Why Do We Socially Withdraw When Depressed?

Depression is a mental illness that takes a toll on you; it can affect all aspects of your life, ranging from your career to the relationships you have with others. Being one of the most common mental disorders across the world, depression is not something to be ashamed of. If you struggle with depression, it’s important to remember you are not alone, and that reaching out or opening up to a friend, family member, or a mental health professional can be the first step of many towards self-improvement.

1. You Feel Unworthy

When dealing with depression, feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy are not uncommon, and can very easily cloud your thoughts with negative, destructive ones. At times, you may find yourself thinking, “None of my friends like me,” or “They only invited me because they’d feel bad if they didn’t,” when in reality, it could be far from the truth. Because depression can harmfully affect your self-esteem and how you perceive yourself, this could lead to the belief that others see you the same way you negatively see yourself. Even when your closest friends and family have pure intentions sending you invites to parties, asking you to go on girls’ night out, or calling to check up on you, it can feel like they’re doing it only as a way to protect your feelings and avoid making you feel hurt and left out. Since opening up and expressing their true feelings can be difficult for them, if you’re someone with a loved one who’s depressed, it can be hard to put yourself in their shoes trying to understand why they do what they do.

2. You Lack Energy

One of the many symptoms of depression is feeling worn out, both physically and mentally. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, “One of the most common residual symptoms of a partially resolved depression is fatigue. Broadly defined, symptoms of fatigue can affect physical, cognitive, and emotional function, impair school and work performance, [and] disturb social and family relationships”. For people with depression, it can be hard to find the will to get up in the morning, let alone find the energy to go out and spend time with others. Depending on the severity of your depression, doing just about anything at all can feel more energy-consuming than it normally would. That being said, if you or a loved one struggles with depression, it’s completely understandable to feel this way. 

3. You Struggle to Find Time

Depression is notorious for giving its victims a hard time with time management. When depression hits, it can severely affect your motivation and productivity levels. All of a sudden, your work or school load can be harder to manage than before, and your insufficient amount of energy to get things done can start to have a snowball effect on your to-do list, turning it into a never-ending scribble of more and more tasks each day. This can amplify depression’s symptoms of stress, feeling overwhelmed, and burnout in general, giving you almost little to no time for a social life as you struggle to get enough things done already. 

4. You Suffer From Social Anhedonia

Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure, is something people with depression may struggle with. Social anhedonia is a form of this condition that refers to one’s detachment from socialization due to the absence of pleasure they feel from it. If you’re someone with social anhedonia, you might find that the company of others doesn’t bring you the same positive feelings of happiness, satisfaction, or enjoyment as it might’ve done before. You might find that spending the holidays with family, lunch breaks with your co-workers, and even dates with your significant other all might not feel the same. While everyone’s experiences vary from each other, social anhedonia can be stressful; you might still crave forming and maintaining deep, meaningful relationships with other people, but social anhedonia prevents you from doing so. Over time, this could lead to self-blame for your feelings of loneliness and isolation.

5. You Have a History of Social Anxiety

If you or a loved one has already been diagnosed with social anxiety, the presence of depression in your or their life can further reinforce these anti-social and self-isolating habits. Along with depression, social anxiety is another common mental health condition that goes beyond a person’s quality of shyness; it hinders your ability to do even the smallest acts, like making eye-contact with others or being present in a populated room without feeling uneasy. According to research, there’s a strong link between social anxiety disorder (SAD) and future depression, making people diagnosed with SAD prone to depressive-like tendencies. 

Social withdrawal, along with any depressive symptoms, is not your fault, nor does it make you worse of a person than anyone else. Such unintentional actions are driven by your depressed mental state, and not by the actual feelings you hold within your heart. Socialization isn’t all just about making small talk with others or making new friends; it’s also accepting support from loved ones and opening up about your struggles to people you trust. Did you find this article relatable? Let us know in the comments below.


Bhandari, Smitha. “What Is Anhedonia.” WebMD, WebMD, 25 Oct. 2018, www.webmd.com/depression/what-is-anhedonia.

Casarella, Jennifer. “Signs of Clinical Depression: Symptoms to Watch For.” WebMD, WebMD, 17 Sept. 2019, www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression.

Cuncic, Arlin. “The Link Between Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression.” Verywell Mind, 25 Mar. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/social-anxiety-and-depression-go-hand-in-hand-3024695.

Parekh, Ranna. What Is Depression?, American Psychiatric Association, Jan. 2017, www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression.

Purdie, Jennifer. “Anhedonia: Symptoms, Treatment, and More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 17 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/depression/anhedonia.

Ratnani, Imran Jahangirali, et al. “Association of Social Anxiety Disorder with Depression and Quality of Life among Medical Undergraduate Students.” Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5749064/.

“Social Withdrawal & Isolation.” Make the Connection, Make the Connection, www.maketheconnection.net/symptoms/social-withdrawal.

Targum, Steven D, and Maurizio Fava. “Fatigue as a Residual Symptom of Depression.” Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, Matrix Medical Communications, Oct. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225130/.

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