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Psych 101: When a close friend is depressed

It’s depressing to be with a friend who is truly depressed. You may even get weepy yourself. The black cloud of depression spreads over you too, making you feel like you want to escape and be with anyone else but her. But read this first!

I’ve blogged here repeatedly about the importance of female friendships to women’s emotional and physical well-being—and about the perils of toxic ones as well. I’ve talked about friends who are too needy, too self-centered, too angry, too demanding, or too unreliable and have pointed out that some friendships reach a tipping point when it’s time to call it quits. I still believe that relationships that are consistently draining should be ended or at least, placed on hold.

Then I received a post from a reader entitled, Toxic Friends May Be Crying Out for Help, which reminded me that there are exceptions to every rule—and that it is important to distinguish between a toxic friendship (which is pathological relationship) and depression (which is a mental disorder). Here’s the post:

Dear Irene:

Thanks for pointing out that there are bad friends out there, However I want to play devil’s advocate here and say that in 2006 when ALL and I do mean ALL 5 of my close friends bailed on me like a chain of dominoes I nearly died from the depression it caused. In the wake of that nightmare I found out I had a mental problem and needed HELP. Your call to DUMP Toxic Friendships would be better served by advocating INTERVENTION for people who may possibly be in serious trouble rather than leaving them behind like trash on the street corner.

Signed,

Anonymous

Yes, there are some cases when close friends need to cut a little slack. Could it be that your friendship feels burdensome and painful because your
friend is depressed?

Recognizing depression

Clinical depression is extremely common, affecting nearly one out of ten people in a given year, and it’s is twice as prevalent in women as it is in men. It’s more than a case of the blues or a bad mood that passes. Depression profoundly affects a person’s ability to function. And as hard as someone tries to shake it, it recurs nearly every day, all day, for at least two weeks or longer.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Irritability, restlessness, anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, waking up during the night, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Does this list of symptoms and signs make you think of one of your friends? Well, this is a reminder. As much as you might like to, you can’t talk a friend out of being depressed. Even a kick in the pants won’t help. Depression is a biological illness.

What you can do

  • If you are a good friend, there are some ways in which you can help and possibly make a difference:
  • You can listen carefully, provide support, and offer to spend some time doing things you enjoy together (taking a walk or bicycle ride, or going to a movie).
  • You can offer to help her with concrete tasks she can’t accomplish on her own because she feels so overwhelmed or has no energy.
  • Try to be patient—and never be pushy. Don’t dismiss her feelings. Show that you understand them but encourage her to realize that these feelings are only temporary and will eventually pass.
  • Don’t pussyfoot around the issue. Remind her that depression is a treatable illness and encourage your friend to seek treatment.
  • If she resists your initial suggestion, try again but don’t nag. Don’t make demands or set ultimatums. Many depressed people need time to find their
    way to treatment and some people just want to be left alone.
  • If you worry that your friend may be harboring suicidal thoughts, you have certain ethical obligations. Be direct and ask her if she feels suicidal. If she does, remind her that she is important to you and that she needs immediate professional help. Never allow the burden of having a depressed friend be yours alone. Be sure to inform someone else (e.g. her partner or closest relative.) If you’re her partner, tell her doctor.

Recognize that you can only be a friend, not a mental health professional. There is just so much that friends can do and so much that they can give. You may need to reluctantly cut loose and be there for her when she begins to recover.

Note: This post is about friendship and isn’t intended as medical advice.

This post can also be read on The Huffington Post.

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Category: Dealing with friends with health and/or emotional problems

Comments (51)

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  1. Anna says:

    I liked this post. I wish some of my friends would read it. I feel like no one wants to be my friend now that I’ve told them what’s going on- like I’m a “downer” and just annoying everyone. The article was so thoughtfully written, though. Keep up the good work.

  2. Mary Foley says:

    Before you suggest that friends dump toxic friends, you should make sure that the friend they are dumping doesn’t really need that friend’s help. I just had a friend tell me that I am emotionally draiing… who tells a friend taht? I am going through a tough time, and I just needed a listening ear for a small period of time.. we had been walking for five years and I wasn’t like this except for the last three months.. what the heck? anyway, sometimes so called friends just want everything to be peachy keene..

    • Kate says:

      Hi Mary, here is the thing, friends should be there to help out, to listen every now and then, but not to be a permanent dumping ground. I’m sorry you are going through a tough time! But the reality is, we all go though though times, and if something is getting you down for as long as there months, it’s time to seek professional help (not that there is anything wrong with getting a little professional help). Friends will always be there for the big things, and the happy things, however to expect a friend to listen to your negativity for 3 months is selfish. – hear me out – trust me, I’ve done it. I have tirelessly poured my sadness on my friends for years, and I didn’t even realize the impact it had on them. Because for some reason, I always thought I was entitled to friends that would stay by my side and hold my hand through breakups and dropping out of university, and family issues, death, it all piled up, and I needed them, and I deserved them right? Wrong. They were willingly in my life, they had there own problems which I barely asked about. I didn’t even remember the anniversary of my best friends mothers death because I was so absorbed in myself. if any one of my friends had given up, I wouldn’t blame them right now. because after seeking help, after a few of them had had enough, I realized that not only were they not qualified to help me fix my problems, or to even listen to me complain about those problems day in and day out, they were not being paid for there time, there was nothing stopping them from leaving. I think it is important to remember that friends are a gift. they should be respected and not abused. That’s what it is, abuse. Now today I am in a situation where a friend has been sick for many years. conversations have become completely one sided, she only ever talks about negativity in her life, she didn’t even know my aunt passed away, or my grandmother got diagnosed with cancer, she only calls when she needs something from me, and she expects me to drop everything to help her. no one, ever, should have to deal with this abuse, and when it comes down to it, I am enabling her, I am saving her, which means she never has to rely on herself for anything. It’s been explained to me by three separate professionals that it is an unhealthy and toxic relationship. and that by continuing the relationship I am hurting not only myself, but any progress that she may make. Ending it is not easy, because of her sickness all three professionals have decided that I should wean her off of the friendship, and let it die naturally. and you know what is amazing, I started with just not dropping everything when she called, meaning if she called because she needed a ride somewhere, or had some issue and needed me to listen and I was busy, I would tell her I was busy but let her know when I would be available next. After a few weeks of doing this, she called less and less. it was amazing. she was using me! I had so much invested in the friendship, and she held my being busy against me. – This is an extreme case, but it is not unlike examples that other friends have gone through. When it comes down to it, sometimes you have to send them in the direction of help, take them to the water so to speak. But if they choose not to drink, you cant be their water.

  3. Those people who do have a friend and someone they can talk to are really lucky

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hello irene, I know this is an old article but I’m dealing with my friend who’s severly depressed, even tried to kill himself in the past. And long story short, I’m at my end and I just don’t know what to do anymore, I tried my best and be a good friend of him letting him know I’m there for him and that he can talk to me, sadly he’s kept telling me that there’s nothing I can do to make him feel better no matter what I tried, he refuses to talk, and he doesn’t want to go get help for his depression either. At times he even goes as far as emotionly manipulated me saying I’m part of the ‘problem’ and that I’m pushing him over the edge, which is very hurtful for me…eventually I just stopped caring whenever he puts in his skype message he’s depressed and whatnot, which I find terrible, it’s not something I should ignore but I’m at my end, what should I do?

    • Irene says:

      Unfortunately, there are limits to what someone else can do for another person.
      This isn’t a burden you should shoulder on your own either. Can you let someone else (e.g. a family member of your friend) know how seriously depressed your friend is?

      Best, Irene

  5. Anonymous says:

    what should i do
    no girl likes me my parents dont support me and friends are selfish what should i do, i am also ugly and chubby , not in a great shape also ,my salary is poor and my studies are also weak , my academic record is not so good and they say i should be good at maths but i tried a lot but i am not thats why i am being the lonely person in whole my teenage i am feeling loneliness from 15 year old till 20 , 5 years i have no respect in my life i have tried and committed 2 times sucide and i failed , but none of a person give a shit about it now what i am addicted to porngraphy nowadays and their are now only two things left in my life my laptop and the internet and thats all now what you aspect from me if they both go away i think i just should die

    • Jack says:

      Im sorry things are bad for you. You are a unique seed, and perhaps you are damaged. Many people dont understand, are judgemental, and turn towards their own pleasure. You have things going for you though. You have free will and can choose what you do (if you are damaged I know its almost unbearably tough). You have life and hopefully health – a remarkable thing in a dead universe. Dont let faulty people define you, define yourself and dont fall into the trap of condemning yourself.

  6. Duke says:

    I’ve read many things about the depressed one, but who takes care of the depressed helper? We are talking about people and emotions and feelings. At the beginning it was only one person, but if you get involved, at the end, it would be two persons at the Dr’s Office. We can’t help without getting the side effects of our help. If you are ready to suffer, pain, disappointment, betray, disrespectful, and become another depressed person, go for it. Don’t confused love with help. Ask yourself what you expect from helping a depressed person and how much you want to risk from yourself and what you are able to sacrifice for that person. You have a life also, a family, brothers, sisters, dad, mom, kids, and a pet. If in the process you know that you can become the second depressed person, and you are ready to take that, go for it. It is an act of selfish whatever your decision is, either to leave alone that person or to get involved. The decision is yours. My EX was a depressed people, my life before her was wonderful. After one year of relationship, I ended up as the second patients in the Dr’s office. I don’t blame her, I took the decision to support and be with her. I could escape on time before I became totally a 24 hrs patient. I was there and I know what it is. Leave the treatment to the professionals and you be an observer only.

  7. Cammy says:

    I’ve heard countless times that depression is more prevalent in women over men, which I find kind of (satirically) amusing as I only know guys who were/are depressed.
    Though, my friend being depressed doesn’t make me want to get away from him…but quite the opposite. I want him to talk to me so I can listen and such. I want to help, but he won’t let me. I don’t want to push anymore than I have-which unfortunately was a mistake–but it pains me. What do I do?

    • Kate says:

      You seek help for yourself. A professional you can speak to.It is not your job, or responsibility to take care of someone who is not taking care of themselves. The burden of their sickness yours to carry. And by doing so, you too are allowing the sickness to win. Both of you need professional help. And if they are unwilling to seek it, than you must seek it for yourself, so you can be more level headed, so there is someone helping you make rational helpful decisions without hurting yourself in the process.

  8. Jude says:

    What do you do to safe guard your own sanity from extremely depressed person, who sucks you dry complaining over the same thing, No amount of listening and supprvt seems enough. She is draining and has been so for 30 years, compound that by recent stroke. I just shut down and have not contacted this person for a week in order to recoup my sanity. she has not called so I think she knows I have had. I feel bad about having to shut her out

  9. Julie says:

    I read through some of the previous comments and tried to find an answer to my situation but I thought that asking you personally would be the best solution. One of my best friends has been through a lot of disappointment in her relationships with people. She has been going in and out of these depressive states for a really long time now and has just recently become more depressed than I’ve even known her to be. She told me that she ‘decided’ to be emotionless and doesn’t want to care about anything, including me. She is trying to push people away by being cold and dismissive and blatantly mean. I told her that I’ll always be there for her if she needs me and in response she basically told me she doesn’t want to talk to me or anyone else. I don’t know what to do. Should I just give her space? Not talk to her? I feel like since she told me how she feels/what her plans are to cut herself off from all of her relationships, it might be a cry for help. But she won’t accept any help; she doesn’t want it.

    signed,

    Julie

    • shampa says:

      Please do her a favor and leave her alone. Many depressed people are introverts and cope best when they are left to their own resources. Unless she is suicidal or contemplating harming someone else, her mental heath is her own responsibility. By trying to interfere, you jeopardize her autonomy and deny her full dignity as a human being under the pretext of ‘helping’ when she expressly does not want it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    So my best friend and I have been friend for a little over four years now. These past two years she had been in a bad depression/ mental state. She self harms and has though about suicide in the past. I love this girl more than anything but her depression and negativity are starting to get to me and drain me and depress me as well. I’m in such a bad spot because I do wanna be her for her, sometimes I feel like I should take a break from her but I’m terrified of what she would do, plus it seems like we argue more and more so idk f our relationship is healthy for either of us.

  11. Irene says:

    Hi Cici,

    At 15-years-old, you can’t be expected to deal with someone who is severely depressed all by yourself. You need to let some responsible adult know about your concerns, either your friend’s parent or a guidance counselor. It the meantime, you can provide her with support and friendship.

    Best, Irene  

     

  12. Anonymous says:

    I definitely need your help so bad! I used to depressed in about 10 months when I was 10 years old because I lost my favorite grandma. Finally, I beat my depression challenge. I know it is odd, but it is successful.
    I am 15 years old, I will be 16 soon on October. I’m very concern about my close friend. Well, she is depressed in almost 2 years. I tried to help her to feel better. BUT she is almost impossible because she seems like it. Sigh… She and I were argued about why does she like trouble and be whore. I’m not here to offense her, but she told me she is proud of it. I was very scared if she got a HIV and dies from that. So, she is changed, but still depressing. I need your help. I am scared if she will suicides herself. I didn’t know what’s name for a depression, for the example; like to depressed, cuts, whore, trouble, like hurts other else, and other else I can’t explain…. I need a help.. How could I solve it?!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your incredibly quick response!
    I guess I’d feel strange talking to her parents about it at this stage, simply because I don’t think they’d take it seriously. I suppose it seems like a bit of a big step, but of course I’d tell someone immediately if I thought she was considering hurting herself. Someone once said to me it’s better to have a friend who’s angry at you for a while than one who isn’t around anymore.
    Without seeing your reply, I talked to her again today- funnily enough about what was holding her back- and she said it just seemed very frightening. I asked if she would like to do it with someone else- me or our other friend- and she said yes. We decided on going to get coffee with the sister, and I’ll leave when my friend feels comfortable. I suppose there’s no set rules for who should and shouldn’t be involved in the process, and this seems to be working for her. Does that sound alright?
    She’s always been the most incredible friend to me :)
    Thank you again for your help,
    Amy

  14. Irene says:

    Hi Amy,

    Are you close to your friend’s family and would you feel comfortable letting them know your concerns about your friend? As obvious as it seems to you, her parents may not be aware of how depressed she is feeling, or may not have as much information or understanding about depression as you do.

    If you have any sense that your friend is so depressed that she might hurt herself—and she is unwilling or unable to seek out help on her own—you have to let an adult (either her parent or a counselor at school) know.

    Continue to be a good listener and tell her about your own family experiences with depression. Perhaps, you can speak to her about what is holding her back—denial, stigma, or lack of energy.  

    You sound like a wonderful friend. I hope your other mutual friend is there to support you in this, too.

    Best, Irene 

     

     

     

  15. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry- I know you wrote this post almost exactly four years ago- but it seems to have been timelessly useful. And also to have debunked some of the myths which are so irritatingly prevalent surrounding the issue- that people can just “snap out of it”, or that you should tell them how much worse off other people are in the world. Having a family history of depression, I know a bit about what it’s like to feel low all the time, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. I’m sixteen and one of my friends has been exhibiting nearly all the symptoms you mentioned for roughly two months.
    About two weeks ago I talked to her about it, saying that she seemed down all the time lately, and mentioning the symptoms (appetite, sleep and weight loss, disinterest in hobbies and the like, general dissatisfaction and basically miserable mood all the time) and asked her if she had considered depression as a cause. She said she would think about it and (after some crying) I gave her a lift home and asked her if she’d think about talking to someone other than me about it- I suggested our school psychologist.
    And then… nothing happened.
    One of our other good friends is worried about her as well, and her sister (who all three of us are also good friends with, sorry this is getting complicated ;) offered to take her out for coffee and just chat- she has (treated) depression as well, and would be a less imposing person to talk with than the psych, etc etc.
    I would really like my friend to talk to someone, because she just walks around seeming like she’ll burst into tears at any moment, and is just so completely unlike my smiling, cheerful friend that she’s draining and worrying to be around. I really want to be a good friend because she means the world to me, but every time I talk to her she just says yes, she’ll think about it and cries when I tell her how much she means to me and how much I would do for her. You said in your article that I shouldn’t push or nag- but does that mean all I can do is offer to listen? She said to me herself that she is running out of reasons to feel this way without running out of sadness- and I just wish there was something I could do, some magic wand I could wave. If there is one more nugget of wisdom you could share I would be so grateful!
    Amy

  16. Irene says:

    I’m glad you wrote back and have told people at school. You need to advocate for yourself and make sure that you get someone to speak to regularly. Let the counselor know that you are still upset.

    Hugs, Irene 

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your support. I didn’t realise it was so concerning about me though, I thought it was more about them.

    A few weeks ago, they both were talking about different ways to kill themselves. At break the first one mentioned wanted to jump of the school building and then the other one had a break down and cried all day and got sent to the councellor and sent home with her Mum, and because I knew what both wanted to do, it also lead to me breaking down in class, although I could feel it coming on, it’s never happened in school where i’ve actually broke down crying. In the next lesson I emailed my other friend with depression to apologise and not to feel guilty so then she said she couln’t not feel guilty for what she was going to do that night, so then I naturally broke down again, and the councellors called for us, and they were shocked to see my cry because they never before, so I think that alerted them.

    I’ve been extremely down all week, school is so stressful, my friends worry me so much, some people in school are horrible, and my regrets are getting to me now as well. People have started noticing, I feel on the verge of crying again. ( Although today I got myself out which distracted me)

    But yeah. Thank you for your response. I didn’t really expect it. You’re really kind.

  18. Irene says:

    Your post really concerns me. At 16 years old, you can’t be expected to be responsible for friends who are severely depressed. It’s natural that you would feel very sad and frightened. Some people say that depression is contagious, in a a way.

    You must tell a responsible adult, perhaps your parent or your counselor at school, about the burden you are carrying and how it is making you feel. 

    I’m concerned that you get help as soon as possible—as well as your friend. Depression is a real illness that is very treatable with supportive therapy and/or medication. If your arm or leg was feeling very weak, you wouldn’t ignore — don’t ignore this either!

    Warm regards, Irene 

     

  19. Anonymous says:

    I’m in highschool, i’m only 16 years old, and my best friend is clinically and severely depressed. I know people say, Oh once you leave high school, you’ll make new friends, and that being said can be frustrating, because I don’t want to lose this one either. She’s 15, and suffering badly, self harming and last April overdosed but the attempt failed, and she’s been tempted to do it again, i’ve persuaded her not to, I know I can’t get her out of it, but now i’m struggling to cope. My mood seems to depend on her, if she’s happy i’ll happy, and i’m constantly scared of losing her, I know for a fact, if she died, that I indeed would become depressed and suicidal, but i’m struggling to keep up with it all, I hate seeing her like this. I’ve not been able to sleep well for years, but i’m finding myself becoming sleep deprived due to dreaming about her jumping of the school building,I cry at songs that could be related to our situation. When she’s not going through a time of being down severely, she’s incredibly funny, and she’s amazing. I don’t know what i’d do without her.

    I have this other friend too who is depressed, she’s severely depressed but isn’t getting help, the other one is but is still bad. I tried to tell the school about this one, but she didn’t appreciate it and treated me like rubbish, which then made me down too, and now shes split up with her girlfriend who was the only person keeping her going she’s extremely suicidal, her mum found out about her self harm last week, but she’s still just as bad.

    I know how difficult depression is because sometimes I think i’m going through it too. I don’t want to lose either of them, especially the first one mentioned because she’s like a sister to me and she’s actually willing to recieve help. But yeah, im struggling, I don’t know what to do and the worst thing is I know there’s nothing I can. We have our gcses coming up, i’m incredibly stressed with friends, and I can’t sleep. I wish depression didn’t exist. My friends, and anyone with it, don’t deserve to suffer like this.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I read something in an article on depression once that stuck with me – it was about removing the pressure “to do” because sometimes once the pressure to do is gone, it may just give a sense of relief and release the paralyzation, freeing the person to actually do.

    I know in my experience with depression that is so true. Usually the anxiety and expectation is actually worse than the doing. Some of my friends would see my reluctance to do things and wrongly try to pin me down for social outings, get togethers and I’d be freaking out wanting to jump out of my skin as the date neared. It felt like more than I could do. But they would try to corner me into making a commitment and not let up. So what did I do? Just retreated more to get the pressure off or stay under the radar to avoid getting pinned down for a plan. And then to make the effort to show up only to get scolded or chided for being a little out of touch or the even more charming, “About time. Where the hell have YOU been????”

    Who did I not shut out? People who didn’t pressure me (or do that beyond annoying thing of “not to pressure you, but…”) or put expectations or even worse guilt trips on me. The people who let me just be. The people I didn’t have to tell white lies to, or put on a front, or have to act chirpy and happy while cheerfully report on my super busy fabulous life. People who I didn’t have to be on guard around, who don’t scrutinize, or treat socializing like a competitive sport.

    So if I didn’t call you back, you probably weren’t in that second category. But I ultimately found that the people who *didn’t* put demands on me actually took the pressure off to the point that I WOULD make an effort to see them….and diligently avoided the ones who took it upon themselves to decide what *I* needed and became overly invasive and invested in how I coped with depression. And usually it wasn’t so much about *my* well being, it was more about their own needs or else just completely oblivious or dismissive of suffering.

    Ultimately I think a depressed person needs to have a paid therapist and not depend on friends for that kind of intense emotional support about dark issues. I think lighter ways a good friend can help is just by being compassionate and non-critical. And helping in small ways to just make life easier. If there’s a birthday party, offer to pick up the gift from both of you, surprise her with nice yoga pants or nice pajamas if she’s wearing ratty old clothes every day that make her feel even more depressed, drop off dinner or bring her coffee or come over to help her do laundry. Just anything with every day life stuff that can feel overwhelming.

    And be understanding – if she’s not blowing you off to go clubbing with other friends, don’t pressure or guilt her into doing things she doesn’t feel up for – don’t make her feel like she needs to invent dying aunts and sick dogs and flooding basements in order to get out of plan. The less you push, the more luck you may actually have with making her look forward to seeing you instead of dreading it.

  21. Irene says:

    Thanks for adding your voice and experience to this thread. No doubt, it will make others think and be more understanding.

    My best, Irene

     

  22. Anonymous says:

    I have struggled with depression for most of my adult life and while I am careful not to burden my friends in any way and don’t ever put my woes upon them, I get frustrated when I am still expected to maintain all the social appearances and social pleasantries. I work full time in spite of the energy it takes to put on the front and facade at the office and when I get home or have my weekends, I need to re-charge and regroup. I don’t want to report on my life, I don’t want to get dressed and do my hair and attend baby showers and birthdays. I barely can get it together to do something positive for me, let alone go through all the effort in order to benefit someone else. I’m so taken back when someone actually gets annoyed or angry that I missed an event or takes it as a reflection of the friendship “if you were a good friend, you would have made the effort and made it anyways.” Then I get labeled as a flake, someone who doesn’t commit to plans or backs out when it becomes too much or too overwhelming which I think is so unfair. Sometimes the best we can do is all we can do. Even though friends think they get depression, most of them don’t. I don’t expect them in any way to be responsible for my state of well being or know how to offer the right kind of support, I truly don’t. I am pretty independent when it comes to knowing myself and taking care of my own needs. But it does make me angry or think they are being selfish when they expect me to be able to meet all of their demands and obligations when I am doing my best just to meet my own needs. I’ve learned not to put myself in situations right now that bring pain or distress, particularly weddings, baby showers, engagement parties, the major life events when I am doing my best just to get through the days. I don’t always understand why it’s not enough just to wish someone well and not begrudge them their happiness in any way, but that doesn’t mean I want to be up close and present in it and I think it’s selfish to want me to be something I can’t do and protect my own well being. I don’t like the way that labels me a flake or bad friend. I would say if you have a depressed friend, don’t be so quick to make judgements and be compassionate of the private struggles your friend may be facing, and that she has a right to her privacy and wish not to discuss. She may not be able to be there for you as a friend, but that doesn’t mean she’s a flake. In the past, when I did open up even a bit to friends, I felt it always backfired, they became even more invasive and even though they claimed to offer support, they still all thought my limitations didn’t apply to them, and for them I would magically be able to show up and be an enthused participant at all of their social events.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Dealing with someone who is depressed is very difficult. I also went through this with a long time friend who I loved and cared for very much. Unfortunately it is not only hard on the person living with it, it also affects everyone around them. When the depression is under control then it’s great but when it isn’t it’s hard to deal with. I feel if you are at the point where you can’t take it anymore than it’s time to step back and let them get some help or realize they can’t get away with treating people badly and expect them to stick around. Hopefully your friend will come back around someday. Sometimes love isn’t enough and there isn’t anything else you can do. Your not being selfish if you have been there for them and done all you can. If the situation is starting to take it’s toll on you then it’s time to back away. Fighting with someone who is depressed is a big waste of time…..they have to figure it out for themselves or through therapy. We are just friends not therapist. I made the mistake of fighting with my friend and the friendship is over but it feels great not to be upset everyday or stressing out so much about her that I was neglecting my own life. I wouldn’t say your ditching your best friend, I would say you are backing away so she can get the help she needs because what you are doing isn’t helping her or you!!:)

  24. Irene says:

    Thanks for sharing that valuable nuggest which will make us all be more sensitive.

    Best, Irene

  25. Anonymous says:

    Interestingly, even if a friend has had depression, (s)he is not always able to detect it in someone else especially if it’s a different manifestation. When I was depressed, and it was causing friendship problems, my friend didn’t accept that the depression was part of the problem. It was so different from her experience of depression that she couldn’t fathom it would affect me in the way it did.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been having some trouble understanding how my depressed friend wasn’t a toxic friend. Recently, I ended our 7 year frienship because it was unbelievably difficult and for all she asked of me, I wasn’t getting much in return. I know it’s not her fault that she’s depressed–I didn’t pretend to understand her, but would just listen to her like how all the websites tell you to do. But I did fall into the trap where I thought I could cure her if I loved and assisted her enough. The notion never completely left my head, even when I knew it wasn’t logical. Even though I knew she didn’t mean to, she was very hurtful. With all the broken promises to try harder and to seek help, the broken promises of at least appearing to care about me (let alone letting me talk for once), and just the intensity of the sorrow I’d feel when she was in a rough patch–I couldn’t take it anymore. She would have good times where I could tell that I could be more honest with her and that are friendship wasn’t so one-sided, but then all of that would crash and burn the next day; our progress would be for nothing, and I’d have to go back to being her caretaker opposed to her true friend. I’d tell her everything she wanted to hear, be positve all the time, and act as though I had no needs. But after a few years of this, she could tell when I’d change and she would get upset when I’d lie to her or pacify her like a child. She wanted me to be honest–so I was! I couldn’t open up to her, I didn’t feel cared about, and I was just soooo angry with her! I realized that there were a lot of things I didn’t respect about her and that I couldn’t hold my tongue becuase I stopped pitying her. We had a nast fight after I lost my cool–she threw profanities at me, threatened me, ect. Part of me is glad she fought me, though, becuase it showed me that she’s strong enough not to depend on me completey; there’s hope that she’s improving. Am I a horrible person for leaving her? Depression websites always say to be patient when dealing with your friends, and to not take their moods personally. But depression makes people so selfish, it can be unbearable. My life is more peaceful, I do better in school, and I do not go through emotional tornadoes becuase of her. Even if it is not a depressed person’s fault that they are sick, I do not think anyone with depression deserves friends if they don’t make an effort to get better or give anything to their friend in return. I know this was super long, but I’ve just always wondered what someone else with experience in dealing with a depressed friend would think or my behavior, and if it was a good decision to leave her. I think I’ll always love her, becuase deep down, she really was a sweet person. There is a hole where she used to be becuase I considered her my best friend for long, and we grew up together. At one point I was even in a romantic relationship with her. But is this a situation where love just isn’t enough? Am I being a selfish b**** like she says I am?

    • Elle says:

      Your story is almost exactly what I’m going through right now with my friend. We’ve been friends our entire lives (since babies) and now that I’ve gone off to school for 3 years and ‘left her’ at home, she’s gotten bipolar disorder/depression. She’s replaced me as her best friend with some lady who is COMPLETELY toxic for her and has tried to kill herself (at least) 3 times in the span of not even half a year.

      I started by calling her weekly for hours-long conversations just so she had someone to talk to and someone who knows everything about her and her family, including all the problems. But I’ve begun to get fed up because she doesn’t show any care for me at all any more, yet still expects me to be there for her. It’s getting ridiculous.

      This evening was another over-dose, followed by a seizure. -I should note that her parents have taken a week-long vacation (starting last Saturday -won’t be home ’til Sunday) and I suspect this is what might have catalyzed this last ‘episode’. (She was previously living with the toxic friend and her two kids and a whole pet store* of animals -she moved out when things got too much, I guess, and went to her parents’ against her will, apparently.) Anyway – her parents are away and her younger sisters (three of them -the oldest is 16 and youngest is 12, I think) are the only ones there with her. The oldest of the sisters found her seizuring and, thankfully, knew what to do in the situation, as well as called 911.

      That’s all the story I know so far, as well as that she is getting transferred to the city I’m going to school in -I don’t know if I would want to visit her or not-. I feel so done with all the drama, and so does the rest of my family (close family friends). My parents just want me to do well in university and stay happy myself, as I’ve had my own problems growing up.

      I’m not sure what to do – I feel like she has a big family and plenty of support there when she is willing to look for it, rather than thinking everyone is making her worse. She thinks she knows exactly what to do that will make her better (obviously, she wasn’t right) and refuses to listen. Getting her back to her parents’ was a terrible struggle and I can’t believe we got that far. Now I think she was acting out (I really hate to say that) because her parents went on a vacation when she is sick (they’ve never taken a vacation in 21 years together). It’s just a horrible situation and I feel that she uses her suicide attempts as a way to get attention and lash out now, while at first it seemed she legitimately wasn’t in her right mind (she explained to me how she felt and it made sense). Seeing as, now, I haven’t talked to her in quite a while, I don’t know what she’s been feeling, but I’d like to know what I could do in this situation, as well as how I can be there as someone to talk to for her younger sisters, as they are just like my sisters too.

      Thanks for this article -I’ve been looking lots of places to justify how I’ve been feeling in regards to having a depressed friend-. Not sure if I should bail or hang on for the long-haul. (seems scary.)

      Thanks for reading this (especially long) comment :)
      Elle

  27. EagleWings says:

    Anonymous, I added some more comments in a post above about how to help a friend who has depression, but you raised some very good points in your post too.

    Not only does your advice fit friends who have depression, but also friends who are grieving or mourning the death of a family member.

    A lot of times when people tell a hurting person (whether they hurt due to depression or a death in the family), “Call me if you need anything,” or “Let me know if you need anything,” it’s a lazy way of getting out of actually doing anything constructive to help the person!

    Those kind of nice sounding promises makes you sound like you want to help, but it lets you off the hook since most depressed or mourning people are too bad off to pick up a phone and call, or they are too ashamed or embarrassed to admit they need help or companionship.

    Anon also said,

    they wrongly believe that depression is something a person can control (it’s not), it is incredibly difficult for the ill person.

    Yes, I totally agree. I’ve had depression my whole life, and so many people do not understand it.

    There are a lot of misconceptions out there about depression. As a Christian, I also get subjected to insulting view points from Christian pastors or Christian sites, like my depression is supposedly due to some sin I’ve committed, or it’s my fault because I must lack the faith to be healed of it, etc.

    People make so many unfounded, ignorant, hurtful comments about depression.

  28. EagleWings says:

    Anonymous said:

    she just takes her pill daily and uses her diagnosis of depression as a crutch so that she can make excuses about not being happy, not being able to get little things accomplished, etc. She’s great at playing the victim. It’s always poor little me.

    I am over the age of 35 and was diagnosed with clinical depression at a young age. It’s a mental health problem that is on both sides of my family.

    I appreciate your frustration with your depressed friend, but if she is truly depressed, she is most likely not using her depression as a “crutch” or using it to “play the victim.”

    (I actually find it rather offensive that someone who does not have depression would accuse someone who does suffer from it of those things!)

    If you are worn out being around your depressed friend, you can cut back the amount of time you spend with her for your own sanity.

    Hopefully you are not her only close friend and she has other people she can turn to.

    A lot of friends make the mistake of thinking they can “fix” their depressed friend and cure their friend of depression if they just love them enough, listen to them enough, or keep giving them suggestions all the time (such as “why don’t you do such and such, I bet that will make your depression go away”).

    You cannot cheer a depressed person up, either.

    I’ve had friends in the past who naively thought if they just clowned around with me or treated me to a fun night on the town or took me to a funny movie that it would heal me permanently of depression. None of that stuff works.

    The only thing you can do for a depressed friend, that is actually helpful, is to listen to them when they are hurting and need to talk about the inner pain (and listen to them in silence, without judging them, do not give unsolicited advice or criticize).

    Listening to a depressed friend will not “cure” them of the depression, but it makes the mental pain easier to endure for a little bit.

    Depression is something that some people have to live with for a lifetime.

    I have an aunt who is about 84 years old now, and she still has depression, and has had it her whole life.

    So if you want to be buddies with a depressed person, prepare to have to deal with their sadness over your entire lifetime.

    If you don’t feel like you can handle it for that long, it might be best to just end the friendship now instead of getting grumpy with your friend and snapping at her.

    Also, pills do not always help. I took an anti depressant medication for many years, and it did not help me, even after the doctor tried adjusting the dosage. I also tried another brand of pill, and that one did not work either.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Having been depressed in the past, I can totally relate to the urgent need to have a friend or family member say “I’m coming over now.” That little comment – and follow-up action – is a huge thing for someone with depression.

    Waiting for the depressed person to call when they need help is sometimes waiting forever because the simple act of calling is seemingly insurmountable.

    Thank you for this post. It’s so very true. I wish more friends knew about this.

  30. Irene says:

    It sounds like your patience has worn thin. This illness is extremely difficult not only for the person who is depressed but also for the people around them. At this point, it seems like your friend needs far more help than you can provide and you clearly need a break.

    My best, Irene

  31. Anonymous says:

    I have a friend who has depression, and I’ve tried to be patient with her. But she’s completely absorbed with her own problems, and even when things are going great – workwise, she has a great boyfriend – she still complains. While she knows she has a mental illness, instead of seeing her own negative energy, she just takes her pill daily and uses her diagnosis of depression as a crutch so that she can make excuses about not being happy, not being able to get little things accomplished, etc. She’s great at playing the victim. It’s always poor little me. We went on a trip a while ago, and her then-boyfriend (did I mention she always has a boyfriend? She hates herself so much that she desperately avoids being single) dumped her right before the trip, and she made me miserable the whole time. Her depression then rears its ugly head, and she lashes out at the closest people around her. At that time, I just thought, “I’ll never travel with her again, and it will be fine,” but she’s just such a downer that I can’t take it anymore.

  32. kevin blumer says:

    when my girl friend had deppresion i could tell but it was very hard for me to deal with i had been diagnosed with BPD at the same time and we ended up spliting up what i learnt from that that it is rally inportant that you dont just ignore it because it dosent seem to go away by itslef it seems to manifest instead making it unliveable for both friend really come in on this and if they have a good ear for being sympothetic to your cause it really does help

  33. Irene says:

    Thanks so much for your very thoughtful and helpful comment!
    Irene

  34. Anonymous says:

    I read this in a book about depression, and I thoroughly agree with it — if you have a friend with depression, don’t say, “Let me know if you need anything,” “Call me if you want to,” and then leave them alone, thinking that you are giving them space to be by themselves and to heal.

    They probably won’t be able to reach out like that, and they probably could really use a phone call once in a while, or someone to text and say, “I’ll pack a picnic – meet me in the park this afternoon.” You don’t even need to get into a deep talk with them (they probably don’t want to anyway, as much as you might fear they do), and you might just go to a movie where you provide a bit of companionship without talking, but it could make such a difference to show them that they aren’t forgotten and aren’t ostracized.

    When everyone drops you at once, or leaves you alone because they don’t know what to do, or takes it out on you because they wrongly believe that depression is something a person can control (it’s not), it is incredibly difficult for the ill person.

  35. Irene says:

    Hi:

    Sounds like you have been facing health and financial challenges and that your toxic friend is a bottomless pit. She just tries to suck more and more out of you, even when you have no more to give.

    Tell your friend that you need time and space to heal and cannot continue to have contact with her until you take care of yourself.

    You are fortunate to have a boyfriend who is looking out for you. The last thing you would want to do his spend his money on your self-centered "friend."

    I hope you are on the road to recovery. 

    Best,

    Irene 

     

     

  36. Anonymous says:

    Ok, so as of TODAY!!! My toxic hellion has called me money hungry, since she is on the verge of bankruptcy after 5 years of 2 week cruising monthly if not weekly Vegas vacations, insane credit card debt , and poor real estate judgement calls…all of which I tried to stop her from, made advice calls against said real estate efforts, any trip I was invited to I readily tried to refuse only to end up in a HUGE battle of how I ALWAYS SAY “NO”..and I’m always busy, which I worked as an EMT beforeending up on disability two years ago, I’m talking 24 to 72 hour shifts. I had brain surgery, she demanded time to herself, time from my daughter…I’m a single mom. Lord forbid when my boyfriend moved in after I got sick. She told me I followed the money!!!! I make a whopping $745 a MONTH!!!! He doesn’t work at all. We went camping and to the swap meet this past weekend…BIG SPENDERS we are!!! He made some money off his divorce that he was able to set aside so he could care for me for a year so I could recoup some from surgery, but since surgery I’ve been having many more seizures, they are aggravated much more by stress…for some reason she doesn’t get this and argues incessantly about the time she doesn’t get, but she wants me to spend the money he made off his divorce to take her to do things. Like I can do things with his money…when he doesn’t work?? Like I work??? She doesn’t work…she’s heading for bankruptsy…because she spent 5 years vacationing…and because she invited me all those years…I owe her, even though I told her not to do all that shit and she was going to put herself and her family in trouble…now I owe her…what the hell…how the fuck am I supposed tomake my boyfriend, who doesn’t work, but took the time to care for me …owe her???when all this is doing is stressing me out and making me seize???

  37. Anonymous says:

    thanks, this was really interesting. i had one friendship that suffered terribly from some crazy toxic behavior, but recently my friend was diagnosed with clinical depression and since then our relationship has recovered.

    of course, i didn’t see this at the time, and neither did she. as a result, our relationship was stressful and bad for both of us.

    thanks for the list of bullet points for identifying depression. i hope i’ll know to think of that if something similar to this happens to anyone else i know.

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