Close Relationships Greatly Reduce Depression


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The September/October 2009 issue of Psychology Today features an article, “Second Hand Blues”, by Michael Yapko PhD, author of “Depression Is Contagious”, which asks the question “Why is depression contagious?” More accurately, though, the question is, “Why does depression run in families?” There is good evidence that suggests that we inherit the brain chemistry that makes us vulnerable or likely to succumb to the effects of depression. But it's not just about inheriting genes, as Yapko goes on to explain. Depression is often perpetuated by our social interactions within our families and our intimate relationships. In other words, the way we interact with others, especially those close to us, often makes us feel more depressed. We wind up taking the people around us for granted, failing to recognize others as a source of comfort.


Depression often goes unnoticed as depression. A person experiencing a depressive mood may externalize their symptoms, or blame other people or circumstances for how they are feeling. This may take the form of unpredictable moods, bouts of rage or withdrawing. People who are depressed can drain the joy out of most any situation, and this is very hard on the people around them. Depressed people have far more family arguments and more marital arguments. It's not uncommon for depressed people to feel isolated, and withdrawn from the people around them.

Yapko concludes that improved cognitive and social skills are the best inoculate against depression. Cognitive factors include mindfulness skills which help people recognize their signs and symptoms of depression. Social skills involve moving towards close friends and loved ones, rather than pulling away, or withdrawing. One way to eliminate your feeling of isolation and increase your feelings of connection is to increase your people-skills. Below are 10 tips for reaching out and building relationships, found on the very excellent online self-help website, Helpguide.org.

10 tips for reaching out and building relationships

  1. Talk to one person about your feelings.
  2. Help someone else by volunteering.
  3. Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
  4. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
  5. Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.
  6. Call or email an old friend.
  7. Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
  8. Schedule a weekly dinner date
  9. Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
  10. Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.