How To Make Friends When You Are Depressed (9 tips)

Today’s blog post focuses on , ‘How to make friends when you are depressed’. We first begin with understanding the relationship between depression and social withdrawal. After this we move on to understanding the reasons which makes it difficult for people with depression to make friends. Lastly, we take into consideration the various tips that can help a depressed person make new friends.

How To Make Friends When You Are Depressed

There are a few ways in which it is possible to make friends when you are depressed. One of the concerns with depression is that although social support is crucial to cope with the condition, one of the first symptoms of depression is withdrawing oneself from others.

Therefore, we shall be discussing ‘how to make friends when you are depressed’ by taking into account the following tips:

  • Try to make friends with people in a natural setting
  • Try connecting with a previous friend
  • Understand the boundaries of friendships
  • Do not be to harsh on yourself
  • Join a support group
  • Make a healthy choice of friends
  • Do not terminate therapy
  • Take initiative through activities
  • Make your needs clear

Depression and social withdrawal:

Social withdrawal can be understood as any form of voluntary isolation which is carried out for a prolonged period of time and it involves termination of any forms of social relationships and contact with people in the outside world. 

Social withdrawal is one of the most common symptoms of depression. According to Stephen Illardi, Ph.D, we develop a strong urge to to pull ourselves away from others and shut down when we become depressed. He also further suggests that the irony of the situation that on the contrary, social support is exactly what we need the most during depression. 

When depressed, social withdrawal only works to worsen our symptoms than improve it and amplifies the brain’s stress response. Social contact or being with friends tends to regulate the brain’s stress response. 

Social withdrawal usually happens because of feelings of sadness, hopelessness, feeling ashamed, fatigued and apathetic. Because human beings are inherently social animals, social withdrawal or isolation can be dangerous. 

Apart from pushing the person further into depression social withdrawal also leads to the following problems:

  • It amplifies physical health problems and increases the risk for heart diseases, obesity and premature deaths.
  • It can make even the most easy tasks difficult, such as getting out of the bed, making breakfast etc and hence is a cause of concern.
  • It also increases the chances of rumination and worrying, which can further complicate the condition.
  • Lastly, social withdrawal can also increase the chances of self-harm.

If your friend is going through a tough time with clinical depression, here are some of the best gifts you can give them:

Why is it difficult to make friends when you are depressed?

There are a number of reasons which makes it difficult for people to make friends when depressed:

  • People with depression often do not have the energy and motivation to make friends. Making friends takes effort and needs us to talk, listen and respond. It also needs us to be there for the friends when they need it and this requires energy and also a drive to expand one’s social circle. 

In case of depression, because the person is already fatigued and tired because of rumination, sadness, irritability and accompanying physical conditions, they may not have the capacity to make friends.

  • Depression causes people to experience several painful emotions and thoughts, which also sometimes are intrusive in nature, accompanied by feelings of worthlessness and anxiety which makes it difficult for them to make friends. 
  • Depressed people may find it difficult to relate to others, owing to the nature of their condition. They are also likely to be self-involved as the pain they are experiencing is similar to physical pain. Because of this, they may be uncomfortable around people, which may give the impression that they are aloof.
  • They may have unrealistic expectations. They may feel that a friend is supposed to get them out of their condition and make things right for them. However, this is unrealistic in nature and because of this, they may not be able to preserve their existing friendships or build new ones.
  • People may also fear making friends when depressed due to the unpredictable nature of the illness. Depressive symptoms may take over the person without any indication and may not be in perceived control of the person. This may make them hesitant to make plans for the future with friends because they are not sure of what their situation would be when actual time arrives. 
  • They may question their capacity to be a good friend. They may not be sure as to whether they will make a good friend to a person and due to this assumption, they may choose not to be friends with someone. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

How to make friends when you are depressed?

There are a number of tips that can be successfully used as an answer to the question, ‘how to make friends when you are depressed’.

They are as follows:

  • Try to make friends with people in a natural setting:

Making friends with people in a natural setting where there is a natural scope for making friends is likely to be easier as there is no pressure or judgement. Workplace, gardens, gyms, colleges, schools, community meetings, family functions, social gatherings are some of the ideal places to make new friends as these are the places where social connections are made easily.

These places also offer a wide variety of people to interact with, because of which a person gets a chance to interact with many people and then choose some people that they feel they can relate to.

  • Try connecting with a previous friend:

Connecting with a previous friend is relatively easier than making new friends all together. Although it may be a little risky, one can make an effort to plan a meet with them or have a phone call with them. The comfort of reconnecting with an old friend can help the person positively cope with the symptoms.

Additionally, it may also be a small achievement for the person as they may be moving ahead from not wanting to be in contact with someone to making an effort to reconnect with people.

As seen above, depressed people are not able to make friends in certain situations due to the unrealistic expectations. They may come to see their friends as therapists over a period of time and this may be overwhelming for the friends, who may then not be interested in keeping contact with them.

To address the question, how to make friends when you are depressed, it is important to understand that friendship needs to have boundaries and that the friends have their own limitations. The depressed person must realise that a friend may listen to them and may help them cope with their issues but will not be their therapist. There needs to be a certain amount of give and take in friendship.

  • Do not be to harsh on yourself:

Depression can be a debilitating illness and it is a big step for a person to be able to step out and take initiative to make new social contacts. In this process, it is necessary to understand that this will also have its own ups and downs and it is important for the person to remember that they may sometimes not be successful in their efforts, but they should not give up on their efforts and be harsh on themselves.

  • Join a support group:

Another way to answer how to make friends when you are depressed is to join a support group. A support group consists of a group of people who come together to address same or similar concerns that they may have. Being a part of a support group can serve a dual purpose for a person. 

Firstly, they may understand that they are not alone and that there are others with same or similar symptoms who may be facing the same situation.

Secondly, support groups help provide the person with different perspectives and different ways of approaching the issue, such as that of making friends. Many people may have tried different strategies and methods to deal with it and it may be useful for the person.

  • Make a healthy choice of friends:

Friends tend to have a huge influence on us and this can work both in a positive and a negative way. This means that one should avoid choosing being friends with someone who drinks alcohol excessively, smokes, abuses drugs or has very different lifestyles and habits. This can do more harm than good.

  • Do not terminate therapy:

As discussed, friends cannot replace therapy or the therapist, but can only act as an extra support to the person. Continuing therapy is important as major breakthroughs and essential insights can be obtained in therapy with the unconditional support of the therapist.

  • Take initiative through activities:

Group activities can provide plenty of opportunities to socialise and make friends. Try to find activities that match your interests. Also, although it may sound tough, try to initiate a conversation. It can start from a few very simple topics such as the group activity club that you and the other person may be a part of. This can serve as good openings for future conversations.

  • Make your needs clear:

When the individual has supportive friends, it is important for them to support him or her, but at the same time it is important for the person to give them a clear idea of how the symptoms get manifested and how he or she reacts. Making one’s problems, needs, wishes and ideas clearly makes providing and receiving support easier as the friends also know the relatively accurate ways of supporting the person when needed.

Not clearly expressing one’s needs can lead to misunderstandings and may push the person further into social withdrawal.

On an ending note, it can be understood that although social support is essential to cope with depression, it is  not easy to reach out. However, it is important for the person to have faith and make a conscious effort which will make things much easier for them.

Frequently Asked Questions:How To Make Friends When You Are Depressed

Why am I afraid of making friends?

Sometimes, when it comes to making friends, people often fear that they will be judged, they will say something wrong or irrational. Depressive symptoms may also lead them to shut down, withdraw or become nervous.

How many friends should I have?

It is suggested that we can have up to 5 intimate bonds: spouses, best friends, and so on. Further, we can have 15 close friends: people you trust and spend time with regularly and  50 friends: people you would invite to a personal event like a wedding or dinner.

What do you do when your friend is sad?

If a friend is looking sad and not talking about anything much else other than their sadness,  we can try to keep them busy and try to get them interested in and talking about other things.

Who is most likely to suffer from depression?

Depression is most likely to affect people between the ages of 45 and 65. People in middle age are at the top of the bell curve for depression, but the people at each end of the curve, the very young and very old, may be at higher risk for severe depression.

How can friendship affect your mental health?

Friendship increases our sense of belongingness, improves our self-confidence and reduces our stress and anxiety. It is seen that those who enjoy close friendship in their early years are less likely to be depressed later.

Conclusion:

Today’s blog post focused on , ‘How to make friends when you are depressed’. We first began with understanding the relationship between depression and social withdrawal. After this we moved on to understanding the reasons which makes it difficult for people with depression to make friends. Lastly, we took into consideration the various tips that can help a depressed person make new friends.

I hope this blogpost was successful in answering the question,’how to make friends when you are depressed?’ by providing some practical tips to do so. Please feel free to drop in your comments and queries below.

What we recommend for depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

References:

https://www.intechopen.com/books/social-isolation-an-interdisciplinary-view/social-withdrawal-and-mental-health-an-interdisciplinary-approach

https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/depression-traps-and-pitfalls

https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression-resource-center/making-friends-when-you-have-depression/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-friendship-doctor/201610/tips-making-friends-when-youre-depressed

https://www.wikihow.com/Pursue-Friendship-if-You-Have-Depression#Pursuing-Friendship-as-Part-of-Your-Treatment-Plan

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