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Depression and low mood (young people)

Social life

Here young people talk about their social lives and whether they felt depression had affected going out, their hobbies and interests. For many, keeping active had been key to coping with depression, or keeping it a bay, but at the same time, socialising had been hard or impossible during bad episodes. For a couple of people, losing previously active social lives had been a major factor leading to their low moods. Those people not in education or working described their daily routines as “boring” and “always the same”.

 

Cat lost her social life and all her friends when she got ill.

Cat lost her social life and all her friends when she got ill.

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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I had no social life, all my friends walked out of my life the day that I got ill when the spiking happened. It was a range of answers that I’ve had, most didn’t want to be seen with me because I was now disabled and in a wheelchair, some didn’t want to be seen with me ‘cos they were too scared. Some didn’t want to be seen with me because of my epilepsy. It was various answers, some just couldn’t be bothered, they were quite happy to talk to me on MSN and Facebook, but when it comes to seeing me face to face it’s a whole different story. So, I stopped going out, I stopped seeing people. So I literally became stuck in this place really. I avoided going out, but because of the spiking, my anxiety against pubs and clubs never went away.
 
And I’m only in my twenties and that’s what I’m supposed to do, go and have fun, you know, socially drinking and going out and everything. And it was, it just wasn’t happening. And it was killing me, absolutely killing me because you know friends were inviting, friends that I did have would invite me out for a drink but I just couldn’t do it. It was just killing me mentally.
 

Losing his busy social life after travelling overseas came as “a rude shock” to Dan.

Losing his busy social life after travelling overseas came as “a rude shock” to Dan.

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
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We had a really good social life, we went out you know every couple of nights we’d go out to the pub or we’d go and see and a movie or something like that, it was just there was there was always stuff happening, I was really kind of at the centre of, not at, not at the centre of the social group, that sounds horribly arrogant but like I was sort of right in the middle of everything that was happening.
 
And I came back from South America, and especially since I was back for so, such a short time, sort of there was no point in like going back to Uni if I was back for five weeks I wouldn’t have done anything, getting, getting involved in a big theatre show or sort of getting back involved in a band ‘cos I would’ve only had three or four rehearsals or something like that and be off again. So I sort of but, so it, what was really hard was I got back and everyone else’s life had continued on its perfect trajectory and mine had come to kind of a irrevocable halt while I was waiting to start this new life in England.
 
And like so I wasn’t at Uni, I wasn’t working, I did see my friends around but they were all busy with all the activities they were doing, so theatre and band and whatever like that. And I was sort of, like every day I’d sit down and I’d say do you want to meet up for coffee? Or do you want to go to a movie, and all, like 99% of the time the reply would be “I’d love to, but I’ve got this, I’ve got that, I can’t, I’m already arranged to do this.”
 
And it was just kind of like I wasn’t living the life that I’d lived before. I was, it was supposed, it was like purgatory basically, it was kind of I was floating in the limbo, waiting for this new life to start and sort of back, back to where the old life had been. And I don’t know whether that was the expectation that everything would be back to wonderful, amazing and just getting back and kind of making the realisation that, this kind of it isn’t home any more, it’s the life that I had and that I wanted to go back to, wasn’t around anymore, that was kind of, that was quite a rude shock I guess.

Some said initially when they were diagnosed with depression, their social life had gone down, but with time and their growing confidence it had improved. A couple of people said their social life now was the “best it’s ever been”.

Being active
 
Many people said being active was one of the most helpful coping strategies – See ‘Self help & coping strategies’. For many, social life focussed around college or university, hanging out with housemates or people from work. Many enjoyed going to the pubs, partying and clubbing, and alcohol was a part of their social life - see ‘Alcohol, recreational drugs and depression’.
 

Bala is really happy in the supported housing where he lives. Although it can sometimes get ...

Bala is really happy in the supported housing where he lives. Although it can sometimes get ...

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Male
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Yeah I’m ok. I’m living in [place name] it’s nice place and I got really, really nice support workers and I’m really, really happy with them.Yeah I really, really respect the people and sometimes is really, really boring because my, I’m alone but so they got their hobbies and I’ve bored, coming to visit them and have a chat with them and they try to help me forget things, you know what I mean?So that’s why I’m really, really happy with them like. Basically my support worker and her name is [staff member] she’s a really, really good for me and [staff member], everyone’s here.

Some had found friends who were on the same wavelength, and activities they enjoyed outside of school, studies or where they lived. A few did voluntary work, attended evening classes or courses or had joined university clubs and societies.

People said keeping busy helped them keep their minds stimulated and gave them a sense of achievement. One man said he joined the local Royal Navy to deliberately “get out of my comfort zone” and “push boundaries”.
 

Emma has found likeminded people from the LGBT and Mental Health societies at University.

Emma has found likeminded people from the LGBT and Mental Health societies at University.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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We do socials as well. We do a lot of going out on the scene as it were. And drinking, pub crawls, the odd day trip to Manchester or Amsterdam, here and there.
 
But, yeah, I quite enjoy it in the LGBT most of the time. But I actually went on the nationwide conference last year, it was like a parliament thing, I’m not quite sure how to word it.
 
We kind of voted on LGBT issues, like parenting, the use of the word queer, which is actually more controversial than you think. Parenting, queer, health education and keeping in contact with other LGBTs throughout the UK. And, it was a pretty draining experience I have to admit, but it was kind of an honour as well because I was one of only, I was one of only four people who were elected to go.
 
I’m also a member of the Mental Health Society which is open to anyone, it just basically depends on, well basically each of the members has like, the mind, or brain trauma like, we’ve got people who’ve got brain damage from drugs, people with depression or possibly schizophrenia, or other things, I don’t know what anyone actually has because I think it’s rude to ask, but yeah. And I think they organise little outings and campaigns for mental health week, but I don’t really know that much about it because I only went to one session last term, and I’m not sure whether they’ve started sessions again this year.
 
But I’ve also done as part of the university Cheerleading and Karate. And yeah, they sound kind of odd, and like this geeky uncool Aspie doing Cheerleading where it’s all pretty preppy blonde girls yelling Ra Ra Ra, but it’s not like that with Cheerleading, or at least I don’t think it should be like that. I was in the junior varsity squad technically, and we were more like a dance troupe, like we danced with pom poms, but we didn’t cheer for football teams as it were. We did a lot of performances at the Carling Academy. 
 

Lee raps and has recorded a CD.

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Lee raps and has recorded a CD.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Male
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But now I’m at the moment I’m making music and a few people have got my CDs and I’m making music with big people in [place name] and it’s all good.
 
Can you tell me more about the music, what sort of music do you do?
 
Like rap and MC,
 
What do you rap about?
 
Like street crime, like how it’s not like, it’s not like, it doesn’t help people and not a joke or anything, and you’ve gotta think about it before you do it. Stuff like, what else? Like about how you need to like to make life better you need to have the energy to like get up and do things.
 
I started like doing recordings on my phone and like sending them around to all the people’s phone, like when I was like 16, 15. And then ever since then I was looking like trying to find a place where I could record music and do stuff with other people, but I moved in here and then I just found like a place off the internet with my support worker and I got into that and went to it, and it was alright so I carried on going and after that’s finished I can keep going and paying to use the studio so, I’m gonna do that and then see how it goes.

“It’s too much effort”

A few people said they much more preferred their own space and found social life a struggle. A couple of people had “grown out” of drinking and going to pubs and preferred something more low key.
 

Dan says going to the pub alone is not a good idea.

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Dan says going to the pub alone is not a good idea.

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
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Something that doesn’t help, is going to a pub or a club by myself. I mean I don’t, I’m not a clubbing person naturally, I don’t really enjoy going to clubs, but even just going to a pub ‘cos I’ll inevitably sit there with a beer, looking around at all these people who are enjoying themselves and eventually dig out a book, or a Rubik’s cube or something like that and just realise that it kind of just kind of exacerbates the problem sitting around seeing everyone else have fun.
For many, going out and socialising wasn’t always straightforward. Because of their tendency to get anxious or overanalyse, unknown situations could become a “huge effort”. One man said he’d go over endless possibilities and worst case scenarios of what might happen, before going out, and often ended up feeling there were “more cons than pros” and stayed in. One woman said she “hates socialising” because it brings out her “over analytical thought patterns”. Her eating disorder added to her discomfort about eating out. Another woman said she liked doing things her own way as other people could “get too much” sometimes;
 
“[Quality time is] wandering around town by myself, or having the house to myself, or being in my room on my own. ‘Cos like sometimes I feel like I need a break from people, like I sometimes find people can be a bit much, the company of others.”
 

Depression has affected Jack’s social life. He worries about everything that might go wrong even...

Depression has affected Jack’s social life. He worries about everything that might go wrong even...

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Male
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As I said before when, in the summer I just I recently just whenever someone says, “Are you going to the party tonight?” I’ll be, “No I’m not.” I can very easily say, “No I’m not.” And, a lot of people can say, “Why not? You’ll have a good time and everything like that,” but I do think beforehand look, there are more cons in going out than pros. One I don’t like discos which is the large thing around here, discos. And you just think…
 
Or I’m going to worry about,” just worry about letting say, I’d say more universally, I’m worried about let, pulling the mood down, I’m not going to be able to talk to any girls, I’m not going to be able to do this, I’m just going to be on my own, because people are going to be dancing in the disco, I’ll sit on the side and drink to myself, and stuff like that, and...
 
But I find obviously, the big thing is that you get there, and you have a fantastic night, and that is normally the case, and you’ve got to really learn that when you’re at home and you’re thinking, well shall I go out this evening, you think of the worst things ever, you think of the worst things ever, completely you know, that will never materialise that you think will never ever actually happen in your reality. You just think what is the worst thing that could happen and you think what’s the, you never think what’s the best thing that could happen? You think, “Well I could get a girlfriend or my friends could say, “You’re a legend Jack,” or, or something like that, and… So that no, my social, I think it does, I think depression does really affect your social, your social life.
 

Going out is sometimes so much effort for Sara that she often just leaves it. (Read by an actor).

Going out is sometimes so much effort for Sara that she often just leaves it. (Read by an actor).

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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I like going out with my best friends, I mean, I like going out with even people who I’m not so close with, but I get quite, I don’t, I don’t like it, I don’t know why I don’t like it so much, it’s quite, I know definitely if we went out to a restaurant, I know it’s because of the eating thing just drops in, like just ruins my day for me, but , even if it’s just for example like we’re going bowling or something, you know something’s that’s completely, it doesn’t require much of kind of anything, apart from just lifting the ball and chucking it down, but it’s quite, it’s, when you’re feeling low on the inside it’s really hard to not look it, like it’s really hard to just be happy. And if everyone’s happy you don’t want to ruin the, you don’t want to be like the one person who ruins it by like sitting in, in the corner all like upset.
 
So I don’t like doing this because as much as I can put up a front I don’t like having to put up such a huge front like, if you’re just talking to a couple of people it’s not too bad, but if you’re going out, if you’re gonna go bowling for example and you’re going with a group of 10 people, and it’s happened to me sometimes, even if you go with a huge group of people and everyone’s really excitable, and everyone’s really like having fun and everything, and it’s kind of, you feel so like limp, you just don’t, you feel quite, you feel physically and mentally drained and you don’t want it to show. And it takes even more out of you, ‘cos you don’t want it to show, so like sometimes you just, you just don’t go because it’s like, you just tell your friends you’re tired, and or you, you’ve got work to do, whatever. But it’s just because you don’t want to be surrounded by so much, you don’t have to make such an effort for just that little amount of time.
 
And, because the thing is you have to make the effort because if you don’t look happy you just, you’re going to end up ruining everyone’s day. And it’s kind of, you, you don’t want to ruin everyone’s day by being upset, but you don’t want to kind of completely drain yourself by being happy so you just end up leaving it.
 

Beth used to try and hide the fact that she was having panic attacks as she’d always been “the...

Beth used to try and hide the fact that she was having panic attacks as she’d always been “the...

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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I would say be sat in a night club and everyone was having fun and I’ll be having fun and I wouldn’t necessarily be drunk at all and suddenly I’d feel like I was all by myself, completely closed off in like a bubble and I’ll, aah it was just the weirdest feeling, I would feel like, “Oh my God, I have to get out of here, I have to get away.” And I’d look around and all I’d really want was someone to say, “Are you okay?” But obviously you’re so good at the act it was just smiling and no-one would ever knew unless I told them, and I knew in my head I would be thinking these things in my head, if I told them right now how I felt everyone would be asking if I was okay, and just things like that, everyone, I would get, but I didn’t want that.
 
I am the party goer, I am the person that’s always fine and does okay, so I didn’t really, I didn’t feel like too much pressure was on me but I didn’t want to kind of let that slip. I didn’t want the looks of sympathy that I got from my Mum and that kind of thing. I wanted to you know escape with my friends.
 
And it would happen every now and then, I just had to get away from the place, and then I’d wonder if anyone would even notice and obviously you’re in a busy club, so who would really notice anyway. And every now and then I would just go home, and everyone would think I’d done that White Ninja thing where you drink too much, and then kind of just wandered home, but I would never ever say the real reason.
Social pressures
 
Some young people talked about social pressures they felt to join in peer groups, even if they didn’t feel like it. People felt they had to explain themselves for not wanting to drink alcohol, go to parties or enjoy large groups of people. Some people preferred sports, focusing on their studies or spending time with family to going out. People said that during depressive episodes they often felt unable to do anything social and felt their friends didn’t really understand why it was difficult for them – see ‘Friends and relationships’. A couple of people they rather put up a front in social situations or “fake confidence”. A couple of people said they kept making excuses so they didn’t have to go out. One man said whenever he felt down he’d “hide away” from people for days.
 

Jack says it's hard for friends to really understand why he can't always go to parties.

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Jack says it's hard for friends to really understand why he can't always go to parties.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Male
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So a lot of people would say, “Well why didn’t you go to this?” or “Why didn’t you go to that?” And go, “Ahh.” I mean I’ve had a lot of problems with friends , not really accepting that I have a problem, and I have outlined it, I’ve said, “Look, I’m suffering you know from a bit of depression here and there,” and they say, “Okay, okay” and they go really silent, and then whenever you do say you didn’t go to this party because you were so depressed or something, they just go, “Oh, Oh,” and they don’t, and they don’t listen to you. And you’ve got to kind of learn that a lot of people haven’t, don’t go through what you’re going through, so they can’t begin to imagine, you know.
 

When Ruby was drinking her social life was “pointless”. Her days were measured by “when and where...

When Ruby was drinking her social life was “pointless”. Her days were measured by “when and where...

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
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Social life was ultimately pointless given that I would be out drinking myself so, I couldn’t wait to get home so I could drink as fast as I usually did, so I didn’t even like drinking in social situations, you know, like I’d want to be alone at home on my own. Chronic, chronic depression, suicidal depression, every morning, every night “I won’t drink, I won’t drink, I won’t drink,” an hour later pissed out of my skull. It was, that was the purpose of my days, was get through the day so you can start drinking, like, as you’d found out, I’d earn you know three bottles of wine, you know ‘cos I went to a lecture, or I’d turned up at work, so I was working in a pub, and immediately it wouldn’t be like, “Oh 11 o’clock, brilliant I can go home,” it’d be “11 o’clock quick, okay I’ll have a half here,” and then go home and get drunk, you know, everything was tied around that, the same way that previously everything else had been tied around bulimia, everything now was measurable by when and where I was gonna get drunk basically, you know? I didn’t have any thought space left for the rest of the things that I should’ve been doing and enjoying at that age.
 

Lee says that people know when to leave him alone.

Lee says that people know when to leave him alone.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Male
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I was alright when I first moved in for about the first week or so, I was all, I was like happy and everything but I was just hiding from people ‘cos I didn’t know they, ‘cos I didn’t want them to know that I was like this. But after about a week or so people found out what I was like, and ever since I’ve been in here and with me, the problems that have happened at home with my Mum and Dad whilst I’ve been in here, everyone’s like, scared of how I am because they say like I’ve got more violent and I switch more quickly.
 
When I, but I tried to like hide it when I first moved in. But I don’t know, just things make me lay it out, it’s like, you know, like it was being pulled out and yes like I just thought fuck it. I don’t care what people think and everything and I’m not gonna like hide it and everything. Just so people know that that’s why they, that’s why when I’m down I sit in my flat and people know when I’m down, so they don’t knock on my door.

Last reviewed June 2017.

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