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're depressed, unsupportive friends and family can prove trying. It's very important to have people in your life who either understand your condition or are willing to try. 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? Lack of support from people in your social network can be tough, but there are things that you can do to find the support and understanding that you need.

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Recognize Not Everyone Understands

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. Their behavior towards you may be deeply ingrained and automatic and have nothing to do with you as a person.

Perhaps they grew up in an environment where they were taught that it was unacceptable to show vulnerability. Or perhaps their thoughts are influenced by the persistent and problematic stigma surrounding mental illness.

Sometimes unsupportive family and friends just need education about your depression so they can better understand what you are going through. There are numerous resources to educate family from sites such as NAMI and Mental Health America or local family education programs like NAMI's excellent "Family to Family" program.

Don't let mental health stigma prevent you from getting the help and support that you need. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of depression.

Treat Yourself Well

Perhaps one of the best ways to find the support you need is to start with yourself. Be your own greatest supporter. Practice being kind and gentle with yourself, and keep your self-talk positive. In other words, pay attention to that inner voice and what it's saying about you.

For instance, if your self-talk is particularly negative, you may be creating more stress and anxiety for yourself. Try to keep these ongoing monologues positive—even if that means repeating positive mantras every day until it becomes a habit.

Remember, negativity only feeds your depression.

If you find yourself getting trapped in a negative thought cycle, repeating negative things about yourself, or ruminating over things that have gone wrong, look for ways to turn those thoughts around or interrupt the cycle. Finding ways to distract yourself can help, as well.

You also can treat yourself well by looking for opportunities for self-care, such as doing things that improve your mood or caring for your body. Because self-care is highly personal, start by making a list of the things you enjoy but might consider a luxury, like:

  • Taking a hot bath
  • Reading a good book
  • Creating a bullet journal
  • Taking an afternoon nap
  • Talking with a friend
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Taking a leisurely walk through the park

Then, find a way to carve out time for these activities. Learning to care for yourself in small ways will help you not only feel better but also will allow you to take responsibility for your health and emotions. Likewise, self-care helps you remove some of the focus from how unsupportive certain people are by doing something positive for yourself instead.

Don't Believe Depression Myths

Don't buy into the misconceptions about depression. 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 to find the best way to hang on until you can get well. No matter what someone else says to you, don't lose sight of these facts. It takes a great deal of courage to ask for help. So, keep asking until you find the right person.

Realize Others May Be Struggling

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 their own depression and simply isn't able to give anything else to other people.

People might not be able to offer their support when they are struggling to cope with their own problems or feelings. It's not that they don't care about you; they just don't have the internal resources at this time to do more than take care of themselves.

Remind yourself of this fact when people disappoint you or are unable to be there for you. Most of the time, their lack of availability or concern has more to do with them than it does with you. Try not to take it personally or assume that they don't care about you.

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. After all, there is nothing more refreshing than talking with someone who gets what you're going through.

Don't hesitate to seek help outside of your family and friends. Sometimes, it's easier to share your struggles with a stranger—especially if they have been through the same things—because there is less concern about being judged or criticized.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Ask for Help Directly

Don't be afraid to ask for what you really need. There may be some cases where people would be perfectly willing to support and assist you if they realized what you needed.

Perhaps they don't know how badly you are doing because they are accustomed to you being the strong one. Or maybe it has never occurred to them that you might appreciate it if they offered to babysit your kids for a few hours.

If there's something you need or want help with, ask. Many people want to be there for you but they simply are at a loss for what you might want. If you are specific and direct, you are more likely to get the support you need.

Remember, people cannot read your mind. Sometimes you have to speak up.

End Negative Relationships

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, are mean-spirited and hurtful. If you can, remove them from your life. If you can't end the relationship, find ways to either limit your contact with them or bolster yourself against their insensitive treatment.

For example, if a relative always has some kind of biting remark to make at family gatherings, form an alliance with your more supportive relatives, or prepare a few witty comebacks ahead of time. It's also helpful to vent your frustrations with your counselor or therapist. They can help you determine the best course of action.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with minimizing contact with people who have a negative impact on your well-being, or completely cutting truly toxic people out of your life.

Harness Your Emotions for Good

Use your anger with the other person to your benefit. Instead of turning your anger 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.

A Word From Verywell

Feeling a lack of support from your friends and family can make coping with feelings of depression that much more difficult. There are things that you can do, including being direct when you ask for help, but sometimes the best thing you can do is seek support from people who do understand what you are going through.

If the people in your life are not giving you the love and support you need, try expanding your social support circle, whether that means seeking help from a mental health professional or joining an online or in-person support group.

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5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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