Living Alone and Depression

living alone and depression“I just really want to live in my own home with my own garden and without having to deal with all of those jerks.”

A young woman living with several roommates told me that she was thinking of moving to a house in the country. The idea seemed very appealing to both of us, since we know how many hassles there are in urban life.

I started to think back over my work with her, and what I know about her past. And so I asked her:

“Can you think of a time when you were living alone, really alone, when you had a sustained good mood?”

Dr. Suzanne Black, one of the contributors to this website, was the person who first pointed out to me that often living alone is bad for people who experience recurrent depression.

It leaves you alone with your thoughts and if you have a tendency to depression that may not be good.

And interacting with difficult people, while it is challenging, represents an external struggle rather than the internal struggle that becomes so all-consuming in depression.

Sometimes it’s good to have someone or something to do battle with.

After some thought she agreed that the answer to my question seem to be no.

We couldn’t come up with a time when she’d been alone and done well. There were lots of reasons for every situation that failed to work out, and they all seemed to relate to the unique circumstances of a particular time in her life.

And both of us could conjure up an image of what life would be like living alone, an idealized image that made it seem very positive.

But the ability to imagine something and to wish for it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will turn out to be good idea.This seemed to be such a situation.

There are times when my life is so busy that I long for a time of inactivity. However I also know, from repeated experience, that when I’m suddenly in a situation where there’s nothing to do I usually don’t thrive. It’s better for me to struggle to get a little bit of calm time in a busy life than to try to get myself active in a world that seems sedentary.

I think the same is often true of living alone. It’s better to struggle to find time to be alone in a world that is perhaps too crowded than it is to find yourself truly alone, having to find connections and seek out interactions with others, at least if you are depressed.

People may be annoying but they may also help you when you are depressed.