What's a good gift to buy for someone with depression and social anxiety?
November 19, 2012 6:04 PM   Subscribe

What's a good gift to buy for someone with depression and social anxiety? For example, a pet (if I knew they wanted one). Bad example would be a video game.

They're being treated and they're on medication, I just want to buy them a birthday gift that might in some small way brighten their life or encourage them to get out and about. Any thoughts? They live in a small apartment in the city, if that helps. Also most gifts in the feel-good, "don't worry be happy" vein would come across as insulting or condescending to this particular person.
posted by anonymous to Shopping (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure that a simple gift is going to get someone with social anxiety to get "out and about". It's not that simple. So, why not get them something that they can enjoy rather than trying to do some (well meaning) social engineering? Something like, oh, a video game?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:12 PM on November 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Is this person trying to get out and about more/have they expressed to you that they want to do so? If (and ONLY if) they have, I would offer to pay for them to take some sort of class to learn a skill or do something hobby-related. And present this to them and ask what sort of thing they'd be interested in (gifts don't have to be a surprise!)
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:15 PM on November 19, 2012

I know you're probably just spitballing but holy crap don't get a person with depression and anxiety a pet. There are all sorts of reasons this is a bad idea. Certainly, it helps some people, but let them make that decision.

When I was in a bad way, a friend of mine got a copy of 7 Habits which I never read, so I wouldn't suggest any sort of self-help book unless he's specifically said he wanted one. I also suggest against stuff that would take time and effort to learn to use like a musical instrument. The last thing you want to give is a present that says "YOU WILL FAIL AT ME AND DISAPPOINT YOUR FRIEND."

How about some housecleaning services? I bet your friend isn't the cleanest person, and having the house clean -- even temporarily -- may brighten his day. Maybe get him some hard-to-kill plants and a framed piece of art to brighten the place up as well.
posted by griphus at 6:19 PM on November 19, 2012 [12 favorites]

A nice scarf or outer garment in the height of fashion that they love. I always feel better about going out if I look presentable.

Or a spa day featuring a massage. Something very healing about that.
posted by fshgrl at 6:20 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't get them a pet.

It may be more responsibility than they want or can handle, they may not like the animal, their apartment may not allow pets, and if it doesn't go well, it's hard and possibly traumatic to the animal to be homed, and then rehomed again.

If you *know* that they want an animal, *and* they have all their ducks in a row to handle one, I'd accompany them to a shelter as a companion to help pick one out, or get them some supplies that they may want and need.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:21 PM on November 19, 2012

Anyways, here's my gift suggestion: something/some place that they like and are comfortable with. Like a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, or the zoo, or an art museum. They can use it when they feel comfortable using it.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:23 PM on November 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

And why is a video game a bad idea? You can play with people online and have interaction in a way that's easy to leave if it gets to be too much. Yeah, it depends on the game. But that's OK.

One of the reasons I started playing Magic again was because I'd have to interact with people to play but could also do stuff with the cards on my own.
posted by theichibun at 6:27 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

And why is a video game a bad idea?

Depression and anxiety is a combination that keeps people indoors, and multiplayer videogames -- especially MMOs -- become a very convenient excuse to do little more than play the game. For some people, that will get them out of the house eventually, to go to meetups, meet their guildmates (or whatever) in person. For many others, the escapism takes over completely and exacerbates their condition. There's a number of academic studies done on the psychological effects of MMO gameplay (WoW operate a lot like Skinner boxes) and it's just not a great thing to start if you're not in good shape, mentally. I've known people in both cases, and I think the OP is wise to to stay on the safe side and not risk the latter for the potential benefits of the former.
posted by griphus at 6:31 PM on November 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Something beautiful or something tasty.

Beautiful: A suncatcher or small piece of art that they can hang on their wall. Nothing too big.
Tasty: really good chocolate or coffee or whatever their favorite go-to food is.
posted by machine at 6:38 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about one of those cheese/chocolate/jam of the month club things?. It's nice to receive packages in the mail, and the joy will be spread over a period of time.

Certainly nothing that will force them to get out or face their anxiety. I can't imagine anything more anxiety inducing than that!

Also, you are a good friend :)
posted by Tarumba at 7:03 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depression and social anxiety do not define a person. A good gift is something that is attuned to a person's individual interests and activities. So what does this person like? What do they like to do when they find themselves able?

Maybe they like to cook or bake? Something lovely and useful for the kitchen, like really good tea towels or mixing bowls? King Arthur Flour is chock full of kits and recipes and things that would make nice gifts.

Maybe they like live music but often can't make themselves go to shows? Offer to buy tickets and go with them to the show of their choice, including giving them a ride and/or being the designated sober one.

Maybe they love games? Do some research and find a local game store with a game board night. In any given urban area there will be at least one. Offer to accompany your friend there and get your nerd on, as well as buy them a game that the two of you would enjoy playing. (I recommend Carcassonne as a great intro-level boardgame that can be played wonderfully by two people or expand to more. There's also a solitaire style of play, with lots of expansions.)

I don't know that qualifying a person as just having anxiety and depression is a good way to go about choosing gifts. Instead, go from what they enjoy about the world, and choose something that takes their particular requirements into mind. For example, if they like cooking, don't get them a cook book, because that just says "here's a lot of stuff to look at that you will never get to or fail at or fantasize about and never have enough friends to cook for." Instead, get them something more flexible that doesn't have built-in expectations.
posted by Mizu at 7:04 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Something that feels good. You can go soft and cozy--a really cuddly throw, or nice slippers or a robe. Or nice silky hand lotion or soap that smells refreshing and has texture (if the person you are gifting to is a man and those seem too "girly," there are still nice grooming products for men that might be appropriate, or shearling slippers or lambskin gloves or something of that nature).

Having something that literally feels good can be a small source of pleasure amidst the grimness.
posted by drlith at 7:11 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think it really depends on your friend, and what comforts them versus makes them uncomfortable. If you are in the same town, if you can come over, make/bring dinner and a cake, and just spend time with them that could mean a lot - alternatively, you could take them out, depending on which would stress them out less. As for a physical gift, you could get something pampering like drlith suggests sounds lovely, but it really depends on your friend. I don't think getting them a gift that forces them to go out will do much more than make them uncomfortable or guilty (if they don't use it). I would focus your efforts on maintaining contact, like making a commitment to call or see them weekly (don't tell them this, just do it).
posted by fermezporte at 7:24 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe a gift certificate to a group class for something they are interested in. That way there is a social/meeting new people element, but it's in a structured way and the main goal is to learn something new. For example, a cooking class, or knitting, or rock climbing, etc, depending on what they are interested in.
posted by the twistinside at 7:55 PM on November 19, 2012

It depends so, so much. Even gifts for me in particular would vary, depending on the episode.

Lately, I like it when someone comes over with food and we sit and talk. I wanted this poster bad enough that I actually bought it for myself. I like art supplies and little projects like kids' cross stitch kits. I'm really into coloring while I'm depressed/anxious - mandalas are especially popular with the folks I met in the hospital programs I've been through. I liked getting a chair to sit on outside - a comfy spot to sit in, in the sun (which is good for your mental health.) Sometimes I feel good but know I'll fall apart if I go somewhere that's too intense, especially by myself - someone who's willing to come with me to see a movie, or whatever, is a HUGE gift.

I'm extra sensitive to smells, tastes, textures, light, etc., while in a severe episode, so I'd suggest treading carefully with foods, lotions, soaps, candles, pillows, etc.

If they're suffering from severe social anxiety, it's likely a crafting class will be really stressful.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 8:03 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

A gift certificate for a takeout place they like would both make them happy and would at least briefly get them outside. It is not the same as getting them to socialize, but I think that's an overreach anyway, as others have mentioned, and just getting outside can sometimes help a little with feelings of isolation.
posted by ignignokt at 8:43 PM on November 19, 2012

Wool blanket
posted by oceanjesse at 10:03 PM on November 19, 2012

A meditation or yoga dvd and a yoga mat. ( I find both to be helpful with my depression/anxiety)
Wii games that allow exercise (important) at home (where's it's safe).

However, that said, my sister-in-law who loves me very much, once bought me a jokey book about being fat that had exercises in it. She very nearly had it thrown at her. So whatever you buy, make sure it's for him/her and not for his/her condition.
posted by b33j at 10:21 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a friend in this position and one of the few things she feels able to do is play a particular MMO-like video game. It's not getting her out of the house, but it's giving her something else to think about which I think is valuable.

She did, however, go through a baking phase when she was feeling better, so the flour idea might be a good one - being able to make something and fulfil a project to successful completion is a nice feeling.
posted by mippy at 1:58 AM on November 20, 2012

an iphone or ipod touch with this app on it.

a copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I'm starting to go through it now and it's broken into small exercises and is friendly enough that it makes me feel like HEY! maybe I can learn a skill from this!

A copy of The Noonday Demon. I got this for myself after seeing an AskMe suggestion and I would have loved to have gotten it as a gift (Y-Friend's-MMV).

A therapy light.

An electric blanket, fuzzy bathrobe, nice socks, nice slippers, warm (leather?) gloves, warm hat, warm scarf (depending on your friend's location/seasonal weather). These things are nice to have regardless of your mental state :D

Instant soups or instant foods - maybe a really nice soup mix from an organic or kitchen-gifty type place. I love these: instant indian food + a rice cooker = a really dope minimal effort meal = more energy to do fun things rather than stress about food.
posted by ghostbikes at 11:58 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Show me the money   |   Fool me twice, shame on me. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.