Support Groups for Depression

There are several types of support groups for depression.  This article defines some of the support groups you may consider based on the type of depression you may be experiencing, and learn where to find depression support groups in your area.

Depression is a broad term that covers some disorders that are markedly different. Since people with each of the different types of depressive disorder may seek a support group, it is wise to start off by first, obtaining an accurate diagnosis, if possible, and second, looking at a support group that meets the needs and addresses the concerns of people with that particular form of depression. Some of the very different types of depression include:

• the normal, self-limited depression that accompanies an important loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a long-held job, etc.

• postpartum depression, which occurs after the birth of a baby

• seasonal depression (SAD), also called seasonal affective disorder, which most often occurs in the darker, gloomier months of late fall, winter, and early spring

• bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) in which major depression, normal moods, and periods of extreme elation (also called mania) may occur

• major depressive disorder, which causes such deep feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and/or loneliness, that it is disabling, and the depressed person is likely to be withdrawn, lose his or her appetite, and have trouble sleeping

• chronic depression or dysthymia, which is less severe than major depression, but is a long-term disorder that may include periods of major depression

People in these different situations may need and benefit from very different things.

There are a number of ways to find support groups for depression. You might consult your primary care physician or therapist or check with any local health organization such as a hospital or clinic or the student health center if you are in college. Because depression so often occurs when someone is diagnosed with a serious heart problem, cardiac units may have a support group.  National organizations that focus on depression may have suggestions on their websites.

Be careful if you search for an online support group.  It may seem like the best choice if you live in an area in which there is no nearby group (or not one that is a good fit for you) or you cannot travel for some reason. But note that they may not be moderated and you may receive advice that is off-base from people who have only their own experience (not a research base) to work from.

Additionally, when there is no moderation and professional support in a support group, the negativity can be overwhelming. Finally, even if you find a depression support group online that is focused on the type of depression that you are dealing with, it is likely that the people self-refer and they may be either incorrect about their diagnosis and/or be dealing with other issues as well as depression. You also should be extremely careful about giving out any personal information in an online group. Devious people may try to use the group to sell a service or product or get close to someone who is in need.

The bottom line with a support group is to find one that you find supportive, but remember that as the members change, the support group can change, so over time, you may need to reevaluate your choice.