For those suffering from depression, the basics in life, like having a simple conversation, can be difficult. It’s a catch 22: you’re depressed so you don’t feel like making the effort to put yourself out there and be social. But, being introverted and anti-social can make you feel closed-off and rejected, which fuels your depression. How does a person escape this vicious downward cycle?
The famous British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is a perfect example of how having depression does not have to hold you back. Churchill’s list of accomplishments is long, and he died in 1965 one of the most beloved political leaders of his time. Churchill admitted battling depression, referring to his illness as the ‘Black Dog’ that plagued him. The metaphor insinuates that while the dog may some days backlash and bite you, it can also be coaxed and corralled. Instead of being downtrodden, Churchill was even more motivated to make something of his life.
If you are someone who struggles with depression, you are not alone. WebMD estimates that nearly 19 million Americans are affected by the illness. Depression is no longer something that has to be endured solo or dealt with in the dark. Even celebrities are using their platform of fame to share their battles with depression. Jim Carrey, Brooke Shields, Owen Wilson, Billy Joel, Ashley Judd and Larry King are just a few who are revealing that they, too, have been impacted by the mood disorder.
Chris Segrin, a behavioral scientist and head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Arizona believes that the social component of depression has often been ignored. He has written a chapter on the subject that was published in the 2011 Handbook of Interpersonal Psychology. Segrin points out that to fully understand depression, it must not be viewed merely from a biological perspective. He goes on to say that there is a strong connection between a person’s social skills and their battle with depression.
Depression can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is learning to control your depression instead of letting it control you. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Healthcentral.com offers some tips for those with depression wishing to expand their social skills. The unnamed author is a 40-something mother of two children, one of which has autism. She also wrestles with depression as well as other ailments.
She addresses two issues – self-esteem and trust – that might impact those struggling socially because of their disorder. First, she reiterates the power of positive thinking and says not to believe lies planted by depression about not being worthy of affection from others. Self-esteem should not lie in what others think about you, but instead what you think about yourself. Second, she states that you have to be willing to put yourself out there sometimes despite the fear of being rejected. In vulnerability, there is real strength.
Essentially, open and honest communication about the disorder will lessen its negative stigma and will help those struggling realize they are not alone. While many biological aspects definitely affect the development of depression, the context of person’s interpersonal life is not to be ignored. The more we know about depression, the less power it holds.
The most important thing is to not ignore or downplay the impact depression has. Treatment has improved dramatically over the last decade and there are many options, both traditional and alternative, that can help ease symptoms.