Sadly people with depression can become more and more isolated as the depression depends it often seems as if friends and family stop calling, visiting or inviting the person suffering from depression to social events.

To the afflicted person it can appear as if everyone is turning their back on them, but why is this?

I think it is easier to understand the dynamics of what is happening when you look at some of the typical characteristics of depression.

As the depression develops, the person affected, to a greater or lesser extent, starts to lose rational intellectual control and a primitive part of the brain steps in and takes over. This happens as the person’s thought patterns become negative. Negative thinking, either negative forecasting of the future or of the past, one selves or one’s life, to a primitive brain indicates some sort of crisis, emergency or danger; it doesn’t understand the context, it just interprets the anxiety produced by negative thinking as something is wrong.

When this primitive brain steps in, it behaves in a certain way, all intended at keeping you safe and alive, but when applied to our modern day life, concerns and stresses rather than dangerous sabre tooth tigers, it doesn’t make so much sense. The behaviour traits of the primitive brain include:

  • It applies everything to you and it makes everything about you.
  • It think is terms of all or nothing. It comes from a time of eat or be eaten, kill or be killed, so there is no grey in the middle.
  • It always looks at the worst possible scenario, it catastrophises everything
  • It becomes paranoid, especially about other people and their intention
  • It hijacks the imagination and uses it in a negative way
  • It obsesses about things

This all makes sense if you live in a dangerous world under constant threat from wild animals and other wild tribesmen (and women), but it will behave in exactly the same way when you haven’t heard from your friends for a while or you hear that a few of them went to the cinema and didn’t invite you.

The sad truth about depression is that it is very hard for other people to be around.

When you have depression, you withdraw from the world. Back in those primitive times, if you couldn’t go out to hunt because there was snow, ice or danger outside your cave, you would probably just go back into your cave, pull the rug over your head and sleep until the situation changes. In modern times, you withdraw, go back into you house, pull the duvet over head and push the world away, including your friends and family.

In the beginning, people around you will have tried, their apparent rejection would not have been instant, but the constant negativity of depression is hard work, every suggestion or offer of help is met with a rebuff, invitations out are turned down and the conversation becomes all about the depression.

There is only so much you can say to the repetitive complaining about life and circumstances, only so many times you’ll invite someone out, when an invitation is declined constantly, eventually an assumption is made that you don’t want to join in full stop.

So that sad fact is that it’s the depression that is pushing people away, they are not intentionally turning their back on you – if they are truly friends they’re not, more likely is that they’re at a loss at what to so or do.

The depressed people don’t take up offers of help or help themselves. To other people, they appear to do nothing to help themselves and others can’t understand why they can’t just ‘snap out of it’.

Then combine this with the depressed person’s negative imagination being paranoid about what other people are thinking about them and it’s not a happy picture.

If you have depression and you feel this is happening to you, or people in your life seem to be turning their back on you, remember, you cannot change or control how other people think or behave, but you can change your own behaviour or your attitude towards it.

Depression is inclined to make you withdraw from people, but actually what you need to do it put yourself amongst people.

It may be that you are unintentionally expecting your friends and family to be therapists but they are not equipped or qualified to be that for you. They try, but when they have exhausted their own knowledge base of suggestions, they don’t know what else to do and could feel at a loss.

It may be hard to start with, but you need to take the initiative, pick up the phone and call them – don’t text or message, you will misinterpret their message or the time it takes them to respond. When you do call, don’t talk about your problems and complain about life, ask them about their life, even if you’re only on the phone for five minutes because your problems are dominating your thoughts, find something else to talk about – it will help you and they will be pleased to hear from you.

Arrange with a friend or family member to go out to the cinema or an activity where conversation isn’t the central activity.

You will be pleased that you did.

Family and true friends don’t go away permanently, it’s temporary and you can turn that around any time you want. When you reach out to them, they will be there and ready if not completely able to help. Remember they are your family and friends, not therapists and do fun things with them, it will do you all the world of good.

HPD, DHP, MNCH(Reg), AfSFH

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