Relationships and Chronic Depression

relationshipsMany people with depression, particularly if they have been depressed for a long time, develop a pattern of interacting with others that is designed to protect them from disappointment.

Avoiding disappointment is obviously a good thing, but it can lead to relationships that are not satisfying.

 Addressing relationship issues is important. Almost everybody who is unsatisfied with their relationships can benefit from a thoughtful look at what is going on in the relationship.

People with depression, and their significant others, may see their difficulty in having good relationships as something personal. This is not true. Relationship issues are almost universal in those with depressions.

James P. McCullough, in his book Treatment for Chronic Depression, has helped us to understand what happens for many people with depression.

Over time, with people who deal with depression a lot, there is a shift in how we think about the world, and even in how we see it,  that is subtle but profound.

The person with chronic depression loses sight of the connection between their own behavior and the responses that they get from others.

This makes sense as a way of avoiding being disappointed over and over again. Don’t expect that you can do anything positive and you won’t be disappointed when things don’t work out. But it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The chronically depressed person comes to see the social world as some combination of:

  • A world in which the emotional reactions (sadness, hopelessness) that they experience when they encounter disappointment are inevitable and often overwhelming.
  • A world in which there are few differences in how others interact with them, in which other people are more alike than they are different.
  • A world that tends to be experienced “in the moment.” So that disappointment in the moment makes past experiences that were satisfying “disappear.”

These changes are natural, but they are not inevitable, and a systematic approach to addressing them is at the heart of one of the most effective psychotherapies for chronic depression, the Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP).

Here are some good books that may help –