Navigating Social Situations When You Have Depression
Many of us with depression struggle in social situations. Simply finding the motivation to leave the house can be difficult enough; then, add to that the pressure we feel to interact with others. Just the thought of it is exhausting and terrifying. For example, I often expect my depression to cause awkward moments in social gatherings, which in turn makes me nervous and thus it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is not how I want to spend my time with friends and family and I imagine you all feel the same. So, what are some undesirable social tendencies our depression may cause and how can we break the cycle of these unwanted interactions and become more comfortable in social situations?
How to Keep Depression from Making Social Situations Awkward
One way I react at social gatherings with depression is by not reacting at all. Sometimes, due to my depression, I just sit quietly. Occasionally, I will try to smile -- at least then I don't fit the depression stereotype. It doesn't help much, though, because I still feel like people are staring at me and pitying me. Then I start to feel worse and wonder why no one is talking to me. I wonder why I even came and the list of negative thoughts can go on and on. It's so easy to stay in this downward thought spiral but, as mentioned previously, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have to make a choice. I can start by saying hello to someone. Once we take that first step, the rest is much easier. The more we interact during social situations, the better we will become at overcoming our depression-related isolation.
Another thing I do in social situations because of my depression is at the other end of this spectrum; I overshare. I feel as if everyone already knows that I am diagnosed with major depressive disorder and was hospitalized for it last year, so I just go ahead and tell them all about my mental health. I go on the defensive, even though I have no reason to do so. It's like I have to test people out to see if they still want to be my friend or even continue to talk to me at social gatherings once I disclose my depression.
Once again, I find myself in an awkward social situation. I've allowed self-stigma about depression to cloud my judgment. I've spilled out these deep, painful things about myself to people I hardly know or, in some cases, just met. In time, I'm beginning to realize not everyone knows about my diagnosis and hospitalization (and not everyone needs to hear about it). I'm also realizing that it's best to disclose this part of my life in a more natural manner, as people get to know me better. With this knowledge, I'm starting to navigate social interactions in a healthier, happier manner.
Finally, one way I cope with my depression is by having a wickedly dark sense of humor, but this does not always lend itself to social gatherings. Many people do not appreciate or enjoy it. This truly becomes a case of knowing your audience. Having a dark sense of humor works for me because I feel as if I take some of the power away from my struggles by laughing about them but not everyone feels this way. Some people don't "get" a dark sense of humor and it actually upsets them; therefore, if you have that type of humor like I do, be careful about using it in social situations. Using dark humor at the wrong time or with people who don't appreciate it can quickly make things awkward.
We Can Keep Depression from Making Social Situations Awkward
Although social situations can be difficult for those of us with depression, we can take steps to navigate them smoothly. We can begin by saying hello to someone. We can talk about the latest movies or a book we're reading. We don't need to tell everyone about our diagnosis right off the bat. We can smile. It can be that simple.
What areas of socializing do you find most difficult? Is there something you've found particularly helpful when it comes to social situations and depression? I'd love to hear from you.
Smith, J. (2018, August 29). Navigating Social Situations When You Have Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2018/8/navigating-social-situations-when-you-have-depression