Every human being wants to belong. This need is so strong that people will do nearly anything to feel like they are part of something.
Personal relationships form a safety net around individuals to protect them from too much isolation. Long ago, people who strayed from a group had a much harder time surviving the elements or avoiding starvation. While it’s physically safer now to live a solitary life, emotional isolation can still threaten a person’s mental well-being.
Social support is a vital and effective part of depression recovery. It can turn around damaging isolation, affect a person’s life focus, and generate solutions for depression management. Learn more about how this powerful social force can positively effect someone living with depression.
Social Connection Curbs Your Sense of Isolation
Depression is a selfish, abusive captor. It enjoys nothing more than seeing you all alone, feeling like nobody would miss you if you weren’t around. It magnifies your sense of shame, making sure you believe that no one could understand or care about your struggles. You can easily imagine rejection and ridicule for speaking up. Holding your tongue might keep you isolated, but at least you’d avoid petrifying embarrassment.
This can seem like the lesser of two evils and a reasonable tradeoff. But in the end, isolation breeds only more isolation. This creates a reclusive lifestyle that can cut you off from people who mean a lot to you. Your hopelessness and thoughts of despair will only get worse over time. Your isolation can put you at much greater risk for suicidal thoughts (1). So how does social support counteract this destructive spiral?
People are meant to be social beings, and we have better lives when we care about each other. Sharing your innermost feelings can seem like a huge risk. Human beings often do whatever they can to avoid complete rejection from others. But relationships aren’t just for the good times. People lift each other up when they go through tough situations. This often strengthens their personal ties as well. Why? Because it’s real life, and genuine real life has fear, uncertainty, and problems. The good times mean even more when you’ve been through some valleys together.
The isolation that comes with depression can cut you off from these important relationships. Getting help from a caring person isn’t about pity or being a “defective” human being. It’s just the way people are supposed to be with each other. You may need to choose your confidants carefully. If you have a few people in your life who are genuinely concerned for your well-being, then hold on to them. They are a priceless part of your life and depression recovery. However, if you have toxic, unreliable individuals in your life, be very careful. These people may use your personal vulnerability to their advantage, hurting you time and again. A pastor or mental health counselor may be a good place to start if this is your situation.
Social Support Keeps You Connected with Life
An isolated, depressed person can slowly die on the vine, believing the world is better off without him or her (or that that person is better off without the world). Thoughts of death coupled with intense negative emotion are two of the most dangerous aspects of depression. A person who keeps meaningful connections with others stays connected with life. He or she can visualize the future, making plans to keep on living and stay out of harm’s way.