Depression

Feeling Disconnected or Depressed? You Are Not Alone

Despite increasing digital connection, disconnection and depression are common.

Posted Jan 25, 2020

By Jessica Tepper and J. Wesley Boyd

Depression is all too common, affecting 322 million people globally and 17.3 million Americans every year.[1] Depression is commonly characterized by persistent sadness, negative thoughts about oneself or life, and can lead to a loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable. Another common aspect of depression is the feeling of loneliness or disconnection from other people.

Although depression can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, one of the fastest and best ways to feel better, ironically, is to talk about how you are feeling. In other words, to seek out connections with people whom you trust.

But reaching out to others isn’t always so easy. Many have a difficult time sharing emotions—because of the stigma of mental illness and also because, particularly for men, we are socialized not to talk about feelings. Another barrier is the simple fact that it can be difficult to put feelings into words or explain them in a way others may understand.

Even though doing so can be difficult, the costs of not talking about depression are astronomically high. Up to 20 percent of cases of untreated depression have been found to result in suicide.[2] In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between ages 35 and 54.[3] Troublingly, the total suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 31 percent between 2001 and 2017. [4] 

How, exactly, can you reach out to others if you are depressed? One thing you can do is to seek out professionals trained in mental health or anyone you feel you can trust. It might feel counterintuitive or daunting—but to feel better, we have to try something different, and that often entails becoming vulnerable.

If you open up to a therapist or friend, and the interaction doesn’t feel right, try again with someone else. Keep trying until you find someone who feels supportive and with whom you feel a connection. 

If you are actively planning or thinking about death, it is even more important to connect with somebody, because professionals can help you get through your crisis: Call 911 or a suicide hotline or visit an emergency room. Help is available and is often closer than you may think. 

Wes Boyd
Source: Wes Boyd

As therapists, friends, spouses, and loved ones, when we are with someone experiencing sadness or depression, if at all possible, we need to close the disconnection gap between ourselves and the person. We can do this by practicing empathy: offering side-by-side and validating statements that reinforce closeness and feelings of “being with” the other person. In other words, reaching out to understand their suffering, rather than distancing ourselves from it. (For an excellent video on how to demonstrate empathy and closeness, take a look at this video by Brene Brown.)[5]

Difficult emotions—including sadness, anger, and grief—are natural responses to painful life experiences. When these emotions arise, attempting to ignore or fight them can lead to feeling worse. And yet, it can be difficult to endure them on our own.

When struggling with such emotions, one of the most effective ways of feeling better is to share how we are feeling with others. Connection and support are out there—but only if we take a chance and open up.

Jessica Tepper, LCSW is a therapist, coach and writer in Boston. For inquires about coaching or treatment, she can be reached at jesstepper@gmail.com

References

[1] Anxiety and Depression Association of America (https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression)

[2] Gotilb I. H. & Hammen C.L. (Eds.). (2002), Handbook of depression. The Guilford Press

[3] National Institute of Mental Health (2018). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml

[4] Ibid

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw