If you struggle with depression, you’re probably aware of the slew of unpleasant symptoms that can come on without warning. Anything can happen: from impaired cognitive functioning to a physical manifestation of symptoms to notorious mood swings. Depression can rob you of the ability to find joy in your daily life. And it can rob you of the people who bring you the most comfort.

One of the most dangerous effects of depression is the social withdrawal and isolation. Social withdrawal is not only a symptom of depression, it is also the means by which the depression perpetuates.

The basics of depression

People who are clinically depressed often have trouble with basic daily functioning. Doing the dishes, taking a shower, and brushing their teeth are often put on the backburner. Depression takes away the motivation to do even the most elementary tasks. Because these “simple” chores are unbearable, actually getting yourself out of bed to leave the house may seem nearly impossible.

What is the connection between social withdrawal and depression?

When you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, chances are you have no motivation to spend time with even your closest friends or family members. You may even call in sick to work to spend the day (or week) hiding away from the rest of the world. What outsiders may call “lazy”, those with depression cannot even begin to describe. The social isolation that depression claims is so strong some people have even admitted to not being able to spend time with their pets when they’re at the lowest point in their depression.

How does social withdrawal fuel depression?

Depression convinces people to hole up and spend time alone, which, of course, is problematic. However, what may be even more problematic is the role that holing up plays in the long run. Your depression may crave time alone and out of sight, but your depression will also take use this to its advantage. Instead of using this time to recharge, it will convince you that this is perpetually the better option. The more time you spend withdrawing from your social life, the more your depression will crave this withdrawal. Depression and social isolation create a dangerous cycle of loneliness and unworthiness.

How do we break the cycle?

woman sitting with dog looking at a lake next to the cityThis cycle of social withdrawal and depression can feel hard to break, especially when you’re in an intense depressive episode. Luckily, with help and persistence, this cycle can be undone. One of the best ways to combat social withdrawal is to prevent it from happening in the first place. While the last thing you want to do is reach out to family and friends, this is exactly what your mental state needs. When you feel a depressive episode coming on, call a trusted friend or family member and ask them to spend time with you. If you can get out of the house, even to go for a short walk, your mind will thank you for this. If this sounds unbearable, even the act of having a friend or family member with you to watch TV or a movie can be helpful.

The more time you spend with other people, the more you’ll remember how much you enjoy it. You will then be more inclined to continue spending time with others. Staying off of social media can also be a beneficial tool. Many people are substituting real life interactions for social media interactions, which don’t have the same positive effects.

Depression is a serious but treatable mental illness that you don’t have to navigate alone. Learn more about my treatment services and reach out today if you’re interested in scheduling an appointment