Humans have an innate desire to connect with others. Influential psychologists like Abraham Maslow would say love and belonging are basic human needs. Many studies demonstrate the psychological and physiological benefits of having close associations and being a part of a group. Those who struggle with depression may benefit from restoring meaningful relationships and engaging in fulfilling interactions. Substances are sometimes used to fill this void that can only be healed by being with others.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a general term used to describe a condition that causes feelings of low mood and a lack of interest. However, there is a distinction between depressive disorders based on when symptoms occur and under what conditions (such as after giving birth), how long symptoms last, and how severe they are.
The following are some examples of depressive disorders:
- Bipolar depression
- Psychotic depression
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Perinatal and postpartum depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Dysthymia/persistent depressive disorder (PDD)
These conditions all share similar symptoms like loneliness and withdrawal from loved ones. Importantly, these symptoms impact a person’s ability to function well and seek help.
What Causes Depression?
Like many mental health disorders, depression can run in families. The child, parent, brother, or sister of a depressed person is approximately three times more likely to develop depression compared to the general population.
A person’s environment also plays a significant role. For example, a veteran who fought in a bloody conflict or a child who grew up without a connection to a place can develop depression. Social factors like having healthy relationship dynamics and real-life experiences are becoming increasingly relevant in the current era of pandemics and social media, for example.
The Importance of Social Connection
During the pandemic, many who lived in states and countries with strict lock-down policies experienced depressive symptoms — among other mental health problems and substance abuse — in part resulting from social isolation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global incidence of depression and anxiety increased by 25% during the first year. The main stressor that contributes to the uptick is social isolation.
This corroborates studies on past coronavirus outbreaks that found “An association between quarantine measures and negative psychosocial health consequences including depressive symptoms, anxiety, anger, and stress.” Social isolation has even been found to generally increase mortality.
A 2020 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry examined protective factors against depression. Dr. Karmel Choi and her team found that the most important factor is social connection. This included aspects like confiding in others and visiting family and friends. Even those who were traumatized or genetically predisposed experienced these protective benefits against depression.
A recent study showed that those who had emotional support and positive social interaction during the early part of the pandemic were at reduced risk of depression. Higher quality or more face-to-face or video contact corresponded with less depressive symptoms.
This recent and widely shared experience highlights the mental health benefits of spending time with other human beings.
How Does WCRC Support Socialization in Depression Treatment?
Social support is an essential part of addiction and mental health treatment. Facilities like West Coast Recovery Centers (WCRC) provide a number of opportunities for clients to develop their support system during treatment and after.
Although individual therapy is important, group therapy has some unique benefits, especially for those with depression.
When a person is depressed, they often want to be left alone. Self-isolation can, however, make their depression worse and be a breeding ground for substance abuse. They may also feel like no one will understand what they’re going through and avoid opening up to others. Group therapy provides a friendly and constructive space to start working through these concerns with individuals that also have depression.
In group psychotherapy, the therapist provides cognitive tools to help each client address particular issues and then practice them in group exercises. The experience of learning and relating in a group setting can lead individuals to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Importantly, they might come to realize they are not alone in their experiences and form friendships that will support them in their recovery.
The Alumni Aftercare Program
At facilities like WCRC, clients are encouraged to join the alumni aftercare program after they finish treatment.
This program gives clients the opportunity to stay in touch with peers as they embark on a new chapter. Weekly alumni process groups are run by the alumni coordinator, providing clients a safe and familiar place to share their recent experiences. This line of communication can be critical to maintain. Going through addiction and mental health treatment is difficult, and the bonds formed throughout this process may be an essential part of a client’s social support system, helping them to stay sober. Additionally, peers get to spend quality time together at community events, beach bonfires, softball games, and mountain retreats.
Humans are social creatures; they thrive off intimate experiences with others. Self-fulfillment and achievement are often the product of a loving family and good friends. Social connection is a key ingredient for the management of depression and recovery from substance abuse. West Coast Recovery Centers is a treatment facility for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health diagnoses. We are licensed by California to provide intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization services to adults. Our therapists understand the challenge of waking up in the morning with depression. Sometimes, it’s just too hard to get out of bed. At WCRC, you will learn how to overcome depression and refrain from using substances to cope. Group therapy and aftercare will help you transform the way you see the world and your place in it. Rediscover your life through a sustainable recovery. Call (760) 492-6509 for more information.