The Importance of Friends In Fighting Depression

Friendships take energy. When battling depression, it may seem easier to just withdraw, keep to yourself and avoid having to put on a happy face for social engagements. You may think no one will notice you missing. Lack of self-worth is a symptom of depression, but it is also a symptom that arises from distorted thinking. Friends you had before you became ill are still around. Reaching out to them, building and maintaining a network of social support, will help in your struggle with depression.

Humans are social beings

The human brain has evolved into a machine that can process complex social interactions. We feel good when surrounded by friends and family in a supportive environment. A 2009 study conducted by the John Hopkins School of Public Health found that people with mental illnesses needed fewer psychiatric services when they had regular interaction with a support network of friends and family. Conversely, humans suffer in isolation. The practice of placing prison inmates in solitary confinement has come under fire as cruel and harmful to their mental health. Loneliness intensifies depressive symptoms.

The benefits of friendship

A small circle of trusted friends can give you something you will not find on your own: a sense of belonging. The need to belong is an innate psychological need that is as important to mental health as the need to eat is important to physical health. Your friends can help you cope with your problems and encourage you as you work towards wellness. Just having someone around with whom you can relate will reduce stress and boost your self-confidence. Friends will enrich your life, even during times when your life holds no joy.

Build a support network of good friends

The course of a friendship naturally waxes and wanes as people’s lives and needs change. Your history with your friends, and each friend’s individual character, will determine who will stick with you through the rough times. You may be surprised at the friends who care enough to try to understand what you are going through. Some may begin to avoid you when your depression shows its symptoms. That is okay, you don’t need those people in your support network. Do not make the mistake of believing all your friends want to jettison your relationship.

What should I tell my friends about my depression?

Whom you tell and how much you reveal about your health depends on your level of comfort with discussing these very personal problems. It is important, for both you and your good friends, that you share some information. Most likely, your friends have already noticed a change in your moods and behaviors. Letting it out in the open will help explain things that may have been distressing your friends. Your lack of desire to socialize may have been interpreted as a snub.

Friends through thick and thin

You may worry that you will become a burden to your friends, that in their minds, you are too gloomy or too needy.  This does not need to be the case. Your depression should not be the focus of your relationships. You are not your disorder. It’s something you have to deal with, but it doesn’t need to be the topic of all your conversations. If you are experiencing a severe episode, let your friends know. They will understand.