July 8, 2024

Are They Rude or Are They Depressed?

two coworkers whispering with a sad woman in the background

Co-workers have invited Sherry to several social gatherings over the past few months.  She says yes to each invitation, but at the last minute cancels leaving her friends feeling frustrated and bewildered.  Sherry is engaged and happy at work. She says she is looking forward to these events, but never shows up. What’s going on?  Social isolation, tardiness, excuse making, shyness can all be perceived negatively.  When someone we care about and enjoy spending time with avoids us, we react with confusion, frustration, anger and eventually give up.  These are all normal reactions. By understanding the underlying cause of an individual’s behavior, we can ease our discomfort and engage with our loved ones in a meaningful and supportive way.

Why do they do that? Depression is a deep well of indescribable thoughts and emotions.  Depression can cause a person to feel unworthy and sometimes a burden to others. “I’m no fun, I’ll just bring everyone down. It’s better off if I stay home” or “they are just going to stare at me the whole time and talk about me when I leave, so what’s the point?” are some common thoughts from those struggling with depression.  In the depths of a depressive episode, even the most mundane tasks can be overwhelming. At first the house is a mess, bills are unpaid, and they go straight to bed crying uncontrollably. All of their energy is spent trying to keep a “normal” life of work and balance. Anything else, is just too much. Similarly, when those suffering from depression are able to socialize, it can be very anxiety provoking.  They are overwhelmed, and as a way of coping, they shut down and “go inside themselves.” This may appear to outsiders as being rude or snobbish.

What can you do? First, don’t take their behavior personally! Changing how you view the situation is invaluable.  Remember, they are struggling with an illness and would not behave this way when they are healthy and feeling great.  Their coping mechanisms are to shut down and retreat – they are in survival mode. Second, try to relate on a personal level.  We have all been in certain situations where we’ve felt overwhelmed, sad or anxious. Let them know they are not alone. Third, offer to spend time with them one-on-one or offer to call and check-in later.  To know someone cares, understands, and has offered a helping hand is a great comfort to those who truly suffer in silence.

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