Common Depression Traps
17.3 million Americans suffer from depression every year. Being depressed is more than just being sad. It can affect every aspect of your life, from physical health to work and relationships.
If you’re struggling with depression, you may subconsciously be encouraging it. Depression traps, behaviors that worsen depression, can occur without you even realizing it.
Anyone experiencing depression knows that it can be a vicious cycle. You feel the horrible signs of depression, try to cope, and end up circling back. Medication and therapy can be very beneficial in breaking the cycle.
But there are also some alternative methods of coping. By using mental techniques to avoid depression traps, you can help yourself. Let’s explore some common depression triggers, traps, and solutions to get you feeling better!
These days, the word “triggered” is casually used in our daily vocabulary to show feelings of distress. But a trigger is actually much more serious than that.
A depression trigger is an event that causes a relapse. It can be something as small as a sound or as monumental as a death in the family. If you often experience depression triggers, it can be a sign that your treatment isn’t working.
The most common depression trigger is loss. This can include job loss, breakups, death, and financial problems. Out of all these factors, interpersonal loss is the biggest trigger. 44% of people experiencing depression stated that relationship loss was their source of negative feelings.
Some common depression triggers to look out for are:
- Times of stress
- Lack of sleep
- Unhealthy eating patterns
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
- Trauma or loss
- Financial worries
- Social isolation
As soon as you spot a depression trigger, you should seek professional help. If you think you might have depression but aren’t sure, take a depression test. It can be the first step to getting help.
Common Depression Traps
Depression traps can make your symptoms worse. They are reoccurring patterns of behavior and thinking that lead to negative feelings.
1. Isolating Yourself
Whenever we feel sad or out of sorts, we tend to avoid social activities. No one wants to be the downer at a party or group event. Some people might even feel like they don’t have the energy to hide their depression from others.
If you realize you’re starting to isolate yourself from others, try these tips.
- Cut off communication from friends
- Ignore phone calls and text messages
- Avoid going out in public
- Spend all your time in bed
- Talk to someone you love and trust
- Try to respond to friends
- Go for a short walk to get out of the house
- Spend time in nature
- Suggest a short activity with a close friend like grabbing a coffee
Getting out of a social isolation trap can be difficult but taking small steps is beneficial. If you can’t handle a birthday party full of strangers, ask your friend to meet you at a small cafe for dessert. If going to the grocery store results in panic, try walking to the corner store for essentials.
2. Giving Up Hobbies
during low periods.
It’s important to remember that this is a trap. Not engaging in your favorite activities can drag you further into a depressive episode. If you can’t remember the last time you did something you love, it’s time to try these suggestions.
- Tell yourself you won’t enjoy the activity
- Think it’s all pointless
- Break your routines
- Remember that the negative feelings will pass
- Hang on to your love of the activity
- Stick to your schedule
Being active and exerting energy can be difficult when you don’t feel like yourself. If your hobby is running, take a short walk in the park instead. Love cooking? Make your favorite, simple dish. Doing low-pressure versions of your favorite activities can be a good starting point.
3. Not Caring
During a depressive episode, it can be easy to feel like nothing matters. It’s this kind of thinking that pushes people deeper into their depression. If you find yourself not caring about anything, remember these tips.
- Avoid work, family, or social responsibilities
- Stop doing basic things like showering and cleaning
- Keep up with responsibilities
- Take care of your health and hygiene
- Finish your work
Negative thinking is strong and it can convince you that depression will last forever. Try to remember why you care about something in the first place.
If you’re avoiding your work responsibilities, remind yourself that you like your job. Or that your job provides you the means to live a comfortable lifestyle. Having these mental reminders can stop you from the “nothing matters” mentality.
4. Doomed Thinking
“It’s never going to get better.”
“Am I going to feel like this forever?”
This kind of doomed thinking is a very common depression trap. It can make you feel so low that you can’t imagine a way out of it. But turning negative thoughts into positive ones can be a good way to escape the trap.
- Dwell on the negative thoughts
- Resort to desperate measure
- Cope through unhealthy methods like alcohol
- Remember your last depressive episode
- Note the details, how long it lasts and how you cope
- Keep a journal of your moods, feelings, and thoughts
An excellent way to avoid this trap is to keep a detailed report of your depressive episodes. It can be a physical journal, online notepad, or any method you prefer. You can later reference these notes and find patterns to help you expect ups and downs a little better.
It can be tempting to have a few drinks to relax when you’re depressed. Alcohol and drugs make our thoughts more cloudy and allow us to lose focus of the negative feelings.
Self-medicating is a common occurrence with mental health disorders. Depression and substance abuse have a very high comorbidity rate. Almost one-third of depressed patients seeking help also have substance abuse disorders.
- Rely on alcohol or drugs as a solution
- Fall into patterns of binge drinking
- Use cigarettes as a stress relief tool
- Use exercise as a source of stress relief
- Practice relaxation methods like yoga and meditation
- Use positive rewards to lift your mood
If you know you have problems with overconsuming alcohol, or using drugs, try to stay away from temptation. Remind yourself that you’ll just be perpetuating the vicious cycle. Using substances is a short-term solution with negative long-term impacts.
Avoiding Negative Thoughts
During a depressive episode, negative thoughts creep in without any warning. They can drag you into traps and trigger new cycles of depression. But how can you avoid negative thinking?
Change Your Outlook
We can be our own biggest bullies sometimes. Reframing your thought process can be very difficult if it’s what you’re used to. But taking small steps every day will result in big changes in the future.
For example, if you fail an important exam, your reflex might be to beat yourself up. “I suck at this” or “I can’t do anything right”. Try to change this thinking into something more constructive and encouraging.
Instead, tell yourself, “I made a mistake, I can try harder next time” or “It’s natural to fail sometimes, I can learn from this”. Motivating and challenging yourself can create positive changes!
Supplement With Positive Thinking
If you can’t stop negative thoughts from sneaking in, try to fight them with positive ones. Self-love is hard for everyone, but again, small steps lead to big returns!
If you catch yourself with negative thoughts, try to think of one good thing about yourself. Do it every time until it becomes a habit. It might feel silly and strange to think “I love my nose and the shape of my ears” but these kind thoughts truly help!
Actively Fight The Bad
The best way to fight negative thoughts is to make it a competition. By proving your hopeless thoughts wrong, you can get them out of your head much faster.
Catch yourself thinking “I can’t do this”? Stop and try to learn how to do it. The idea of studying something you think is impossible can increase your motivation.
If you love cooking but can’t even scramble eggs, watch YouTube videos and read tutorials. Practice until you can make perfect scrambled eggs with your eyes closed.
Stick To The Truth
Remember that your negative thoughts are exactly that. Thoughts. They’re not facts, and they’re not real.
Are you suddenly feeling bummed because you think you don’t have any talents or skills? Make a visual reminder of all your positive qualities. Write down everything you’re good at, or even somewhat okay at.
Making visual reminders of the truth can get you away from the negative images your brain creates.
Some of the most common answers for avoiding depression involve medicine and psychotherapy. But, relying on these two solutions is often not enough.
Holistic approaches like spending time in nature and with animals can help. Another popular approach is TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Studies have found that 50 to 60% of people benefited from TMS when medication failed.
Is TMS right for you? If you’re interested in trying TMS for depression, schedule a free consultation today. We can help you figure out if this method will be helpful for you.
Remember, you can avoid depression traps by taking small steps every day. Try out these tips and tricks to get yourself on the road to happiness!
- Davis L, Uezato A, Newell JM, Frazier E. Major depression and comorbid substance use disorders. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;21(1):14-8. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3282f32408. PMID: 18281835.
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- Jabr, F. (2013, February 07). Researchers Take a Closer Look at the Most Common and Powerful Triggers of Depression. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/triggers-of-depression/
- Mental Health America. (n.d.). Getting Out Of Thinking Traps. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://mhanational.org/getting-out-thinking-traps
- Soong, J. (2021, July 08). Depression Traps: Social Withdrawal, Rumination, and More (B. Nazario MD, Ed.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/depression-traps-and-pitfalls
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