Exploring the Relationship Between Social Skills and Depression

The newest edition of the Handbook of Interpersonal Psychology, to be published by John Wiley & Sons later this year, will have several chapters not contained in previous editions. One of these, entitled “Depressive Disorders and Interpersonal Processes,” looks at the social context and consequences of depression: specifically those that can make it especially difficult for a person to recover. The author of this chapter is the University of Arizona’s Chris Segrin. Social skills, writes Segrin, are especially important in helping people form meaningful interpersonal relationships, and interpersonal relationships have long been known as an important factor to mental health and happiness.

So people who have ways of communicating that foster less connection with others are more likely to become depressed. In some cases, this is just the result of personality, but in other cases, it can be influenced by the communication style of the family in which someone has been raised. It’s quite possible that this can make someone more vulnerable to depression. On the other end of things, when someone develops depression, it often alters the way they interact with others. People with depression can be withdrawn, and may harbor feelings and attitudes that are off-putting to others. It’s not the fault of the person with depression, notes Segrin, but it does make it harder to keep meaningful relationships going when it happens. This, consequently, makes the person more isolated and further increases feelings of loneliness and sadness.

That poor social skills can both cause and be caused by depression is a daunting idea, but Segrin notes that understanding that connection can help people with depression to identify and work to overcome it. One of the best ways to do that is with the help of a qualified therapist. However, it’s also important for friends and family members to understand the social dynamics of depression and to help the person by remaining patient and supporting their treatment.

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  • Paul N

    July 12th, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    My uncle has always been a very fun-loving and friendly person. But now he is suffering from depression and his social connections are obviously taking a beating.His family and friends did not want this to happen so they themselves made sure that he keeps in touch with his friends and a large social circle that he has so that he does not lose out on all that due to depression.And the result is that he has not only kept up his social circle but is also showing signs of recovery,which the doctors say is also due to the fact that he kept in touch with his friends.I could not have been any happier for him :)

  • Kyle

    July 13th, 2010 at 4:30 AM

    So then you have to wonder if being depressed typically goes hand in hand with those who do have fewer social skills and who have a more difficult time interacting with others in a way that other people would deem more socially acceptable. Are people with poor “people Skills” just more likely to become depressed than more outgoing and personable types?

  • michelle

    February 1st, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    to kyle, no.

    as a sufferer of a severe depression, before depression I was extremely social, at every party, event, etc. now depressed, i seclude myself and my social skills have gone down which makes recovery difficult because you seclude yourself for so long you loose your social skills.

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