A good question. Yes, depression can be contagious. Even though depression is not a thing , like a cold or the flu with its virus or a bacterium. When a depressed person sneezes in your face who has the flu or has a cold, you will not contract a depression. It just doesn’t happen that way. But, instead you might get a cold or catch a flu. On the other hand, persons with depression create an environment which presents a low mood in their relational environment. An employer who is controlling and moody, can themselves create a negative and debilitating atmosphere.
On the other hand, it has been proven that those of us who live or work with a person depressed, might begin to experience the same low moods as the person depressed. Let me explain. A few years go, two women wanted to start a Depressed Anonymous group for family members and friends of the depressed. The results of their efforts is a group called the Dep-Anon Family Group. When they started to write some of their feelings about their own life experiences with their depressed family member, they discovered they were feeling these same feelings as those of the depressed family member.
Do we remember our own struggles with depression and how we wanted to isolate and withdraw from family members and our friends? We lived alone in the prison of our own making.
Depressed persons create their own atmosphere of depression. This is where the family member begins to notice how their own mood begins to mimic the depressed member. Let me quote from the Dep-Anon Family Group manual in which our two founders of Dep-Anon share their own feelings of the contagious nature of depression and how they experienced it.
“At a planning meeting for constructing a Dep-Anon group these two family members were asked to list all the feelings that they experience while living with a depressed loved one. From the discussion, we were surprised to find out some amazing facts, 1) that the feelings family members were experiencing were very similar to those which their depressed loved ones were also experiencing, and 2) these feelings were also having an equally destructive effect in the lives of family memebrs.
When family memebrs were asked to prioritize, describe and list which feelings they experienced most often and most intensely, the following are those which were documented
- Feeling overwhelmed and burdened by a family member’s depression.
- Feeling restricted around the depressed, feelings of something similar to the expression of “walking on eggshells.”
- Feelings of helplessness.
- Anxiety about the situation and not knowing what to do about the feelings they were experiencing.
- Feeling emotionally drained.
- Feeling inadequate faced with loved one’s immobility and lack of motivation.
- Feeling anger and frustration at the depressed.
- Beng an enabler
- Feeling that one was living an unproductive life as one was stymied by the depressed’s unproductive depression.
- Having feelings of irritability and impatience.
- Feeling inadequate.
- Feeling betrayed in retirement by spuse’s late life depression.
- Lack of confidence in oneself.
The amazing fact here is that these two women were having the same feelings as their own family who were depressed. It is ironic that as I went down the list of feelings the two members were feeling, that these were some of my own feelings when I was depressed. So Is depression contagious? From what has been written here so far, it is obvious to most of us that a loved one’s depression definitly has a negative effect our our lives.
Dep-Anon can be a great source of help and hope, just as Al-Anon has been a great help and resource for the family members of an alcoholic. I believe that Dep-Anon will be a good resource and fellowship to help family members and friends develop their own program, based on the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps.
Dep-Anon places its focus on creating a relationship with the depressed that is not only supportive, but also creates an environment where the whole family can find healing. Also, the Manual finds ways on how we can help our depressed family member find the necessary support so that a future relapse can be prevented. There are a number of routes that can be taken to ensure that this happens and we will discuss them in our Dep-Anon Manual . We all have choices and we will be proactive in our own healing.
As one of the founders wrote about her own experience with her depressed husband , she tells us that now “she is going to mind her own soul.” We might not be depressed, but we will still have the feelings of being helpless and without hope. That has changed now that we are taking care of ourselves using the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps in our own lives.
The program we have offered here is the personal hope of two persons, believing that by taking care of themselves first of all, they will best be of great help to the depressed family member.
SOURCES: Copyright(c) Dep-ANon Family Group.(1999) Depressed ANonymous Publicatins. Louisville. Ky. PagesA-G.
Copyright(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisvile.KY.