The Social Lives of Depressed People
There’s a wonderful old story of a man walking a very long road from one village to another. As he approaches the village, but still on its outskirts, he encounters a farmer from the village who is laboring in his field, cutting hay. He walks up to him and says, “I have walked a great distance to come to this village of yours. I have left my village looking for a new home, perhaps I will find it in this village. Can you tell me, how are the people in this village? What kind of people are they?”
The man in the field thought a moment before replying, then asked, “What were the people like in the village you came from?” The traveler replied, “They were uncaring, self-absorbed, cynical and unfriendly. That’s why I left.” The farmer paused before replying and then said, “I think that’s how you’ll find the people here, too.”
The traveler replied, “In that case, I’ll just move on and look somewhere else.”
A couple of days later, the farmer was again out in his field when a different man approached him and said, “My village was destroyed and the people scattered. I am looking to find myself a new home, perhaps in this village. Can you tell me, how are the people in this village? What kind of people are they?” The farmer asked, “What were the people like in the village you came from?” The traveler replied, “They were wonderful people. Loving, close, helpful, and I will miss them terribly.” The farmer said, “I think that’s how you’ll find the people here, too.”
Other people can be mysterious and painful. And, other people can be wonderful and joyful. What you find in others, no matter what your background might happen to be, is ultimately going to be a reflection of you.
Only relatively recently have researchers and clinicians begun to examine the roles that significant people in a depressed person’s life play in the onset and course of depression. As a result, we have learned quite a bit about the social lives of depressed people. What follows are just some of the findings.
Depressed people tend to have:
• Fewer friends and smaller social networks
• More conflict in their relationships with others
• Less support from others
• Fewer and less well-developed social skills
• Fewer close relationships
• Less rewarding relationships
• Fewer social contacts
• More marital problems and more family arguments
• More pessimism about the future of their relationships
Such findings make a strong case for the negative consequences of depression on relationships with others. It isn’t just the depressed individual who suffers. It’s also the people around him or her when they’re on the receiving end of the depressed person’s stream of negativity, pessimism, and criticism.
So, How’s Your Social Life?
Take another look at the general findings above. Do any of these apply to you? How many apply to you personally? How powerful a force in your own depression are the relationships in your life?
It’s Thanksgiving, an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the people around you, whether it’s loved ones or just the friendly cashier at the store you frequent. You can make a point of spreading some positive feelings around, deliberately identifying and expressing what’s right with people. It’s good for you, good for them, and really good for taking a positive step out of depression.
Try it– and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Photo by venturist, available under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license.
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Yapko, M. (2010). The Social Lives of Depressed People. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 1, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/managing-depression/2010/11/the-social-lives-of-depressed-people/