Is Depression Contagious?

Reviewed May 17, 2021

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Summary

Protect yourself from absorbing other people’s negative moods, with:

  • Strong coping skills
  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Patience

You may have an upbeat attitude and a near-perfect life but sooner or later, you’re going to encounter negative people. These are people who can turn smiles to tears and a holiday into tragedy. They blame, complain or start fights at the slightest provocation.

They may be your friends or your co-workers. You might be married to one. They may be smart or average, big or little, young or old. What they may have in common is some level of depression.

Depression is not “caught” by infection, like the flu. But if you’re around angry, sad or fearful people, you may start feeling the same way. 

But, there’s a big difference between feeling down and being clinically depressed, which is a serious medical condition affecting family and personal relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health.

At some point in our lives, we all drive through at least a few of life’s potholes, and most people do it without crashing. You may be temporarily upset by problems or disappointments, but you bounce back.

A person with clinical depression, on the other hand, can’t stop feeling worthless, guilty, helpless, hopeless or regretful. They may have no energy or enthusiasm for work or family, be unable to form friendships or intimate relationships, and show no interest in the future.

How do you “get” clinically depressed?

Sometimes it’s brought on by a medical condition, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism. Or, it might be the side effect of a prescription drug, alcohol or recreational drugs. Marijuana, for example, is a depressant. Depression seems to run in families, suggesting an inheritable biological component. Some people fall into depression after a tragic event. 

Studies show the roots of most clinical depression can be traced to childhood, where we learn to think, interpret and respond to events.

A child learns early on how to handle—or not handle—stress later in life. They study adults around them, and learn by their example. They can absorb their inappropriate behaviors and negative thinking, then practice them. If their parents are depressed, they might never learn appropriate ways to combat stress.

If a child is surrounded by combative, sad or fearful people, they learn to fight or hide their feelings. If ignored, neglected or overprotected, they may never learn to build successful relationships.

If they're told over and over in words or actions that they aren't smart, strong or attractive, they may grow up without the resilience they need to fend off negative thoughts.  

What we can do

Since no one has a perfect childhood and stressful situations pop up in everyone’s life, we all must build coping skills. If we didn’t learn them as children, we can do it as adults. The healthier we are emotionally, the less likely we will be to slip into negative patterns, especially if we find ourselves living or working with people who have depression.

To keep someone else’s mood from hijacking your own emotional well-being:

Set boundaries: If someone talks incessantly about their bad situation, try to change the subject or assert yourself kindly.

Seek positive friends: Take this as seriously as choosing healthy food, exercising and sleeping well.

Prepare for bad times: You will face problems in your life. Determine what coping tools work for you, then stock your emotional-health arsenal.

Be careful what you think about: Don’t exaggerate small problems. Try to think positively.

Get physical: Exercise. The simplest way to reset your mood is to take a walk.

Don’t take another person’s ups and downs personally: It’s not about you. 

Don’t badger: Be patient. If a person who is depressed asks for help, give it. Put a key in the lock, but let them open the door.

Knowledge is power: Empower yourself by understanding depression, and getting your own needs met.

Live well: Follow a healthy diet. Get enough sleep.

Do something: Go to a movie, spend time with friends. Have fun and be glad you are able to enjoy life. 

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Susan E. Lawrence, M.D., recognized expert on effects of child abuse and author of "Creating a Healing Society: The Impact of Human Emotional Pain and Trauma on Society and the World"; Debbie Mandell, M.A., life coach and author of "Addicted to Stress"; Richard Shadick, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Director of Counseling Services at Pace University, NY, author of numerous articles on positive thinking, and suicide prevention trainer for federal emergency response agencies; Joe Wegmann, P.D., L.C.S.W., pharmacist, licensed social worker, public speaker and author of "Psychopharmacology: Straight Talk on Mental Health Medications".

Summary

Protect yourself from absorbing other people’s negative moods, with:

  • Strong coping skills
  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Patience

You may have an upbeat attitude and a near-perfect life but sooner or later, you’re going to encounter negative people. These are people who can turn smiles to tears and a holiday into tragedy. They blame, complain or start fights at the slightest provocation.

They may be your friends or your co-workers. You might be married to one. They may be smart or average, big or little, young or old. What they may have in common is some level of depression.

Depression is not “caught” by infection, like the flu. But if you’re around angry, sad or fearful people, you may start feeling the same way. 

But, there’s a big difference between feeling down and being clinically depressed, which is a serious medical condition affecting family and personal relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health.

At some point in our lives, we all drive through at least a few of life’s potholes, and most people do it without crashing. You may be temporarily upset by problems or disappointments, but you bounce back.

A person with clinical depression, on the other hand, can’t stop feeling worthless, guilty, helpless, hopeless or regretful. They may have no energy or enthusiasm for work or family, be unable to form friendships or intimate relationships, and show no interest in the future.

How do you “get” clinically depressed?

Sometimes it’s brought on by a medical condition, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism. Or, it might be the side effect of a prescription drug, alcohol or recreational drugs. Marijuana, for example, is a depressant. Depression seems to run in families, suggesting an inheritable biological component. Some people fall into depression after a tragic event. 

Studies show the roots of most clinical depression can be traced to childhood, where we learn to think, interpret and respond to events.

A child learns early on how to handle—or not handle—stress later in life. They study adults around them, and learn by their example. They can absorb their inappropriate behaviors and negative thinking, then practice them. If their parents are depressed, they might never learn appropriate ways to combat stress.

If a child is surrounded by combative, sad or fearful people, they learn to fight or hide their feelings. If ignored, neglected or overprotected, they may never learn to build successful relationships.

If they're told over and over in words or actions that they aren't smart, strong or attractive, they may grow up without the resilience they need to fend off negative thoughts.  

What we can do

Since no one has a perfect childhood and stressful situations pop up in everyone’s life, we all must build coping skills. If we didn’t learn them as children, we can do it as adults. The healthier we are emotionally, the less likely we will be to slip into negative patterns, especially if we find ourselves living or working with people who have depression.

To keep someone else’s mood from hijacking your own emotional well-being:

Set boundaries: If someone talks incessantly about their bad situation, try to change the subject or assert yourself kindly.

Seek positive friends: Take this as seriously as choosing healthy food, exercising and sleeping well.

Prepare for bad times: You will face problems in your life. Determine what coping tools work for you, then stock your emotional-health arsenal.

Be careful what you think about: Don’t exaggerate small problems. Try to think positively.

Get physical: Exercise. The simplest way to reset your mood is to take a walk.

Don’t take another person’s ups and downs personally: It’s not about you. 

Don’t badger: Be patient. If a person who is depressed asks for help, give it. Put a key in the lock, but let them open the door.

Knowledge is power: Empower yourself by understanding depression, and getting your own needs met.

Live well: Follow a healthy diet. Get enough sleep.

Do something: Go to a movie, spend time with friends. Have fun and be glad you are able to enjoy life. 

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Susan E. Lawrence, M.D., recognized expert on effects of child abuse and author of "Creating a Healing Society: The Impact of Human Emotional Pain and Trauma on Society and the World"; Debbie Mandell, M.A., life coach and author of "Addicted to Stress"; Richard Shadick, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Director of Counseling Services at Pace University, NY, author of numerous articles on positive thinking, and suicide prevention trainer for federal emergency response agencies; Joe Wegmann, P.D., L.C.S.W., pharmacist, licensed social worker, public speaker and author of "Psychopharmacology: Straight Talk on Mental Health Medications".

Summary

Protect yourself from absorbing other people’s negative moods, with:

  • Strong coping skills
  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Patience

You may have an upbeat attitude and a near-perfect life but sooner or later, you’re going to encounter negative people. These are people who can turn smiles to tears and a holiday into tragedy. They blame, complain or start fights at the slightest provocation.

They may be your friends or your co-workers. You might be married to one. They may be smart or average, big or little, young or old. What they may have in common is some level of depression.

Depression is not “caught” by infection, like the flu. But if you’re around angry, sad or fearful people, you may start feeling the same way. 

But, there’s a big difference between feeling down and being clinically depressed, which is a serious medical condition affecting family and personal relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health.

At some point in our lives, we all drive through at least a few of life’s potholes, and most people do it without crashing. You may be temporarily upset by problems or disappointments, but you bounce back.

A person with clinical depression, on the other hand, can’t stop feeling worthless, guilty, helpless, hopeless or regretful. They may have no energy or enthusiasm for work or family, be unable to form friendships or intimate relationships, and show no interest in the future.

How do you “get” clinically depressed?

Sometimes it’s brought on by a medical condition, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism. Or, it might be the side effect of a prescription drug, alcohol or recreational drugs. Marijuana, for example, is a depressant. Depression seems to run in families, suggesting an inheritable biological component. Some people fall into depression after a tragic event. 

Studies show the roots of most clinical depression can be traced to childhood, where we learn to think, interpret and respond to events.

A child learns early on how to handle—or not handle—stress later in life. They study adults around them, and learn by their example. They can absorb their inappropriate behaviors and negative thinking, then practice them. If their parents are depressed, they might never learn appropriate ways to combat stress.

If a child is surrounded by combative, sad or fearful people, they learn to fight or hide their feelings. If ignored, neglected or overprotected, they may never learn to build successful relationships.

If they're told over and over in words or actions that they aren't smart, strong or attractive, they may grow up without the resilience they need to fend off negative thoughts.  

What we can do

Since no one has a perfect childhood and stressful situations pop up in everyone’s life, we all must build coping skills. If we didn’t learn them as children, we can do it as adults. The healthier we are emotionally, the less likely we will be to slip into negative patterns, especially if we find ourselves living or working with people who have depression.

To keep someone else’s mood from hijacking your own emotional well-being:

Set boundaries: If someone talks incessantly about their bad situation, try to change the subject or assert yourself kindly.

Seek positive friends: Take this as seriously as choosing healthy food, exercising and sleeping well.

Prepare for bad times: You will face problems in your life. Determine what coping tools work for you, then stock your emotional-health arsenal.

Be careful what you think about: Don’t exaggerate small problems. Try to think positively.

Get physical: Exercise. The simplest way to reset your mood is to take a walk.

Don’t take another person’s ups and downs personally: It’s not about you. 

Don’t badger: Be patient. If a person who is depressed asks for help, give it. Put a key in the lock, but let them open the door.

Knowledge is power: Empower yourself by understanding depression, and getting your own needs met.

Live well: Follow a healthy diet. Get enough sleep.

Do something: Go to a movie, spend time with friends. Have fun and be glad you are able to enjoy life. 

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Susan E. Lawrence, M.D., recognized expert on effects of child abuse and author of "Creating a Healing Society: The Impact of Human Emotional Pain and Trauma on Society and the World"; Debbie Mandell, M.A., life coach and author of "Addicted to Stress"; Richard Shadick, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Director of Counseling Services at Pace University, NY, author of numerous articles on positive thinking, and suicide prevention trainer for federal emergency response agencies; Joe Wegmann, P.D., L.C.S.W., pharmacist, licensed social worker, public speaker and author of "Psychopharmacology: Straight Talk on Mental Health Medications".

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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