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Is it “friendship anxiety”…or depression

November 6, 2009 | By | 21 Replies Continue Reading
Depression can feel like friendship anxiety and complicate friendships.

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I’ve gone through multiple friend break-ups and it seems to be a recurring theme for me. I never want these friendships to end but they always fall apart because I ask too much of them.

I always have a feeling of insecurity with friends to the point where I need so much reassurance that the friend becomes exhausted. I think this tendency may spring from my ongoing depression—but how can I overcome this extreme friendship anxiety?

And how can I go about repairing friendships that have been weakened or cut off because of this? Too frequently I’ve had friendships that have started well, escalated towards very intense then petered out for the reason above. I don’t want this to happen anymore, what can I do?

Signed, Anonymous

ANSWER

Dear Anonymous,

If you feel depressed and it is complicating your friendships, you need to get to the root cause of your problem: depression. When someone is depressed, it can take a lot of energy to focus on other people.

The good news: You seem to have a knack for making friends and you’ve recognized that you eventually ask too much of them. Try to keep this in mind and see your friends in small doses so it isn’t overwhelming for them or for you. At the same time, speak to a mental health professional (perhaps, you’re already seeing one) and ask for help. Depression is a treatable illness.

Thanks so much for posting and I hope this was helpful.

Best,
Irene

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Comments (21)

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  1. Nice tips there, Chad :)

    I agree, proper diet and exercise really help you with depression plus avoid mingling negative people. Be positive and love yourself a lot!

  2. Tim says:

    I think if your if you suffer from anxiety your confidence can be very low and this can cause issues with relationships such as honesty, trust and respect. Believing in your own abilities more can often rub off on other friends and help build better bonds.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am friends with a gal who definitely gets "friendship anxiety" quite frequently. I want to reassure all of you that this is quite normal however the intensity of it may be the fine line between true anxiety/ depression. At best I see it as friends are to be there for one another’s support. One should not wait for phone calls, not initiate contact/ outings and etc. Life is too short for this child like behavior. If you need your friends more at time in your life…contact her/ him more! If they are your true friend they will embrace it and be there to support you though you have to be honest about your anxiety or depression. If you are not it could lead to discomfort and thus push your friend away. My only question is why would your friends be mad at you if you have done nothing to cause that? I myself can say I am very busy with nothing but life. I often do not have more than a few minutes to chat, email, etc… so rather than me call to say hi then bye I wait until I have a solid time block to really talk to my friends and catch up on things. What helps me when I get lonely is praying, reading the Bible, connecting with family, embracing my hobbies and exercising! Enjoy some alone time gal!

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s so nice knowing that other people feel the same away! I thought I was the only one in the world who felt this way. It’s like, when I don’t talk to my friends for awhile, I think they are mad at me. And they know about my anxiety and try to be supportive, but sometimes, I think they are tired of me, but people assure me that it’s not true. And sometimes, I don’t know what to do because I feel like there is no one there.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hey… I can feel exactly the same as u do…i have my very best friend evn reassuri g to me all the time that i am really special to her but then even when she talks to other friends and seems like having fun without me i get very much disturbed…a burning feeling starts inside me..her every single word hits me like anything..like for example while solving a bit of our thing she had said that ‘yes i know u did tel me the wrong reason of your crying bt then for the first time i let it go n didnt ask much..’this thng is chewing me from inside thinking that this means that the concern which she has for me is depleting..and also when she does not give me proper attention at home..i mean when she doesnt msg much and says that she is busy it burns a fire inside me and i wait for her msgs like anythng..and i know that all this is because of my extreme insecurities and loss of trust..i have been through friendship breakups arnd 2-3 times and i know how rough that time can be and so this time i am trying to be already carefull but instead that fear and insecurities is just making my life worst than even hell! I really need some help ..but then i cant share this with anyone..i dont know what to do and i am tottaly disturbed..and yes i guess sharing all of ours problems here with each other can really help!..atlst can hope so… :)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I can really relate to this. I wonder if it is related to not only my insecurities but my mental health like my depression and my anxiety. I also have GAD and social anxiety. I have a real problem that when ever i am out in groups i cant stay cool and i just feel lost in the crowd and i wish that i could feel like i could fit in but i feel like they have their own cliche and i just dont belong here. how can i fix this. I also have ADD so that also doesnt help me alot in the group of friends thing. It really hits home when you say that you are sensitive and when someone doesnt respond cheerful to you that you freak out. I do the same thing. I feel like what you wrote is exactly how i feel every day i am with my friends. :(

  7. Anonymous says:

    I can completely relate to the feelings of insecurity and need for reassurance. I’ve had depression in the past and am currently on medication to treat it. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one that feels this way about friendships. While not having gone through multiple friendship break-ups, I’ve gone through one, recently. In my situation, my friend is at work and hangs out with my work friends so it’s a tangled – complicated – web. In many ways, I’ve been thinking a lot about the loss of my close friendship. I, too, feel that my friendships have a tendency to escalate to very intense and then, in this case, end. In other cases, I’ve had escalations and then withdrawal but subsequent closeness again. I think the time apart, in those situations, helped. In the most recent case, the fact that I work with this girl is problematic. I’m hoping that, in time, we will become friendly again but for now our encounters in the hallway are awkward. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I appreciated this blog post as I can intimately relate to it. Thank you.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Volunteering comes in all “shapes and sizes” (i.e. there are many different volunteer opportunities). While some may not be conducive to making friends, others may be. Either way, volunteering keeps you busy in a productive way (doing good for others). It’s always a great option and not one to be dismissed. :)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Let’s try to be kind here. No matter how much any of us is suffering, we need to honor the comments of others who are trying to help. It can’t be easy to wrestle with any of the problems mentioned on this website…so I think we could all use some compassion here.

    I can identify with the letter writer. I have depression and anxiety and I’ve had similar relationships with friends. I’m at the point that I’m reconsidering the whole notion of “friends,” to be honest. What is a friend? And are my ideas about friendship unrealistic if I keep feeling disappointed by my friends?

    This is usually how it works:

    I’m as nice as I can be – courteous and polite and friendly. I meet someone, hang out, exchange e-mails, and we laugh a lot and confide in each other. And then one day, you get ignored or blown off. And then it keeps happening. Maybe the friend starts hanging out with a mutual friend and doesn’t invite you. Maybe the friend says she’ll hang out and cancels at the last minute – repeatedly. Recently a friend I’ve had for over 20 years refused to help my family move into our new place. I mentioned she wouldn’t have to carry anything heavy and that we’d treat her to supper after. But no, she refused to help at all because she just doesn’t like moving all that much. (So she didn’t just reject me, but my husband and my son – her godson.) And I rarely ask anything of this friend – even though I’ve known her forever and we’ve shared many hopes and fears and experiences.

    With all these “friends,” it’s like suddenly I don’t matter. And I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve just been myself, a person they seemed to care about. But then suddenly there’s a limit – and you wonder if you EVER mattered to these people.

    It’s crushing.

    I wish it was easy – completely effortless – to have friends. However I’ve found time and time again that I am putting in more effort to keep a friendship going than the other person is, and I get let down. I sometimes think friends ditch me because I’m not always fun. I mean, I have depression. And some days it feels impossible to put on my socially acceptable happy face. But who doesn’t have emotions? And what about all the people out there who are downright evil and have lots of friends? I want to believe friendship is some sort of validation that I’m a decent person, but I don’t think I’m looking at it the right way.

    I miss several of these friends who have drifted away, but what can I do? I can’t allow someone to continuously blow me off. And I can’t try to communicate with someone who has little to no interest in telling me anything about her life. It makes me sad. But I secretly wish all these people who’ve drifted away from me because I seem sad or nervous or because they’ve found someone more “fun” – well, I wish they go through something like depression some day, and they know what it’s like to be ditched when you’re suffering and need support.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Eh, I don’t think volunteering offers more experiences and insights than a regular job in cases. By all means do it if you want to, but have no expectations. Unfortunately many people keep their friends and acquaintances compartmentalized. You can be the nicest person but if they aren’t open to new friendships, there’s really not much you can do.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I kind of see your point. It’s only in those warm and fuzzy women’s movies on TV where volunteering is a direct and sure route to fabulous friendships. I think the problem is that so many people today act like volunteering is a sure bet toward making new friends; when in fact it’s not at all a sure thing. the reasons you’ve given seem true to me, too. I’ve formed long-term, very cordial volu-friends who keep their other volu-friends in their volu-friend compartment. If you try to cross the border and suggest a non-volunteer-related lunch, they recoil in friendly surprise and say, “Oh, no, I’m too busy [with my real life].” Having said all of this, volunteer work that you care about or even don’t care about opens up other doors. Experience, exposure to others, new insights, the ability to give–all of those things we know. But maybe in turn those things will help us somehow and in some way be better able to join in other types of groups and meet potential friends? Just wondering.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Oh, Dr Irene, if there is one idea that needs to be killed off it’s the one about volunteering being a good way to meet people. Yeah, technically you will meet people, as in encounter/be introduced to them, but the odds are that your interactions will be so brief and sporadic that you will probably not form any particular connection with them. They’ll be more like co-workers you are on friendly terms with. The other volunteers may not be there to meet people and make friends.

    Also, many non-profits are terrible at managing their volunteers. You apply, they ignore you for months, then randomly call you to come and move furniture or set up chairs or stuff envelopes on a Thursday at 2pm. Or they add your name to their fundraising-prospects list and you start getting calls to donate.

    Honestly I would not advise anyone to do anything with the objective of meeting people for friendship. If it doesn’t work you might feel worse.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I know what you mean. I tend to get really anxious and overanalytical about my friendships/relationships too. I try not to let it affect me too much, but it’s still annoying. I know I should just be able to be at peace about it, but it’s easier said than done. I worry about losing particularly treasured friends and then, on the flipside, wonder if I’m too attached to them. I’m pretty sure this kind of thing is anxiety-related. Your friends are probably fine, and I’ll wager it’s mostly you…in my experience, anxiety can make you super sensitive to things and you’re really strongly affected emotionally when nothing is seriously wrong. That doesn’t mean you can necessarily stop feeling upset/anxious about something, but it can help to know that nothing is as bad as it feels right at that moment. If you can remain aware of that even through emotionally you’re anxious, you can keep from getting caught as deeply in that black hole of anxiety/depression that gets so strong once it’s grabbed hold of you. It’s still hard to have to put up with those feelings, but if you can stay aware that you’re overreacting, I’ve found it does help. It’s reassuring to know that everything is really ok. You know that relieved feeling you get when you wake up from a bad dream? Your anxiety is doing the same thing as a nightmare to you emotionally. If you can see those anxious bad feelings as nightmares (i.e., not real, but scary) it might help you distance yourself a little from them, even if you still get anxious sometimes. Anxiety makes things seem real when they aren’t. If you find that you’re really getting weary/frustrated, I’d suggest talking to someone–either a friend or a mentor or counselor. The more personable and the less clinical (in my preference) the better.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hi there!

    I have been suffering from generalised anxiety disorder and lately all i can think about is my frienships. I seem to see things that others dont for example if one of my friends is talking to another more then me i have a freak out and when were in a big group i just cant relax instrusive thoughts keep going through my head. im also very sensitive so whenever a freind is being sarcastic or doesnt respond cheerfully to something i say i freak out.

    is this the GAD or is it my friends.. im so confused..

  15. Irene says:

    Hi Leah,

    Thanks so much for adding your helpful thoughts! The challenges of making friends in a foreign country are even greater than in your native land. Volunteering is a wonderful way to feel useful and engage with others.

    Warm regards,

    Irene

     

  16. Leah says:

    Like many people on this site I have also had reoccurring fractured and broken friendships and…major depression and anxiety `disorder ` .
    i have tried many things over the years. I have a healthy diet, I exercise, I take medication I have sought many kinds of counselling.. yet still I find I often experience loneliness and feeling of dread, bad dreams interspersed by insomnia. I have felt desperate for friends, which is horrible and humiliating!!
    I am now working as a volunteer in Japan meeting many people as I travel and work, the volunteer work helps me a lot in raising my self esteem and keeping me busy. four months ago i was suicidal as I have been time and time again. I was very sick before i left Australia and it is still not easy. I am still unemployed, single and have few if any `close` friends.
    One of the things that has helped me is to try to accept myself and others..the true meaning of acceptance. I don`t understand friendship/people as it can seem very shallow. It seems nobody wants you when your down and out. it sucks!! helping others in need is a great way to meet nice people who care for others and it can help you to think of others rather than yourself all the time ( it is easy to obsess when you are depressed) Buddhist theory has also helped me although I am not religious. I hope this helps.

  17. Anonymous says:

    wow so many disorders. i want to steer clear from such people, already teetering on the brink of insanity can’t be dragged down further!

  18. Dave says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    First let me say I’m not a trained professional.

    I could be wrong, but it’s possible that to some degree you have Dependent Personality Disorder, as you say you are very insecure and need reassurance from your friends. This disorder can be coupled with Depression.

    Some people say that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Social Skills Training, Exercise, Eating Healthy, Meditation, and Medication helped them.

    I’m 31 and I’ve had Major Depression for as long as I can remember being alive. I also have Dependent Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

    I wish you the best,
    Dave

  19. Chad says:

    I have no idea why I just commented saying you’re not a mental health professional. My apologies, it’s late, and I couldn’t edit my comment. Foot. In. Mouth.

    All the best
    – Some guy on the net.

  20. Chad says:

    Irene,
    I know it isn’t your place because you’re not a mental health professional (and neither am I), but I just wanted to drop a note about eating a balanced diet. If you’re having depression that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go jump on meds, or the alternative, which is ignore it.

    Coming from someone who has dealt with depression and “best friend breakups” it’s really important to get a lot of exercise! Endorphins can do miracles, and also, importantly…

    Take your vitamins. Two supplements that are critical in preventing depression are: fish oil, and vitamin D.

    Anyone going through some tough patch right now just remember… in time, all things pass! And that can be a good thing!

    – Chad

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