The Friendship Doctor

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Making friends when you're depressed: It ain't easy!

It's hard to make friends (and keep old ones) when you're depressed

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

Throughout my life (I am now 25) I have had problems with friendships ending poorly, usually with friends betraying and/or abandoning me. This has been a contributing factor to my depression, which, in turn, makes it harder to make new friends.

I have a new best friend, my husband, and he is great, but it's not the same as having girlfriends. I have tried to reach out to some of the women in my church--inviting them out for coffee or shopping-- but no one has been receptive. I seem to be incapable of making new friends and I think my depression therapy is stalling because of it. What else can I do?

Sincerely,
Rose

 

ANSWER

Dear Rose,

It's hard to make new friends (and even keep old ones) when you're depressed so I really applaud your efforts. Depression saps your energy, turns you inward, and creates a distance between you and other people.

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Focus on finding an activity or hobby that interests you, rather than on finding friends, per se. Perhaps there is a small group at your church or in your community where you can participate regularly and begin to meet people through common interests. It will give you time to get to know someone and gain some trust before you develop a friendship.

Talk to your therapist explicitly about your problem in making friends. Like depression, friendship problems are real too. Yours may be a byproduct of your depression and/or may stem from something else. He/she may be able to help you identify the underlying problem.

Many people with depression benefit from participation in a support group, such as those sponsored by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, where they can meet other people who understand because they are having similar problems. When your depression lifts, which it will with good treatment, the task of finding a good friend won't be as formidable. You have your whole life ahead of you and plenty of time!

Warm wishes,
Irene

 

Follow The Friendship Doctor on Twitter: @IreneLevine

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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