Depression makes it stressful for me to manage social interactions. My depression distorts my view of myself and of others, causing me to misinterpret social interactions. For example, when my self-loathing is especially intense, I often interpret short, lazy conversations with friends as evidence that I am disliked and irritating. I disregard variables like poor timing and busy schedules and move forward in my day with the actual belief that friends I’ve had for years are just talking to me out of pity. In this way and others, my depression stresses my social interactions.
Stressful Social Interactions Are Unavoidable, with Depression or Not
Unless you live in the middle of nowhere or you look especially formidable, you will always have to interact with humans to some extent throughout your days. These interactions bring about loads of opportunities to misinterpret anything and everything: conversations, eye contact, hair flips, or whether or not a text message has punctuation.
Ways to Manage Stressful Social Interactions with Depression
It usually seems easier to just avoid all humans at all times. Instead of letting your depression control your interactions, however, you should work to control how you interpret social interactions and respond to people with depression.
View Stressful Social Interactions Realistically with Depression
Pay attention to the reality of a situation. If you’re in a coffee shop and the baristas speak gruffly, hastily take your order, and forget to wish you a good day, look at what’s going on around you. Rather than what you probably interpreted as baristas slighting you because you’re breathing, odds are that the shop is busy and the baristas are simply trying to take care of every customer quickly. Actively choose to interpret your interaction with gruff baristas based on the context of your surroundings, not how your depression makes you feel.
Don’t Assume What Others Are Thinking During Social Interactions When You Have Depression
Avoid mindreading, or assuming you know what other people are thinking or feeling. Try to take what people say at face value and, again, clarify what you are taking from an interaction. If you hear what someone is saying but you have trouble taking it for what it’s worth, express that and then work to send your unrealistic thoughts down the drain.
Clarify Misinterpretations in Social Interactions to Avoid Stress During Depression
Maintaining openness with people is key in managing social interactions warped by depression. Ask for clarification when you think you might be misinterpreting something. Try using phrases like, “I’m interpreting what you said to mean ______. Is that on point?” or “I’m having trouble being realistic today, could you explain what you mean in a different way?” You can avoid divulging details of your depression and still reach out for clarification to more accurately interpret social interactions.
Reframing Stressful Social Situations When Depressed
For more on how to reframe stressful social situations when you’re depressed, watch this:
Depression’s Reality Warp Adds Stress to Social Interactions
Most days, I wish that I didn’t have to interact with anyone or work to maintain my relationships. Conversations are difficult to sustain, I have trouble making eye contact and I feel awkward, and a voice in my head suggests that I am not worth anyone’s time or effort. I’m getting better at using depression’s Power of Reality Warping to encourage openness and clarity in my interactions, instead of holding onto negative thoughts and permanently withdrawing from humanity. It’s hard work. But it’s worth the peace of mind.