• Making Friends

Making friends after being sick

Published: July 5, 2013 | Last Updated: July 5, 2013 By | 13 Replies Continue Reading
A woman’s 21-year-old daughter has lost her friends after being sick–diagnosed with anxiety and depression.


Hi Irene,

My daughter is 21 years old. At the age of 14, she was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, and we had to take her out of school. Needless to say she has lost all of her one-time friends after being sick.

After many years of treatment she is finally on the road to recovery. It would be helpful if she had a friend or two so she can be social again. Any suggestions? Anxiety doesn’t help. Thank you.

Signed, Anxious Mom


Hi Anxious Mom,

I’m glad to hear your daughter is has been diagnosed, treated and is recovering. I’m sure this must have been a long haul for you as well.

For a number of reasons, it’s quite common for young adults to lose their friends after being sick, especially if they’ve experienced any kind of mental or emotional disorder:

  • Because of their symptoms, they may have been unable to sustain relationships with their peers or alienated them;
  • They may have had prolonged and difficult-to-explain school absences due to their problems;
  • They may have been “out of the loop” because of an inpatient stay at behavioral health programs;
  • They may have had to deal with the stigma surrounding these disorders, from both their peers and the parents of their peers.

It’s hard to get back to life and reconnect with social supports after any kind of serious illness, particularly for young people. And because your daughter is now a young adult, it’s more challenging than arranging play dates as a parent might do for a young child. Your daughter will have to develop the self-confidence to take some initiative on her own. You can help guide her but you can’t do it for her.

You haven’t mentioned whether your daughter is living at home or has returned to school or work, but here are a few ideas of how you might encourage her:

  • Find out whether there are any support groups nearby for young people living with anxiety disorders. This might be a good way for her to dip her toes in the water, especially if you think she lacks some of the social skills necessary to make and keep friends.
  • Suggest that she find out about courses or classes based on her talents and/or interests. Have her check out Meetup.com for groups that might interest her. This would put her in contact with other young people, hopefully in your neighborhood, who might share common interests.
  • Encourage her to seek part-time employment or a volunteer position.

In the meantime, offer to fill some of her spare hours, perhaps with age-appropriate relatives (e.g. cousins) but resist the temptation to hover and take total charge of her friendships.

Hope this helps!

Warm regards, Irene

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Category: Shyness and introversion

Comments (13)

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  1. Michelle says:

    I want you to know that you finding this website. And by you asking what you can do for your daughter-that is a really big thing. It is always great to know that wherever she goes she has a wonderful caring and supportive mother in the back. Even if she doesn’t always tell you, show it, or rely on it…that kind of unconditional support is something that makes a HUGE difference in ones self-confidence. I am also 21 and struggling and I hope that one day I can be a mother like yourself. She is a lucky girl and if you or her need to know there’s others out there I can sure as heck give some advice any time. 🙂 best of luck to you AND her. It won’t be easy but it’s also not impossible!

  2. Ilse says:

    I recently experienced something similar as what your daughter went trough. I was depressed and isolated myself and lost all my friends. It is hard to get out there since you become very introverted and insecurities about yourself linger around. It will take some time to accomplish good relationships with others but I believe that as long as she tries she will overcome any kind of negative thoughts that cause insecurities and fears of being emotionally vulnerable. She will slowly come out of her shell, she just has to learn to be confortable around larger social groups. Give her time and support, she’ll figure things out.
    Good luck!

  3. Alice says:

    I’ll be your daughters friend? I’m extremely shy I’m 19 and work in the country so it isn’t easy for me to meet new people, I had friend through school and college but they weren’t true friends they didn’t seem to have an interest in me. So I’m on my own hopefully I won’t be for long as it really does get me down 🙁

    • Michelle says:

      Alice I am in the same boat here. I totally understand I was just thinking how you know I think of myself as a caring and giving person. Yeah sometimes maybe too much but still yet…and it’s just like how is it that out of everyone in the whole world, there is not one single person who will take a second out of their day to be there for me? Well I read what you said and I admire you standing up and offering your friendship. I would like you to know anytime you need help let me know I will be willing to talk or rant or whatever with you!

  4. Laurel says:

    I just want to say I really appreciated the comments on this post. I think that the comments are very helpful and are inspiring to me. Thank you!

  5. Rachel says:

    For myself,
    I found I had to let myself go through a grieving process for all that I had lost. I have a chronic illness that I live with (bipolar disorder) that’s one loss. I went on disability so I had to give up the idea of having the career I thought I would once have ( a full time teacher). I lost my friends. In our society, we get told. Make the best of it. Smile. Chin up. And I tried that for awhile. Then I realized, I had lost a lot. I had a right to feel angry. And sad. That made everyone around me, ESPECIALLY those who loved me, uncomfortable, but I still needed to do it, and I did it until I was ready to move on. I was not ready to move into a fully joyful life until I had moved through those stages of grief. Then the most unexpected things started to happen. I found a life and interests that I didn’t know exist. That I adore. That I’m good at. That the old cautious me never would have chosen. I made scale dollhouse miniatures for a living now. I’m a miniature artisan. I really believe, with the core of my being, that God knows whats best for us, and if we listen, and go to the dark, scary places where he leads us, that we will end up living our best lives. And what he has in mind for us can be better and more magical than we could ever have dreamed. It was only when I failed most dramatically when I really started to fly.
    I have also found a lot of meaning in helping others navigating their own losses, and am looking into becoming a mental health advocate. If you can get to the point, Mimi, where you can look yourself in the mirror every morning and say, I have done my best to live a life of integrity, I’ve done my best today to be kind to myself and others, I’m working hard to get better and improve my life, it will get to the point where you will stop caring what the haters think. You won’t have the energy to think about them, because your own life will start to change, it will start to unfold in beautiful and magical ways, that paying attention to that process will take up all your attention. I haven’t met you, but I can tell you are a compassionate person with integrity, and I believe in you. You’ll get though this. You’ll move on, you’ll eventually meet people who are worthly of your time and interest. Remember that wherever you are, I’ll be praying for you. It’s never too late for anyone.

  6. Mimi says:

    I agree with Rachel. I also suffer from anxiety and depression but I don’t share that because I had someone use that agonist me once and it really hurt me. People really don’t care about your plights and they will blame you. They will say to you, cheer up! Take a vacation! Lol!
    Honestly, the less information you give people, the less they can hurt you with it. My mother was really good at finding my hurts and pains and using them aganist me.
    My dad would tell me not to give her information but she would act like she cares and then stab me in the back.
    And must women I met in life are just like her.

  7. concerned mamma says:

    tell your daughter about nami.org – a national mental health advocacy group that has support groups for ‘consumers’ – patients – as well as groups for family members. there are social activities (like standing lunches or outings) as well as support for the consumer in confidential, peer-led meetings.
    nami.org – good group.

  8. Rachel says:

    I can relate, since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 23, and lost an entire group of girlfriends. One was malicious and spread gossip, I think the others just couldn’t cope. While I think it’s helpful at first to find a good support group, eventually I think your daughter should look elsewhere for friends (for example friends that share a common interest like sports, yoga, knitting, a cooking class).
    Speaking from personal experience, as I became more stable, I started to outgrow my bipolar friends that I had made at the support group. Now I mostly receive support from an online support group. It has to do with not defining myself solely by my illness. It’s something your daughter has to work out for herself.
    The best thing you can do as her mom is listen to her, let her know that it’s okay to be sad and upset that she has to deal with her illness, but she needs to learn effective coping skills and move on with her life.

    • Irene says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your advice, Rachel~
      I’m sure it will be helpful to this mom.
      Best of luck to you!

    • Mimi says:

      I really couldn’t agree more about not defining yourself by your plights in life. I spent too much time in life calling my self an survivor if abuse, and it was wasted time feeling sorry fir my childhood experiences.
      It’s good to purge and to get help, but at sine point you have to start living again. Or learn how to live with things and move in. Find happiness and your peace;)

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