This Is How You're Making Your Depression Worse


Nearly one in five adults in the United States lives with some kind of mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health—that's about 50 million people. And due to COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there are more people than ever dealing with some form of the condition. In a report issued in June 2020, the CDC analyzed survey responses and other data, concluding that people in the U.S. were experiencing "elevated levels" of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance issues in June 2020, compared with similar periods of time prior to the pandemic.

The good news is that when it comes to depression, whether you have been diagnosed with the condition in its clinical form or are just feeling especially low due to what's going on in the world, there are things that you can do—or in this case stop doing—to make the experience a little bit more manageable. Here are a few of the ways you're making your depression worse. And to help you feel a little less alone when it comes to your mental health, check out Celebrities That Have Spoken About Their Depression.

You isolate yourself.

While we all were forced to isolate because of the coronavirus, it's essential to maintain your relationships with friends, family, and coworkers as much as you can right now. Not only does isolation make your depression worse, but studies have found it has horrendous effects on your physical health, as well.

"Lacking encouragement from family or friends, those who are lonely may slide into unhealthy habits," Nicole Valtorta, PhD, an epidemiologist at Newcastle University, wrote in a 2016 study she led. "In addition, loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, impede sleep and, in turn, harm the body. Loneliness can also augment depression or anxiety." And for more tips on how to support your well-being, This Is the No. 1 Mental Health Mistake You're Making Right Now.

You engage in negative thinking.

Psychologists and other mental health experts say that you are constantly presented with opportunities to engage a negative thought or dispel it in favor of a more positive one. And it's these decisions that can have a powerful impact on your mental health.

Stuart Eisendrath, MD, a psychiatrist and founder of the University of California San Francisco Depression Center, described it this way to Psychology Today: "If you're walking down the main street of a small town, you may see a number of store fronts, with various depressive thoughts on display," he said. "Typically in depression you would go into the store and buy those thoughts, and then go back out and start walking down the street having those thoughts with you."

And the positive, more mindful way: "You notice the depressive thoughts in the store and you don't get rid of observing those thoughts," Eisendrath said. "But you don't go in and buy them, and you don't have to carry them with you as you go down the street."

You drink and/or abuse other substances.

One of the worst things you can do for your depression is self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. While you might find short-term relief, the implications of long-term abuse are anything but positive.

For starters, the Mayo Clinic says, alcohol is a depressant, so it will only worsen your depression after its numbing effect on your feelings has worn off. You also risk becoming physically addicted. And if you are taking medication for your depression, many substances will counteract the intended effect of the drug and result in even worse symptoms. For more on a similar condition that often accompanies depression, check out This Is How You're Making Your Anxiety Worse.

You don't take care of your physical health.

If you are experiencing depression, you may have absolutely no motivation to engage in physical activity, but let this bit information be the thing that changes that. According to a 2019 piece in Psychology Today, D. B. Dillard-Wright, PhD, a philosophy professor and writer, "several randomized controlled trials have shown that physical exercise is as effective at treating depression as medication, specifically compared to treatment with second-generation anti-depressants." Even just 15 minutes a day can have a positive effect. And for more mental-health information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.