6 Common Depression Traps to Avoid
Expert advice on how to sidestep pitfalls that often accompany depression.
Trap #3: Self-Medicating With Alcohol
Turning to alcohol or drugs to escape your woes is a pattern that can accompany depression, and it usually causes your depression to get worse.
Alcohol can sometimes relieve a little anxiety, especially social anxiety, but it has a depressing effect on the central nervous system, Goulston says. Plus, it can screw up your sleep.
"It's like a lot of things that we do to cope with feeling bad," he says. "They often make us feel better momentary, but in the long run, they hurt us."
The Fix: Talk to your doctor or therapist if you notice that your drinking habits are making you feel worse. Alcohol can interfere with antidepressants and anxiety medications.
Trap #4: Skipping Exercise
If you're the type of person who likes to go the gym regularly, dropping a series of workouts could signal that something's amiss in your life. The same goes for passing on activities -- such as swimming, yoga, or ballroom dancing -- that you once enjoyed.
When you're depressed, it's unlikely that you'll keep up with a regular exercise program, even though that may be just what the doctor ordered.
Exercise can be enormously therapeutic and beneficial, Ilardi says. Exercise has a powerful antidepressant effect because it boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that often ebb when you're depressed.
"It's a paradoxical situation," Ilardi says. "Your body is capable of physical activity. The problem is your brain is not capable of initiating and getting you to do it."
The Fix: Ilardi recommends finding someone you can trust to help you initiate exercise -- a personal trainer, coach, or even a loved one. "It has to be someone who gets it, who is not going to nag you, but actually give you that prompting and encouragement and accountability," Ilardi says.
Trap #5: Seeking Sugar Highs
When you're feeling down, you may find yourself craving sweets or junk food high in carbs and sugar.
Sugar does have mild mood-elevating properties, says Ilardi, but it's only temporary. Within two hours, blood glucose levels crash, which has a mood-depressing effect.
The Fix: Avoid sugar highs and the inevitable post-sugar crash. It's always wise to eat healthfully, but now more than ever, your mood can't afford to take the hit.
Trap #6: Negative Thinking
When you're depressed, you're prone to negative thinking and talking yourself out of trying new things.
You might say to yourself, "Well, even if I did A, B, and C, it probably wouldn't make me feel any better and it would be a real hassle, so why bother trying at all?"
"That's a huge trap," says Goulston. "If you race ahead and anticipate a negative result, which then causes you to stop trying at all, that is something that will rapidly accelerate your depression and deepen it."
The Fix: Don't get too attached to grim expectations. "You have more control over doing and not doing, than you have over what the result of actions will be," Goulston says. "But there is a much greater chance that if you do, then those results will be positive."