The Effect Social Distancing is Having on People With Depression

When social distancing rules were enacted to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, the country adopted some new habits. Several states have issued “stay at home” orders, demanding their citizens stay in their homes except in the event of “necessary” travel (like grocery shopping, doctor’s visits, etc.).

While social distancing might be the norm now and for the foreseeable future, these restrictions affect certain populations more so than others, and among those are people with depression. Depression is a mental health condition that already causes feelings of social isolation.

Let’s take a closer look at how social distancing might be affecting those with depression, and what you can do for the people in your life that might be struggling with existential dread during these difficult times.

Increased Isolation

Depression creates its own feelings of social isolation among those affected. It can make the victim feel like no one cares about their well-being, including family and friends. It can also cause the victim to want to withdraw and self-isolate for weeks or even months on end.

This symptom can be particularly harmful, as self-isolation often compounds the feelings of despair and low self-esteem that depression perpetuates.

Social distancing rules may be adding to those feelings of isolation in people with depression. Where before there was the option to leave the house, now leaving the house is only an option for necessary travel. This means no visits with loved ones or friends; the very people who may have provided the most support for those with depression.

Feelings of Despair

Despair is one of depression’s hallmark traits, and it’s likely growing with all of the sensationalism in news outlets. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing much good news about COVID-19, but the truth is, there is good news. Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have successfully recovered from the disease, and even in the viral hot spots like Italy, things are starting to look up.

In the United States alone, around 25,000 people have recovered from the virus, which exceeds the death toll. Stories of rising death tolls, new cases, and more drastic measures on the part of regular citizens and government officials (or inaction on the part of the latter) serve to increase anxiety and feelings of dread among all of us; but especially those with depression.

This Could Be A Time With A Higher Suicide Risk

The unfortunate fact is that not everyone with depression recovers from it, and some people even claim their own lives due to the effects of the condition. With so much extra anxiety, stress, and fear crowding our lives these days, we can see why someone who already experiences those feelings on a more intense level would consider a way out.

It’s important that we still remain vigilant with our loved ones. Just because we’re adhering to social distancing rules doesn’t mean we can’t check up on people via video chat, text, phone call, or any other digital means.

We live in a world where you can literally connect with anyone, anywhere in the world, with a single press of a button. Don’t forget about your loved ones suffering from depression!

What Can I Do?

So, what can you do for someone suffering from depression during social isolation? First and foremost, stay in contact with them! They’re probably feeling more lonely than usual, and simple text message can make all the difference in a day filled with loneliness and dread. A video chat is more personal, and you’ll get to see their face.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t do anything to help a loved one with depression. There’s a common misunderstanding that depression is beyond the control of the average person. While you certainly can’t control someone’s mental health, often they need a stable support figure to help them during difficult times.

Moving Forward

We’re all hoping that COVID-19 will pass on, as do most viruses, and society can get back to normal. Hopefully, we’ll learn some important lessons from this pandemic, and among those, that mental health is so much more important than we think.

Unfortunately, our society as a whole still carries a lot of stigma regarding mental health conditions like depression. We see it everywhere; people don’t talk about it, it’s disregarded or mislabeled, and yet, hundreds of thousands of people every year suffer from it.

Reach out to those you love, and let them know you care. Depression can’t be cured by love and support, but it’s certainly less difficult to navigate when you’ve got a loving, empathetic support group by your side.

Best of luck to you and your loved ones during these difficult times, and don’t forget to look for some good news about the virus now and then. It does exist!

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