Why do people with depression push others away?
I can tell you the reasons that I push people away. One, people who aren’t depressed cannot and do not understand it. As a result, they say well-meaning things like “Cheer up”, “Things will get better”, “There are a lot of people worse off than you so you should be thankful”, “Snap out of it” (or “Just get over it, will you?”), “Stop whining”, “You should volunteer or do something for others so you can see how lucky you are.” or “Oh well, s&$t happens to all of us”. Yes, I have heard all these comments at one time or another. The problem is when you are depressed, you do not think logically and therefore, any platitudes or “logical” statements will feel ignorant, unkind or unhelpful and will usually make you feel frustrated, weird, selfish or guilty, which results in feeling even more depressed. In order to avoid hearing these well-meaning comments, a depressed person will usually prefer to not interact with anyone.
Two, misery does not love company. Depressed people know they are a downer and feel guilty about it. They feel like a loser and they know that no one wants to be around a downer or a loser so they distance themselves until such time as they are happier. Oftentimes, though, they won’t have to distance themselves as their “friends” or family members do it for them.
Three, a person who has been depressed for a long time, especially if they have co-morbid issues like ADHD, Asperger’s, OCD, etc., has had to endure betrayals, scorn, harsh criticisms, teasing, bullying and unkind comments for a long, long time. Because of this, the person has learned that most people are not nice, kind or good and thus, it is better to avoid and not trust most people.
If you have someone close to you that is depressed and pushing you away, you should let them know you are there to listen (but not judge) and help support them in any way you can. You shouldn’t try to make them “feel better” (because you probably can’t). You should call them to ask how they are doing but don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to. You can invite them to hang out (but not with too many other people, especially strangers) but don’t be hurt or insulted if they refuse. If you are concerned they will harm themselves, you may need to talk to their parents, siblings, therapist, etc., if possible.
Being depressed sucks for everyone…the depressed person and the people around them. Just because a depressed person pushes you away doesn’t mean they don’t love you or value your friendship and care. They just loathe themselves and don’t want to be a burden on you or anyone else. They are ill and need compassion not platitudes, tough love or exasperated comments.