Have you ever been diagnosed with depression or seriously suspected yourself of having it? Is there someone in your life struggling with it right now?
Even if you answered no to both of those questions, it’s still important that you educate yourself on matters of depression. There are a lot of harmful myths and misconceptions surrounding depression, but in learning more about it and making an effort to better understand it, you become more compassionate and better able to help those who may be suffering from it.
Depression is a mood disorder associated with persistently negative feelings that significantly affect our thoughts and behaviours. While it can happen to anyone at any age, it’s most common among teens and young adults, and women are at a higher risk for depression (APA, 2013). As much as 7% of all American adults have experienced clinical depression in any given year, and up to 350 million people all over the world suffer from it at least once in their lives (WHO, 2019).
Now, with such startlingly high incidence rates, it’s important that you know how to effectively cope with depression and avoid doing anything that might worsen it or exacerbate your symptoms. With that said, here are 7 things you should never do when you’re depressed:
1. Keep It A Secret
Once you realize that you’re going through a serious bout of depression, the best thing you can do for yourself is to reach out to the people you love and build a support system to help you in your struggle (Lin, Dean, &Ensel, 2013). So many people suffer in silence and keep their mental illness a secret because they’re in denial, ashamed of it, or think they can conquer it on their own. And while you might be convinced that you’re doing everyone else a favour by “keeping your problems to yourself”, depression isn’t something that should ever be kept a secret. How else are you ever going to get the help you need to get better?
2. Drink Alcohol
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can drown your sorrows with alcohol – it’s doing more harm than good in the long run. Because while drinking might help you numb what you’re feeling right now, there’s a very high possibility that you might become dependent on it the more you use it to treat your depression. In fact, alcoholism and substance abuse is common among those suffering from depression, so don’t just trade in one problem for another.
3. Isolate Yourself
Overcoming depression is already hard enough; don’t make it any harder on yourself by doing it all alone. The urge to push people away and lock yourself up in your room all day might be strong, but you need to fight it because it’s only going to make you feel worse. Your depression makes you believe that you need to be on your own all the time and that no one wants to be around you, but no matter how exhausting or pointless it might seem, you need to make the effort to be with your friends and family. Because maintain your relationships and doing social activities can do a lot to help curb the intense feelings of loneliness and emptiness that depression often brings with it (Hoong, Hesche, &Bowland, 2013).
4. Blame Yourself
Rarely ever does depression seem to have a “good reason” behind it. You could be the wealthiest, smartest, most successful, most attractive person in every room you walk into but still suffer from this mental illness. Because the terrifying truth is that it can happen to just about anyone, so don’t beat yourself up about it and blame yourself for feeling this way.
There are dozens of different reasons why someone might be depressed, whether it’s because of our genes, our brain chemistry, or our social environments (Srinivasan, Cohen, & Parikh, 2003). Even the world’s leading psychologists themselves still don’t entirely understand the nature of depression and why it happens to someone, so don’t think that any of this is your fault.
5. Neglect Your Self-Care
When your mental health is in critical condition, taking care of your physical health can make a world of difference in alleviating your stress and helping you cope with your depression, so never neglect your self-care. Make sure to get plenty of rest and sleep at least eight full hours a day. Eat healthy and aim for a well-balanced diet with plenty of nutritious value. Cut back on sugar, caffeine, and junk food. Start exercising regularly or try doing yoga whenever you start to feel especially down. Calm your mind by meditating and practising some relaxation techniques. Do all of these things when you’re feeling especially down, and believe us, your mental health will thank you for it.
6. Let It Define You
Did you know that therapists are warned never to refer to their patients as “depressed” but rather, as “someone with depression”? There’s actually a very good reason behind it – because mental healthcare professionals believe that patients shouldn’t be defined by their mental illness, that a person is more than their diagnosis.
Depression changes you in a lot of painful ways – it affects the way you feel about yourself and the way you view the world around you – but it’s important to never lose sight of the person you are without it. So remind yourself of all the wonderful qualities that make you who you are and don’t let your depression stop you from doing the things you love or going after your dreams.
7. Give Up Hope
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, no matter how severe your depression may get, you should never give up hope that someday you will get better. The battle against mental illness is long and difficult, and it certainly won’t happen overnight, but it’s one that’s worth fighting for and it’s certainly one you can win. Because as scary and painful and overwhelming as it can feel sometimes, you are not hopeless in your dreams of a brighter, happier future for yourself.
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (2018), more than 80% of those who seek treatment successfully recover from their depression. One study even reports that in as early as 8 weeks, 58.7% of patients achieve functional remission (meaning they have effectively learned to manage their depression in a way that allows them to live life normally) while 15.9% fully recover (Novick, Montgomery, & Haro, 2017).
So while depression may be a serious mental health concern for many, fortunately, it’s also highly treatable. With a strong support system, professional help, and the right lifestyle changes, you can win your fight against mental illness and leave your depression behind. It’s not going to be easy – recovery takes time and the risk of relapse is high– but never stop dreaming that one day, you will feel well again. One day, you will feel better than you ever thought you could, and avoiding doing these 7 self-destructive things can help speed along your recovery.
- American Psychological Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th Ed. Washington, DC, USA: APA Publishing.
- World Health Organization (2019). An Overview of Depression. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
- Lin, N., Dean, A., &Ensel, W. M. (Eds.) (2013). Social Support, Life Events, and Depression, Academic Press.
- Hoong, S., Hasche, L., &Bowland, S. (2009). Structural Relationships Between Social Activities ad Longitudinal Trajectories of Depression Among Older Adults. The Gerontologist, 49 (1), 1-11.
- Srinivasan, J., Cohen, N. L., & Parikh, S. V. (2003). Patient Attitudes Regarding Causes of Depression: Implications for Psychoeducation. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48(7), 493-495.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (2018). Depression Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.dbsalliance.org/education/depression/statistics/
- Novick, D., Montgomery, W., Vorstenbosch, E., Moneta, M. V., Dueñas, H., & Haro, J. M. (2017). Recovery in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD): results of a 6-month, multinational, observational study. Patient preference and adherence, 11, 1859.