression with social problems

When someone is depressed, and they're also struggling socially, there are a few basic background stories they can have:

Either way, once depression has taken hold it causes a range of problems that get in the way of someone getting past it. The symptoms also interfere with peoples' ability to work on their social weak points. A downward spiral can start, where becoming depressed makes someone's circumstances harder, which leads to them feeling even more down, and so on.

Symptoms of depression

There are lots of variations to depression in terms of severity, mix of symptoms, duration, and problems that can occur alongside it. If I started quoting the official criteria for all of them it would make this article pretty unwieldy. Instead I'll give a brief overview of depression's common effects.

One thing about depression is you can't really know what it's like unless you've had it. Most of the symptoms seem to be things we've all been through here and there, so it's easy to read them and think you know what they mean, but they have their own flavor when they're part of true depression. For example, "loss of motivation" isn't like that time you didn't feel too keen about your part-time job. It can be this deep in your bones sense that everything is pointless, and that even walking to the kitchen to make some toast for breakfast would be a huge struggle.



In general depressed people view the world through a "dark-tinted filter". Their thoughts display many cognitive distortions that help maintain their gloomy outlook.



Basically the more of these symptoms you have, the more severe they are, the more they interfere with your life, and the longer you've had them for, the worse your depression. The physical symptoms also tend to be more prominent when someone's depression is stronger. Someone who's mildly depressed may be able to go on with their lives, but just feel down. A more severely depressed individual may sleep twelve hours a day, and lay on their couch in a daze when they're awake.

Depression can come in episodes. Someone might be depressed for six months, come out of it, then fall into another funk a year later. It's also possible to have a kind of chronic low-grade depression called Dysthymic Disorder (people who've had it for a very long time may mistakenly think it's just their personality, and can be shocked with how different the world seems after they've been treated). Depression is also a feature of Bipolar Disorder. In that case someone cycles between episodes of depression and mania, an extreme elevated mood.

Anxiety and depression often come as a package. This may be because a common underlying problem brings about both moods. In some cases someone may become depressed because of the difficulties their anxiety is causing them. Or they could develop anxiety in response to the effect their depression is having on their lives.

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The social impact of depression

I listed the symptoms of depression above. Obviously feeling sad, hopeless, and worthless are big problems on their own, and should be treated just for that reason. I also want to talk about how the features of depression can impact someone's social success and their ability and motivation to address those challenges. The issues below all tend to reinforce and play off each other:

Getting past depression

Depression, especially mild depression, is treatable and millions of people find relief from it each year. The tricky part is often breaking free from that conviction that either the situation is a lost cause, so that there's no point in trying, or that even if things are theoretically solvable, doing so would require too much energy and effort. Once the ball gets rolling and someone starts to feel a little better it's usually easier for them to keep going. It helps to start with very small, achievable steps and go from there.

It's important to have realistic expectations. You won't cure your depression in a day. If you work at it, your mood can improve, week by week, month by month, with some setbacks. One day it will hit you that you feel a lot better, and that it's been a while since you've had a truly bad day.

Self-help approaches to coping with depression

There's a lot people can do to try to alleviate their depression on their own. This is especially true if their symptoms are less-intense. Though I'm from the school of thought that it never hurts to see a professional such a doctor or a therapist, especially if some of your symptoms or thoughts are troubling to you. I also think it can be better to go see someone when things are mild and nip them in the bud rather than waiting for the problem to get worse, when it may be harder to treat. Going to a professional is also the only way to access medication, if that's an option you're open to. If you suspect your depression is tied into your overall crappy childhood, working in depth with a counselor is a good way to explore and unpack it all.

This isn't a site centered around depression, so it won't thoroughly cover how to treat it. However, a few of its articles go over strategies that can be useful:

People can do a lot to feel better by making lifestyle changes such as exercising more, purposely doing enjoyable things, and addressing the legitimate problems in their live. I cover that in this article:

Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Mood

A second broad way to address depression to learn to handle the counterproductive thoughts it brings up. Some of these thoughts can be cut off at the source, and will clear up on their own, by elevating your mood overall through the lifestyle changes mentioned above. Directly tackling maladaptive thinking can help as well. I talk about that in these articles:

Challenging Maladaptive Thoughts
Accepting And Rolling With Maladaptive Thoughts