What to Do When Your Loved Ones Aren't There for You

Dealing With Unsupportive Friends and Family When You're Depressed

depressed looking man reading at counter and uninterested woman drinking coffee
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When you are depressed, unsupportive friends and family can prove trying. It is very important to have people in your life who either understand your condition or are willing to try. And, if friends and family are unsupportive—blaming you for the symptoms of your illness or making thoughtless remarks—it can make you feel really discouraged. What can you do if the people who should be your greatest supporters aren't?

Tips for When Loved Ones Are Not Supportive

  1. Acknowledge that there may be a reason behind their feelings that has nothing to do with you. There are lots of reasons that a person may not be able to understand a condition like depression. Perhaps they grew up in an environment where they were taught that it was unacceptable to show weakness? Or a time when mental illness had a greater stigma than it does today? Their behavior towards you may be deeply ingrained and automatic and have nothing to do with you as a person.
  2. Be your own greatest supporter. Practice being kind and gentle with yourself. Keep your self-talk positive. Negativity only feeds your depression.
  3. Find support elsewhere. When close friends and family can't offer you what you need, it can be helpful to seek out people who can. Depression support groups, either in person or online can be a great place to look. Although people in support groups may start out as strangers to you, fast friendships are often formed because you share the common experience of depression.
  4. Don't buy into their misconceptions. Depression is not a sign of weakness or laziness. It is a biologically-based illness, most likely caused by imbalances in important mood-regulating chemicals in your brain. You are not attention-seeking when you ask for help. You are simply trying the best way you can to hang on until you can get well. No matter what someone else says to you, don't let yourself lose sight of these facts.
  1. Accept that some people may be sympathetic to your situation, but are simply unable to actively support you. A prime example of this situation would be a friend who is dealing with her own depression and simply isn't able to give anything to other people. It's not that she doesn't care about you; she just doesn't have the internal resources at this time to do more than take care of herself.
  2. Don't be afraid to ask for what you really need. There may be some cases where people are perfectly willing to support and assist you - if only they realized what you needed. Perhaps they don't realize how badly you are doing because they are accustomed to you being the strong one? Or it's never occurred to them that you might appreciate it if they offered to babysit your kids for a few hours? It would be great if people could read our minds; but, the fact is, they can't. Sometimes we have to speak up.
  3. Cut negative people out of your life or find ways to mitigate the damage. There are going to be some people, who, no matter what you do, will be mean-spirited and hurtful. If you can, cut them out of your life. If you can't, find ways to either limit your contact with them or bolster yourself against their insensitive treatment. For example, if Aunt Tracy always has some kind of biting remark to make at family gatherings, form an alliance with your cousins to talk about and vent your frustrations.
  1. Use your anger with the other person to your benefit. Instead of turning your anger at the other person inward and beating yourself up for your failings, channel this anger into doing something positive. Go out and get some exercise; break a few pieces of ceramic tile and construct a beautiful mosaic; or, give your house a thorough cleaning. Find something physical to do that will release your pent-up feelings. You'll have an outlet for your anger and do something good for yourself at the same time.
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