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How to Cope With Lost Friendships and Relationships Caused by Depression

By HERWriter
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Depression related image Photo: Getty Images

Losing friends is part of life and it can be a difficult time to get through. It almost seems worse when the cause of that loss is something that can’t be controlled. For women with depression, symptoms and assumed personality traits can turn others away.

Many people attempt to surround themselves with happy-go-lucky and positive individuals. Sometimes those traits don’t coincide with depression, and the depressed person suffers from not only symptoms, but social isolation. Experts and fellow depression sufferers give their tips on how to cope with losing friends and relationships because of depression.

Lesli Doares, a marriage therapist and author, said in an email, women who have depression should first work on managing their symptoms and taking care of themselves. They also need to keep the people in their lives informed on what’s going on with their lives and their depression, and realize that they have to put some effort into all those relationships.

“Share your symptoms and how best to handle them with the important people in your life,” Doares said. “Don't make it hard for them to [be] part of your life. You need to be able to be a friend/partner for them at times too.”

Although effort is necessary, Karen Sherman, a psychologist, suggests in an email that women with depression should also not blame themselves.

“Depression is not your fault - it is an illness,” Sherman said. “If someone close to you isn't able to deal with your depression, it doesn't mean they don't love you ... it means they feel helpless in knowing how to respond to it. Seek out those who can.”

Maureen Daniek, a life transition coach, said in an email that losing friends while depressed can be a normal process.

“When people are depressed, it is common for others to back away,” Daniek said. “Know that it is OK if you are not able to give much right now to others; when we are depressed we don't have the energy or initiative to reach out and be ‘upbeat.’ Know that your energy will return as the depression lifts.”

Although there are multiple sayings supporting the idea that true friends will stay through thick and thin, forgiveness can be key.

“Try to part with the friend on good terms and be forgiving of them - as you feel better, the relationship may be re-established,” Daniek said.

It’s also OK to feel bad after a friend is lost – it’s not a sign of weakness.

“Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of their support - you may go through periods of sadness, anger, bargaining, disappointment and emptiness as you work through the grieving process,” she said. “Join a support group of others struggling with depression for social connection and emotional support.”

Seif-Eldeine Och, a self-improvement blogger, poet and previous depression sufferer, said in an email that once depression sufferers work on themselves, they can eventually be in successful relationships and friendships again.

“If your old friendships are still important to you, I suggest you consider what about your condition hurt the feelings of the other person in the relationship,” Och said. “When in depression, realizing how your actions are affecting others is difficult to do. Now you have the time to determine what actions were detrimental to the relationship, apologize for them and discuss how you will act in the future to not go through the same problems.”

Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist, physical therapist and author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness," said in an email that depression should not be used to define a person because depression can change that person.

“If you are the one with depression whose friend broke up with [you], try to understand that it is not because you are worthless, but rather because the depression is making you someone you are not,” Lombardo said.

Doares, Lesli. Email interview. July 25, 2011.
Sherman, Karen. Email interview. July 25, 2011.
Daniek, Maureen. Email interview. July 25, 2011.
Och, Seif-Eldeine. Email interview. July 25, 2011.
Lombardo, Elizabeth. Email interview. July 26, 2011.

Reviewed July 27, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Although there are a lot of valid points in this article (the need to take responsibility for one's own behaviours, the need to accept the feelings of others, and the need of both friends to take space) I feel this is like most other articles that come from the point of view of the "healthy" friend, rather than the depressed friend. Having friends walk away from one another because they are unwilling to learn about illness, and because they are unwilling to expend energy while a friend struggles, is very disrespectful and behaviour that is not indicative of a true friend. When my friends tell me something is wrong, whether it be sickness, work place related/relationship related, I try to read up on things, to share helpful articles and to support them. I help find resources in their area and provide a shoulder/ear to support them. I do not turn my back on them because it is frustrating and they are not being fun. We all have our limits, and depression can be a tough and longstanding challenge. When we are unwilling to put energy forward for our friends, we are failing as friends. I don't believe we should be telling people it is "okay" to shut out friends who are lost in the dark. You have placed a lot of onus on the people who are sick (and are likely struggling to keep their heads above water) while telling their "happy" friends that they needn't take responsibility for dismissing a friend in need.

November 12, 2015 - 11:00am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I agree. I lost some friends due to postpartum depression for some things I said on Facebook when I was not in my right mind. It was not even anything ugly to them, more just oversharing than anything and possibly ugly to my husband because he left me during it and they were friends with him too but my husband and I even made up. My depression was temporary and when I got better I tried to apologize through other friends because they had blocked me and they would not even reply , acknowledge my existence, or accept my apology or be friends again. I just don't understand it. They were too busy when I was going through it to be bothered by my depression and people excuse that even though that is a sign of a horrible friend, but how do you possibly excuse the never talking to the person again or forgiving them? I know I am better off without them in my life but they used to be two of my closest friends at one point in life and I just did want to the relationship to end in a non peaceful way like that but there was nothing else I could do. I doubt it bothers them one bit but I think it will forever bother me a little. I guess I cared about them a lot more than they ever cared about me.

August 29, 2016 - 10:34am

I had a really good friend I lost due to deppression.She and I go back 24 years.I tried to be their and I knew no matter what I said or did I couldn't break through whatever she was dealing with,as we all know with deppression everyone is different,so I called her less and less and reminded her when she was feeling better to call me back.We talked about her Dr.s app.s, her medications ect.I thought what a difference from our care free days to this kind of a relationship.I still called her knowing she wouldn't call me really,I spoke of the good times we use to have but eventually that seemed to go away. I had to cut my losses but told her I will always be their for her no matter what and I would give her space even thou I was not calling her much,as I have deppression to and she knew that.I told her I still needed to go out even just for a coffee or a walk once in a while but still it didn't do any good.I do my own thing now and I guess she is fine .I understand she has family and they are good to her and I feel comfort in that.

July 28, 2011 - 10:39am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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