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 People with depression can be withdrawn, and may harbor feelings and attitudes that are off-putting to others.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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