Depression: Why Do We Push Those We Love Away?


When we struggle with depression, we often find ourselves withdrawing from our loved ones and sometimes pushing people away. We don’t always know why, and it’s not always a conscious thing either. But it can be confusing, painful and unsettling to us. It can be confusing for those around us, too, because if we don’t know why we’re pushing them away, they won’t know why either. The following are some potential reasons that those that have depression try to isolate and push others away:

1. We Don’t Think People Want Us Around

Depression leaves us feeling worthless and useless. People will tell us that they want to be around us repeatedly, but we won’t necessarily believe it because it doesn’t match the story in our head that we tell ourselves. We can’t understand why anyone would want to spend time with us because we believe that we have nothing to offer or that we will bring them ‘down’. When people do invite us to things, we tell ourselves that they are ‘just being nice’, asking us out of a sense of obligation or charity. And we definitely don’t  feel worthy of their time.

2. We Struggle With Concentration

It takes a lot of concentration to follow conversations. Anxiety can increase quickly when we worry about looking silly or rude, or losing track of what’s going on. The fear that we won’t be able to keep up can make us freeze or shut down. Faced with that fear, it’s easier to push people away than worry about having to do things that we don’t feel able to do. We don’t want to be anyone’s disappointment.

3. We Have No Energy

Lacking in energy is a major byproduct of depression and it can be tough when we’re alone, let alone when we are around others. We’re expected to talk. We’re expected to smile. We’re expected to join in and participate. We push people away because we don’t have the energy to be around them. Life can seem as if it is a never ending effort to determine what is worth spending energy on, and being around people can be unpredictable and causes us to retreat to safety.

4. We Get Easily Irritated

Depression can lead to a low tolerance level for things (the illness alone is overwhelming), and we might get easily irritated and annoyed. We might lash out at those around us, especially if they do unexpected things, or change things without warning. Sometimes the fact that we get irritated and lash out, can feel as though we’re pushing people away which feeds into the guilt we already tend to carry.

5. We Feel Like a Burden

Depression can fool us into feeling like we are a burden to those around us. Having no energy, struggling for motivation, and having low self-confidence can lead us to feel as if others take on a lot when they are in relationships with us. We don’t see ourselves as bringing any value to our relationship(feelings of worthlessness). We don’t want to share our misery with them for fear that it will worsen their mood. We see ourselves as a drain on those around us and we push people away because we don’t want to burden them.

6. We Don’t Want To Upset or Hurt Others

Sometimes, when our loved ones hear how awful we’re feeling, it can upset them, because they care about us. It can be hard for them to see us hurting or in pain. If we begin to feel suicidal, and share that with a loved one, we see the pain and worry in their eyes. We see them wondering what they’re not doing enough of to help. Our loved ones might struggle to understand why we feel the way we do. It might hurt them, and we don’t want that, because we love them. So we push them away. What they don’t see can’t impact them.

7. We’re Fearful of Getting Hurt

We’re scared that people will get sick of us and leave. If we push people away, they can’t leave us, because we’ve already left them. It’s within our control. Sometimes we’d rather be isolated than constantly worrying about when people will get fed up with us and leave.

8. Sometimes, It’s Just Easier

Sometimes we push people away because it’s easier than having to pretend we’re okay. It’s easier than having to confront how far we’ve fallen from the person we once were (shame). When we’re by ourselves, we can often fool ourselves that we’re ‘okay,’ but being around others can be an abrupt reminder of the fact that we’re far from it.

If you’re struggling with depression (or you know someone you love that is) and this list resonates with you and your internal struggle, feel free to contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment today.

The Power of Vulnerability


One thing that has come up consistently this week with clients has been the concept of “Vulnerability.” To be honest, it comes up regularly. Vulnerability is a raw, authentic representation of ourselves and a willingness to expose our true selves and invite others in. Vulnerability is sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. When thinking about vulnerability, it’s important to understand the relationships between vulnerability, shame, and connectedness.

Connection is why we are here, ultimately why we exist, and what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Most often, the things that lead us to withdrawal from connection with others is shame. The belief that, if I am vulnerable and open with others, they will discover those things about me that make me ‘unworthy’ of connection. “If I’m really known, I will be rejected.” So when considering our experience with shame, vulnerability is often a risk of standing up to that fear and exposing ourselves to the possibility of unknown responses from others..Shame (and the fear of shame) leads to the urge to disconnect from others. We all have shame (except true sociopaths), so therefore, we all have the natural tendency to avoid vulnerability. It’s a self-protective mechanism for us.

The conundrum we find ourselves in is that even though we try to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable, there is a desire to have the type of relationships that assist and help us move toward vulnerability. No doubt, vulnerability feels risky and threatening; however, there comes a point when our efforts to protect ourselves can become destructive and cause us to miss the opportunity for a profound relational experience. In relationships, there is a need for boundaries and trust when vulnerability is wanted. These boundaries are important to help us manage the fear associated with taking this step. Judgment is needed to determine who the right people are, and then you can move towards more vulnerable interactions.

Helpful ways to work towards vulnerability in your relationships would include:

  1. Taking a moment to consider the efforts you make to protect yourself in relationships. Is the aim to create healthy connections or to remain unknown from those around you? If your answer is to remain unknown, then shame is likely getting in the way of meaningful connection.

  2. Identify the fear. Those that have worked with me in therapy will be well drilled in considering the underlying fear in their actions. Ask yourself, “what response do I fear from others after being vulnerable with them?”

  3. Accept that your fear is natural. Allow it to exist rather than focus on making it go away. Focus on the fear only gives it energy to grow.

  4. Focus attention on the value you have in connection, and then chose vulnerability rather than allowing fear to determine your actions. When we behave opposite of how we feel, and in this case seek others out, we discover a new sense of freedom and a way out of our shame.

  5. Establish trust and start slow. Try openness with smaller things and then after building trust with others, move on to larger things. For example, when you are asked “How are you?” try avoiding the automatic response of “good” and honestly contemplate the question before responding.

Entering into the anxiety and fear-provoking area of vulnerability, shame, and connection can be overwhelming. Consider talking to someone that can provide you a safe space to process your relationship to shame.

For help In the Lancaster, PA area moving toward more vulnerability and a more connected life, please contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment.