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Tips for Making Friends When You're Depressed

It's hard to make friends when you might need them most.

Admittedly, It’s tough to make friends when you’re feeling depressed, even if you desperately want someone to talk to or confide in.

When people are depressed, they may not have sufficient energy or initiative to reach out to others. Or they may feel worthless and wonder why anyone else would want to befriend them. Also, depression can make people feel hesitant to make plans for next week or next month because they don’t know how depressed they’ll feel when the time of the actual event arrives.

Realistically, they may worry about whether they are capable of keeping up their side of the friendship, realizing they may not be good company right now. After all, it’s also hard to be with someone who is depressed.

For these reasons and others, depressed people often isolate themselves, perpetuating the feelings of sadness and loneliness. I recently received a one-sentence letter from a young woman:

"Hi, i just want to ask, how do I make friends when I struggle with depression?"

While there are no simple answers, here are a few suggestions I would give to her and others:

  • Depression is a treatable illness. Check in with your therapist or physician to make sure that your condition is being treated as best as it can be. Your medication may need a minor adjustment or major overhaul. Your doctor may be able to offer other non-somatic recommendations.
  • Confide in 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.
  • Join a support group of people with mood disorders to learn some practical tips to minimize the effect of depression on your social relationships.
  • It’s easier to make friends in natural settings where there is less pressure to socialize. Survey your workplace, school and/or neighborhood to see what types of groups or activities interest you. Take an adult education class, participate in an exercise class at a gym, or volunteer to help others.
  • Get moving. Get dressed and make an effort to get out of the house regularly, even if it’s to take a short walk or bicycle ride. A number of studies have shown that exercise helps improve mood.
  • Sometimes friends don’t know how to react to someone who is depressed. If they’ve been turned down or shut out repeatedly, they may stop initiating contact. Take the risk of contacting an old friend with whom you have some history. Let that person know you are interested in getting together.
  • Figure out what positive things you can bring to a new friendship. Be cautious about demanding too much too soon: Don’t treat new friends as therapists. Don’t be lazy, either. Instead, make sure there is give and take in your relationships.
  • Take one day at a time. Recognize your illness is likely to have ups and downs. Don’t beat yourself up when you feel so depressed that you can’t handle being with other people.

Do you have any other advice for someone making friends when they’re depressed?