A recent scientific paper made the fascinating observation that loneliness can travel through a social network, infecting the group like a disease. I’m glad that it made headlines, because it’s essential we understand how our own disposition can affect those around us. It’s particularly important because this loneliness can breed depression, a condition that affects 1 in 5 women and was the topic of our show that aired on December 16, 2009.
We outlined the major warning signs of depression, which include decreased interest in your hobbies, vague feelings of sadness or guilt, decreased energy, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and poor concentration. If that sounds like anyone in your life, then you need to become part of their treatment. Happiness, like loneliness, is also contagious.
Our expert, Dr. Sue Varma, elaborated on this concept by explaining the critical role of a social support system during the recovery period. Eena was one of the women who had suffered from depression and was kind enough to share her story with us; she recalled how her mother used to call her in the mornings and encourage her to get up for work. That simple loving act was enough to motivate her out of bed.
There is no magic wand to cure depression, but there is a lot you can do to help someone who suffers from it. Learn the warning signs, and if you think a friend or loved one is affected, make yourself available. Remember how influential your support can be and let them know that however lonely they might feel, they are not actually alone.