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Do people with depression need better social skills?

I don’t like talking on the phone. For awhile, I disabled the voicemail on my phone to avoid having to return phone calls. People would say to me, “Hey, I tried to call you but I couldn’t leave a message,” or “Do you know your voicemail doesn’t work?” or “You should set up your voicemail,” to which I would simply respond, “I know,” – a response that seemed to baffle them. phoneI don’t know why I dislike talking on the phone or how the whole thing started. I wonder if maybe it doesn’t have to do with not being the girl that was not included in the high-school phone call daisy-hain about who was “going with” whom or whose parents would be out of town for the weekend. Or, maybe it’s because I like to see a person when I speak with them so I can read their body language. I interrupt a lot when I speak with someone on the phone. I don’t mean to but I just can’t tell when they have verbally completed a thought. And I don’t know when the conversation is over. It’s very awkward for me and I devote so much time to thinking about what I’m saying and whether I’m doing the conversation “right” that I often don’t hear what the person said. My dislike of talking on the phone is so extreme that my phone hardly ever rings, which is fine by me. You should see all the minutes I’ve stacked up on my phone bill. I don’t mind talking on the phone for my work but my aversion to personal phone calls has been the topic of more than a few sessions with my therapist. Obviously, the outcome of my phone hate has resulted in what my therapist calls “isolating.” I don’t think of it as isolating. I think of it as being left alone and not being forced to interact with someone when I don’t want to. Is that so wrong? Apparently, it is. Isolating is not good for people with depression – to which I say, “neither is the anxiety created by talking to someone I don’t wan to speak with or being so conscious of my awkwardness that I’m left feeling like a loser. At the core of this mess is one fact: I have no social skills when it comes to talking on the phone. So, when I  saw this headline, “Social Skills Training Needed for People with Depression,” I jumped on the story. That’s exactly my problem. “There is significant evidence to show that people with major depressive disorders experience social situations coloured by their often negatively biased mood states, and they can interpret social signals quite differently to other people” says senior author Professor Bernhard Baune, Head of Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide. “The difficulties with social interaction may, at least in part, be due to an altered ability to adequately interpret emotional stimuli and mental states of oneself and of others. This seems to persist even when the person’s depression is in remission.” Halle-freakin’-lujah! Professor Baune says social skills are critical for people to have good “functional” outcomes – such as in the workplace, in social groups, and for successful relationships. “This is an important dimension in depression that often gets overlooked,” he says. Overlooked? How about ignored? I’ve never heard of anyone attempting to study or treat the social skills of people with depression. When your brain is hard wired to go to the negative – always – it is, indeed, difficult to have relationships, friendships or telephone conversations. I don’t know what this kind of therapy would look like or if it’s covered by my insurance. Probably not. But consider the impact on people’s ability to work and to function within a team, or to have a long-lasting and healthy relationship, which is extremely important for people’s well-being. These aspects of life, if they are not working well for people, can further contribute to and deepen depression. “We believe that treatment for these issues should go beyond the normal psychological therapy and pharmacological treatments currently being offered to patients,” he says. I hope his idea of treatment is not being forced to have endless conversations on the phone – you know, like they make people afraid of flying actually…fly. Actually, I just realized that some folks are going to read this and try to call me. Luckily, my voicemail is set up. Leave me a message.  

Do people with depression need better social skills?

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2014). Do people with depression need better social skills?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Dec 2014
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