When someone gets sick, you go to all lengths to avoid catching the infection. You make sure that you stay fit and healthy. However, there are instances that you cannot control and you tend to copy or get “infected” with what other people do. The best examples are when someone is yawning or imitating someone with an accent.
Mimicry is the science behind this. According to the American Psychological Association, “mimicry is a form of social learning in which people, without conscious awareness or intent, automatically use other people’s physical movements, facial expressions, speech patterns and emotions during interpersonal interactions”.
Given this definition, some people would surmise that depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions could be contagious. Is this possible? Is being surrounded with people who are struggling with mental health issues not good for you?
Are depressed people contagious?
When you see your family laughing, you get to smile and laugh with them as well. On the other hand, when a friend opens up a problem to you and cries, you also feel sad. You cannot catch depression in the same way as flu or COVID-19 but emotions and moods can be acquired from other people.
Depressed people discharge negative emotions to the people around them. You can easily feel their sadness, worries and loneliness lingering in any given situation. Depression does not only limit to negative emotions but it also conveys irritability, pessimistic conversation, constant criticism to self, rude and disrespectful behavior in public.
Researchers and therapists near me believe that depression affects others through network phenomenon, social contagion theory and group emotional contagion theory.
Sigmund Heinrich Foulkes defined network effect as the “impact that the system or network of interpersonal interactions and relationships in an individual’s environment has on the development of psychopathology in that individual”.
Social Contagion Theory
It suggests that behaviors and attitudes can be transferred from one person to another just like how viruses and bacteria spread symptoms. Several studies have proven that an individual who has a close relationship with a depressed person is likely to develop the same condition.
Group Emotional Contagion Theory
This is a form of social contagion where emotions emotions and behaviors are spread from one individual to another in a group directly or indirectly. The people in your workplace can easily influence your emotions. Your brain adapts and reads other people’s behavior and attitude and in return, you give a response.
How does depression spread?
With all these theories backed by counselors and therapists near me, you come to realize that you can be a target of depression. Humans are social creatures and having close relationships with family members and friends is an achievement. But there will always be moments and situations where you tend to feel depressed even if you are alone.
Social media is a breeding ground of depression. Seeing your friends posting their new cars, big houses and travels push you to belittle your accomplishments. You cannot help but compare your life to theirs and be jealous.
Instead of focusing on your own life, it drives you crazy when there are people more successful than you. Your mind consumes the illusion that life is a competition without realizing that you are in the process of ruining yours.
Every time you see your friends dining out or planning trips with their family, you also want to do the same even if you need to tighten your belt. When a neighbor buys a new car, you also want one.
Money makes the world go round. Without it, your life will always be on the edge. Poverty and debts can make you lose your mind. When you have nothing left to pay your bills and feed your family, your body and mind are slowly showing symptoms of depression.
You either love or hate your job but you have to admit that it demands a lot from you. It causes stress and exhaustion which are contributing factors of depression.
When you are surrounded with people who are always complaining about your boss and colleagues, they transmit their negative vibes on you. You can also transmit your unpleasant mood to your co-workers whenever you are dealing with domestic problems.
When you feel depressed about your life or work, there is a high chance that your family and friends can detect your sadness and worries. If you open up your feelings and problems, they will also feel heartbroken, distressed and uneasy.
What to do if you are surrounded with people who are depressed?
You cannot control other people’s feelings and behavior and studies show that you can catch their emotions and possibly mimic them. No one likes to be around people who are sad and problematic but you have to accept the fact you must learn how to deal with them.
The power of meditation is real. It trains your mind to relax and calm especially when you are facing a tough or challenging situation. Therapists near me encourage anyone who feels down to learn how to do basic and easy mediation techniques. You can even ask your friends to do this with you.
Ask for support and help
You should never feel ashamed in opening up about your mental health. Do not invalidate your feelings. Recognize them and talk to someone you deeply trust on how to manage them. It may be hard at first but knowing that there are people who love and support you gives you the needed motivation to go on.
See a therapist
Seeing a therapist near me is a good thing. It is an effective learning tool to manage stress and the people around you. Sometimes, this can be intimidating and costly but its effects are helpful and lasting.
Talking to a professional guides you in recognizing patterns in your thoughts and behavior as well as acquiring coping skills to minimize emotional and social contagion.
Mindshift Psychological Services will happily assist you in your journey to mental wellness. Our therapists near me and counselors are highly knowledgeable and trained in handling various mental health issues. Visit our website to know more about us or call us at (714)584-9700 to schedule an appointment.