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6 Things That Can Worsen Depression

There are many articles about things you can do to improve your depression. But what about staying away from those things that can make it worse?

“There are many things a person who lives with depression needs to be mindful of for better well-being,” according to Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the valuable book Living with Depression.

Below, she shared six triggers that can exacerbate depression — and what you can do to minimize or cope with them.

36 Comments to
6 Things That Can Worsen Depression

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  1. Dear Margarita,
    Thanks for this interesting article. It is really hard for people, especially those who don’t respond well to medication, to cope with depression. Stress reduction is always a good idea–I like the suggestion to write down your worries to get them out of your mind and body.
    As for avoiding toxic people-yes, absolutely, but also learning how not to isolate. It’s not always that easy to find the good people to hang out with especially if you have social anxiety. That’s where therapy groups and treatment programs can be very helpful.
    Thanks again for writing about depression from such a thoughtful and interesting perspective.
    Best wishes, Phyllis Klein

    • Depression is anger turned inward. When we feel that we don’t have the right to empower ourselves against that which causes stress, disappointment, and other external sources, we often take it out on ourselves.If we can learn that what other people think doesn’t really matter in the over all picture, and when we can learn to let go of our own inner ego, and begin to appreciate the natural wonders of the world around us, depression will slip away on the warm breeze of a beautiful day.I used to suffer a great deal of depression and lack of self worth because of the way I was treated as a child. There is no external source that is healthy that will allow you to find a release from depression…learning to “let go” of what is causing the symptoms, and realize that you are unique…there is no one else like you, and no one has the right to encroach on your mind and make you feel miserable will help you come to grips with the ‘defeatest’ attitude that seems to be at the root of depression.

      • Sorry but my experience with depression is “different” than yours. There is no simple cure or approach for help. If releasing “anger turned inward” and “letting go” were the answer I’d wouldn’t be writing this.

      • Glad you feel better, my experience was similiar. The way kids are trained to view themselves can lead to depression, along with poor methods of punishment (spanking). This also ties in the the toxic people point up there. My parents did a horrible job allowing me to be myself or feel comfortable in my own skin. I know the healthiest thing for me is to not speak to them, but every once in awhile, I weaken and call them up. There is always an emotional hangover coming around the corner.

      • Menmac

        I find it extremely frustrating to read posts like yours. Yes, a depressed mood can be attributed to anger, bad childhood experiences etc.. However, CLINICAL depression is chemical, environmental and experiential. That is why many people with depression are successfully treated with medication. Many people find that they can cope with all the other stuff in their lives when medication brings them back to “normal.” Starting medication changed my life dramatically. I am also in therapy because I think that helps me.

        The attitude your espousing is uneducated with regard to depression.

      • Actually, I appreciated what you said. I suffer from chronic pain from arthritis. I can cope with that. But, unfortunately, I married someone who feels that he can say whatever negative things he wants, when I address it, he tells me that I am in control of my own thoughts and that I just shouldn’t let his attitude affect me. I have been trying to “cope” with this for 20 years. When my health improves, his attitude worsens. But, apparently, I just shouldn’t let his actions affect me. I hate this. But, your comment helped alot.

      • I was responding to Menmac. I am trying to find the courage to change my living situation because I have only been this depressed when involved with this toxic person. Naturally, I didn’t realize what I was getting into. And when I feel strong and start to leave, he looks helpless and I feel sympathy for him. Hint: don’t get sucked in to sympathy for someone who is not capable of empathy or concern for another. I didn’t believe people could really be like this, til I married one. when I’m not doing well, I have too much physical pain to face the task of leaving.

  2. smoke some weed. depressed becomes happy, anxiety becomes carefree and you will want to do something fun which in turn will make you more happy and have less anxiety. weed+laughter= best medicine

    • not helpful. weed might be YOUR preferred antidepressant but depression is a complex beast. years ago when I was a teenager and first started struggling with depression, weed was what I turned to. took a few years but finally realized it was doing the exact opposite of what I wanted/needed it to be doing. and the thc content of the weed I smoked was probably a fraction of what it is now.

  3. and im not some high teenager i have struggled with depression since a kid and will never take anything a doctor gives me to make me happy EVER AGAIN. swed -its the simplest easiest cure with the least negative side effects

    • Marijuana can worsen depression when you spend all your money on an addiction and have no money left over for food. My friend is struggling with an addiction she can’t afford. Be careful!

    • Pot has been around since Jesus’s time and I bet anything he smoked it too! Maybe it was a pot leaf of her Adam and Eve and not a fig leaf.
      I was on Xanax and anti depressants, have been hospitalized for suicide attempts (one time on life support for 4 days) for over dosing on the heart meds, Xanax and booze. I was addicted and wanted to die from all the pain i have been in. I found pot and got off all the meds and now I have more of a life. Pot is a miracle plant IMHO. The problem with it is I have to use it about every 2 or 3 hours to elevate the pain.
      The feds need to get with the program on this one. It is silly to stop people from using it. It is safer then any pharmaceutical around. I think they see that they cannot make any money on it so they keep it illegal.

  4. Having lived many years with depression in my household – my husband deals with chronic depression, ADHD, and panic/anxiety disorder – I appreciate these thoughts on handling issues that can trigger depression. I would add that it’s very important for each individual, as well as his or her loved ones, to be aware of triggers that specifically apply to them. Depression presents uniquely in each person. For example, in my household we have to very carefully plan certain stressful chores such as bill paying or paperwork for days when it’s sunny (dark days lead to dark moods around here) and we try to follow such tasks with pleeasant, positive acitivities. Though my husband realizes these activities create problems for him, he needs me to remind him, help him plan, and get him over the gloom that can result. For both our sakes (I don’t want to live with his depression any more than he does) it’s worth any effort I might make.

    • Dear A.Viets,
      Your husband is really blessed that you love and support him so much. I suffer from depression and it means so much to me when my husband helps me. So many spouses don’t understand, let alone help their loved one avoid triggers. Just wanted to encourage you to keep it up!

  5. i know that ‘why?’ isnt as important as ‘what to do’ but i read that the malfunction of the thymus before it atrophies around the start of pubescence (i guess i’m talking males here) affects the sense of wellbeing, OKness etc often attributed to a lack of ‘bonding’ with appropriate mother-figure at babyhood. hence the name ‘dysthymia’. i’m not a pie-in-the-skyist. it just made so much sense when i read it but i can’t find any other scientific basis to verify this. i think a professional should comment

  6. Just be content of what you have and accept that each one of us is unique and can never be the same, then you don’t have to worry what other people think about each other and you don’t have to live with their expectations. The problem comes when you expect to become somebody when you are not. Frustration then depression come because of unfulfilled dreams and expectations. Just relax and learn to accept in season or out of season.

    Personally, when I set aside my unfulfilled dreams and frustrations, I began to learn not to worry so much about them.

  7. The worst thing that can be done is avoiding the issue and not trying to help yourself. Depression affects different people in different ways, so there isn’t one set solution even so much as a cure. But the best way to improve is to at least acknowledge that there is a problem.

  8. It’s very hard to help yourself trying to avoid toxic people and the stress they cause, when that person is your spouse. It’s very debilitating & exhausting trying to ‘deal’ with this person. So the only thing I do is shutdown & ‘hide’.

    • I totally agree!! My husband is my major depression-trigger, with his controlling, restrictive, secretive, non-empathetic ways :(.

    • I know what you mean it’s hard to be the spouse that’s not to say it isn’t hard for him BUT it hurts when ALL the see is their own issues and NOT have compassion for your own. I lived with a depressed mom and it was exhausting now I feel like I’m having to be in the moment even more for our kids who also are affected. He manages to put on a Happy Front for everyone else BUT me. He’s not at a place to hear what he can do to Help himself. He’s drinking and possibly smoking weed which I’ve heard makes you crave Sugar which he eats too much of.
      I love BUT I’m hanging by a thread

  9. I spiralled into a depression and my partner did not understand and could not support me. I could not even tell him about my trigger date as I new he would not understand and tell me not to think about past trauma. I felt invalidated with his dismissive attitude to depression and I left the relationship behind me. My depression is there for a reason, it takes me to a place that helps me look at issues in my life that i am not addressing. Then i deal with it and feel better again.

    • I’ve had depression ever since I was a teenage. I’ve been married now for 11 years, I’ve had my fourth child, who is 2 now but I haven’t been able to shake this depression I normally get after having a baby.
      The most toxic person in my life is my husband. He is Mr negative, he’s unsupportive and doesn’t believe a person can have depression. When I have good days, afew words from him (even untentionally) and put me straight back into to sadness.
      My husband went on holiday for afew weeks to see some relatives. I was much happier without him, because I was happier I was spending more time doing activities and talking to my kids and in return the household had a more positive energy.
      When my husband returned, my depression returned also. We need someone or is supportive and understanding and someone that you know will be there for you. More importantly someone that you can talk to, that would I think stop you feeling lonely.

      Sorry got abit long winded, I was reading the section on divorce before I read the bit about depression.
      It’s a shame that after 11 years of marriage and 4 kids, a divorce seems the only way to live a happier life (so unsure about what to do).

      • isha i read abt ur problems so every gal after marriage they suffering more problems.. u have cum out n slove ur problems special ur husband is negative guy once u cn go near the sycharits hospital den cn give treatment to ur husband n become a gud life

      • oh wow that is so very similar to me!! It’s coming up to my 22nd wedding anniversary and I have had so many problems over these yrs with my husband :(. When my depression was quite bad a few yrs ago, he decided that he “just wanted to be left alone” and that we were done – separated from me & our 3 kids and just lived a selfish & irresponsible life, for the worst & hardest year of my & kids’ life – whatever happened to the ideal of someone who loves & stands by you, teamwork, marriage vows, etc etc – and then I took the jerk back when HE decided he was ready – then 2yrs later had enough of life with him and how he treats me with controlling the money & the family contact & the general atmosphere so I left him – but had major anxiety & suffering cos of the kids & went back to him – now things are horrible for me because I still see that it’s so far below what I would want & expect from marriage partnership, he is the rule-maker and is a harsh man & is so different to me in being a taker not a giver. I am stuck, and I’m constantly reminded of depressing things, and there seems no answer.

  10. i friends dont worries abt problems just close ur eyes and ask 2 ur heart den can give solution.. we only create the problem why you have to slove it be koool always live happy and think it positive

  11. Does anybody else feel like avoiding toxic people is just about impossible? I mean, what percentage of people out there are truly not unpleasant to be around? and forget about the people in my personal life. I have cut out toxic people in the past and I can’t say I’m happier for it. I’m very lonely…is that supposed ti make me happy? after I left my husband I moved in with my parents but they made me even more unhappy. I tried scraping by on my own but it that was horrible too. I tried meeting new friends, reconnecting with old ones but they weren’t interested in the close kind of friendship I was looking for because they had their families. And at my job (after being laid off and still make about 20% what I used to) – it’s non stop angry clients abusing my co-workers and I every day and if I defend myself, I can count on mot having a job for long. Now I’m back with my ex who is gone most of the year and I feel like it’s the best I can do. Please spare me the judgement, I am a full grown educated adult. I just think this is as good as it can get. Seriously, avoid toxic people? Isn’t that what I’m doing on my days off when I can’t get out of bed but to eat a whole packet of whole grain tortilla wraps?

    • Joy–yes. I agree. I wrote that I don;t like the label of toxic people but I also wrote that if we cut people out b/c we can’t “deal” with them, we lose people as well. I lost friends when I told them I was depressed. It was just impossible for them to see me that way. They can’t handle seeing me vulnerable and in need. Are they toxic? no. And frankly, I wish I never said anything.

      My favorite name is joy

    • I feel exactly the same..that’s all I can say right now..
      Because I’m battling a severe depression at the moment
      PS: I also eat entire whole grain tortilla wrap packages!

    • Really feeling for you Joy! I wish I had the answers to this, or some assurance/advice on how to make it better!

  12. I have a couple of things to add. I hope my comments are not redundant–I can’t read all of these posts!!

    1. Physical pain exacerbates depression. When I was in pain and depressed, those around me really noticed. I could not hide it. When my pain was treated, I became a different person. I was still depressed but my body no longer felt weighed down. I lost weight because I was able to exercise. I felt happier because the exercise created endorphines. It’s been years and my physical pain is back in many may ways. It has made me more depressed than ever. I can’t do anything and that repels people–even more that one’s mood. I can’t yet find a solution. I am aggravated by all the “advice” I get about pain relief. If it’s out there, I have tried it or I am unable to try it. Geez, can;t anyone just say “hey that must suck, I am very sorry you feel that way.”??

    2. I don;t like the use of the word “toxic people.” I think it is a buzz word and people use it to describe anything that they don’t like about a person. Let’s face it: we are depressed. Depression is not fun, attractive or interesting. If people respond negatively, it’s likely they are under educated about depression or they are depressed them selves. For me, I have always been ashamed of my depression. It took me from competent, attractive and exciting to indigent, ugly and incompetent. I can not expect people to want that around them

    • Saint Theresa. I too have depression and have to fight it all the time with exercise and surrounding myself with things I like to do and joining a group. It’s true it sucks. Depression and physical pain suck . But don’t call yourself indigent, ugly and incompetent. You are being way too hard on yourself. Just because someone has physical and emotional pain doesn’t mean their worthless. I say fight it with what makes you feel better. Don’t give up. I’m sure you have a lot to give to people and dwell on those good things. I wish you the best. And I’ll say a prayer for you now because I know where your coming from.

  13. I’d add “sedentary lifestyle” to the list: people who exercise more are less vulnerable.

    Kudos to you for including #5. I’d like to see the mental-health advocates learn from the no-smoking crowd and launch a campaign against the ubiquitous presence in public places of TVs broadcasting news channels!

  14. I’ve been depressed since I was 5. No one wanted me, no one cared (except my mother), and I was the last one anyone would pick to play with. I’ve taken every number of pills, therapy, and psychological methodology, and the depression is always the same. I’ve wanted to kill myself forever but things and plans never seem to work out- guns wont fire, poison not poisonous enough, falls from height not lethal…. maybe not enough starvation out in the desert. People care for me a lot, but I don’t care for myself at all. Inside I am crying. I pray a lot but no one answers. I’m sorry that I was ever born. My wife tries a lot to help me past the ‘
    trenches’ but I am in a bad way that no one could ever help. Some people are lucky enough to pull an escape from the deepest parts of depression, but I am not one of them. Somehow its a curse that can never be abated

  15. whats do you do when not even god steps in to help

  16. 1. Toxic boss
    2. Complete lack of control over workload; high responsibility and accountability with none of the corresponding salary
    3. Being the main breadwinner and watching your household gradually slip down due to 2. above
    4. An unexpected violent scene in a film
    5. This culture: self-interested, relentlessly consumerist, cold, terrified of original thought in people who aren’t at the top (but accepting initiative in the top dogs); determined to serve company leaders and the moneyed classes without so much as a word of dissent, for terror that we ‘will lose our job’; all the lack of togetherness that this entails.

    I battle with the knowledge that being ‘good’, ‘moral’ or ‘hard working’ means nothing; you have to be ingenious at ‘managing people’ and this is what everything comes down to these days.

  17. I really need advice and support. One week ago my husband decided to get rid of me for no reason. Says he has to worry about himself. He refuses to talk to me. Doesn’t come home and wont answer his phone or text’s to me. I think he’s narcissist when I try to figure what’s wrong. I didn’t do anything to him for him to treat me this way. I can’t sleep, eat, and sometimes even breath from the pain i’m feeling.

  18. Thank you!

    Some of them seem obvious or have been posted before, but even for those it is always good to be reminded.

    I have a trigger that kinda falls into two of these categories.
    My mother, an awesome lady who does a lot of helping others, also has a bit of a habit of going on and on about other things that are sad and how we should be thinking of them. Instead of sitting there and listening and letting myself get very depressed (my usual response), I’ve started doing things… silly things such as a bit of passive agressiveness “YES, Mum! -OK-, Mum!! *sigh!*” and occasionally something better like, “Mum, please, this stuff really gets to me, can we focus on something positive?”

    the latter one works. the former, makes her more determined to expound on the very depressing topics.

    Note. I don’t want to NOT think about these topics. they deserve recognition and thinking about. Ordinarily, I care about them, too, but if I have managed to get myself in a good mood… I don’t want it destroyed just because someone felt like ranting at me about how terrible the world is.

  19. Ive had clinical depression and in the last few years aniety and anger too. I’ve had major episodes when I want to be out of my misery so I drink and black out. Also have had 2 suicide attempts. My husband is generally negative but is my only support. Both of my girls resent my depression and fits of anger I have when I drink. Right now neither are speaking to me. Soo it’s hard to not have TOXIC relatives in your life!



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