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16 Ways to Support a Friend With Depression Who Doesn't Like Physical Affection

When you live with depression, sometimes people’s first instinct is to hug or hold you when you are upset. But if you don’t like physical touch or affection, well-intentioned gestures like these can be anything but helpful.

Maybe being touched while you’re having a depressive episode makes you feel confined and locked into place. Maybe past trauma makes your skin crawl whenever someone touches you without asking. Or maybe, you just don’t ever like being touched, period.

Whatever your situation may be, we want you to know it’s more than OK not to like physical affection. If you find yourself constantly explaining to others why you don’t want to be touched when you’re feeling depressed, this one’s for you.

To find out how people who don’t like physical affection want to be supported, we asked members of our Mighty mental health community who live with depression to share one way they feel supported by their friends — sans physical touch.

Feel free to share this list with your friends, and let them know which tips they can use to support you.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. “My husband makes sure I eat when I just can’t find the energy or effort. He understands the void depression makes in my life and helps me do things like eat and brush my teeth and shower. He never judges me.” — Megan P.

2. “I like affection, but not so much while depressed. The best thing anyone can do for someone who’s depressed is to ask how they’re doing, check in with them, don’t blame or be ignorant and mainly just listen.” — Sam L.

3. Make sure I’m safe. Checking up on me often, keeping me company and bringing me food and movies to watch together at my home is one of the best ways to help me while I’m going through a depressive episode.” — Konstantina P.

4. “Honestly not treating me like I’m broken and using humor to remind me I’m human and it’s OK, I’ll get past this, are the biggest things.” — Victoria S.

5. “As much as I hate people worrying about me, a ‘Hey, hope you are doing OK” text message means the world to me when I’m so depressed I can’t leave my bed. I may not reply, but please know you have made me think someone was thinking of me.” — Nicole G.

6. “Bring me cheap coffee and come sit with me. Even if I don’t say anything, it’s nice to have company when I’m feeling miserable.” — Rachel M.

7. “[My friends] will often get my duvet so I can curl up on the sofa, put some incense on to help relax and make me a cup of tea. Also giving me some space to let me either listen to music or just be with my thoughts and not pushing for conversation is really helpful. Then if I want to talk, just listening and being empathetic and not trying to give me answers/solve things really helps.” — Alexis B.

8. “Help out with stuff around the house that I just can’t bring myself to do. Don’t ask, just do it. If you ask, I’ll tell you not to worry about it but the messier the house gets the more suffocating it becomes.” — Mackenzie P.

9. “When I’m feeling very depressed, all I want his my husband. Though I don’t want him touching me because I’m not a very affectionate person, just knowing he is near calms me. So he shows his support by being near and letting me know he is here to talk or just sit in silence together.” — Dara M.

10. “Start with having a cup of coffee with me. Talk about nothing in particular for a while, then find a way to get me out of the house. While we are out, play some good music for me — upbeat stuff. For a few days after that, text or call me to check in and make sure I’m moving up and not down in my depression.” — Desiree N.

11. “The best way for someone to show me they care is to spend quality time with me. That means more than any type of physical affection ever could.” — Stephanie Q.

12. “Take them on a drive, just to see the sights. Let them go in their pajamas and don’t make them get out of the car. Take a good snack to eat. Play music or just be silent. For people who get seasonal affective disorder, exposure to even just a little sunlight might help.” — Jessica F.

13. “Sending a voice note, sending a song or buying an album. When I’m depressed, I zone out visual stimuli and only really become part of reality when sounds trigger my senses to make me aware again. Really helps to make me feel alive.” — Ella K.

14. “Put on Disney/favorite movies. I have a list of movies that those extra close to me know to play if I’m having some bad days/episodes that are very comforting to me, like an escape!” — Brittany H.

15. “Hand me my cat to cuddle me when I’m sad. Animal affection is incredibly calming while physical contact with other people makes me uncomfortable.” — Sarah L.

16. “Text a couple words of affection and appreciation… Distract me with things like random stories — get the attention off of me. Ask me opinions about things. Make me laugh. That way I can feel loved, validated and worth your time.” — Kate L.

What would you add?

Thinkstock photo via mubai

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