Living with depression can seem harder when you’re single and over 25. Prioritizing self-care and nurturing non-romantic connections can help you manage your symptoms.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a chronic condition. If you have MDD, you may feel sad, tired, and are no longer interested in activities you once loved. Concentration problems, trouble sleeping, and appetite changes are also common with MDD.

Being single and at an age when others are entering long-term romantic relationships can feel like an added burden for people with MDD.

People with depression diagnoses are not more likely to be single. In a 2021 study, almost half (49.9%) of people with MDD were partnered.

If you’re managing MDD, support can be a critical factor in your well-being. But there’s no need to rush into a relationship, especially an unhealthy one.

Some research has shown that a long-term relationship is connected to lower rates of depression. But there’s more than one way to understand the numbers.

Research in 2021 found significantly lower lifetime odds of depression for people in partnerships, although higher odds if a person had one child or three or more children. A 2020 survey found that support from a significant other made depression less likely.

However, some researchers offer caution when analyzing this and similar data.

Researchers from a 2019 study say that good relationships may protect against depression, but bad relationships may make depression worse. They also note that prior research doesn’t clearly show whether depression status was set before a relationship or changed after entering one.

Raffaello Antonino, a counseling psychologist in the United Kingdom, cautions against putting too much stock in finding a romantic relationship if you have MDD.

“If possible, try to avoid idealizing relationships and understand that finding a partner isn’t a cure-all for depression,” Antonino says. “In fact, finding a relationship as a means to feel better about ourselves is a recipe for disaster, making us more prone to become dependent on the partner and lose sight of our needs.”

Many see their late 20s as a time when they should settle down, develop careers, or enter long-term relationships. Often, people are surrounded by information about other people’s life changes as they get married and start families.

For someone living with MDD, this can be particularly challenging.

Ileana Arganda-Stevens, licensed marriage and family therapist in Sacramento, California, says that depression can lead to feelings of low self-concept, which is only made worse by social media messaging that values relationships over being single.

“Remember that just because something is valued by society or popular media doesn’t mean it should be what you prioritize,” Arganda-Stevens says. “Connection takes many different forms — friendship, family, co-workers, neighbors, pets — and all can add to our sense of richness and fulfillment.”

If you’re living with MDD, there are a few strategies you can try to improve your well-being. You can stay single in your late 20s and beyond and still support your mental health.

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Infographic by Bailey Mariner

Connect with others

Spending time with others can help reduce feelings of isolation.

Relationships come in many forms. They can include casual acquaintances, such as co-workers, team members at the local coffee shop you see regularly, participants in faith communities, friends, and family. If you live alone, getting out to interact with others can help ease depression symptoms.

Practice self-care

Nutritious eating, exercise, and quality rest are all important parts of self-care. Your physical health can be closely linked to the severity of MDD. Alcohol and nonprescription medication use can make symptoms worse.

Try to take a day-by-day approach to reducing stress and prioritizing your health. Practices such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi can all help, but any kind of movement can be a win when living with depression.

Follow your treatment plan

Working with a mental health professional can be an essential part of managing MDD. If you have a prescription for medication, continue with it even if your symptoms improve.

Talk with your doctor if you want to stop, reduce, or change medications. Stopping medications abruptly can lead to withdrawal or a recurrence of symptoms.

Join online and in-person support groups

Meeting others who have MDD can be a way to manage particularly tough times. You may get to know people with similar experiences who have developed ways to cope. Support groups are often led by mental health professionals who can offer additional insight and guidance.

Start with small goals

Depression can be an overwhelming condition to manage. Focusing on small steps can give you a sense of accomplishment.

Consider choosing a few achievable goals, such as heading out for a walk or joining a friend for coffee. Acknowledge that these things may seem small, but in the context of MDD, they can mean you’re on the path to wellness.

Major depressive disorder is a manageable mental health condition. Connecting with others can be an important part of your treatment plan, but it doesn’t have to mean rushing into an intimate or romantic relationship.

Friends, family, acquaintances, mental health professionals, and others with MDD can all help through times of crisis. To find support resources, check out suggestions on Psych Central’s Find Help page. If you need help now, call the Lifeline at 988.