What are unhealthy coping strategies for depression?
People experiencing depression may engage in negative coping strategies -- including excessive alcohol consumption and drug use -- to drum up the emotions that have gone missing from their lives.
Lethargy, low self-esteem, and problems concentrating or making decisions create an environment in which negative coping strategies can seem easier to pursue than positive ones.
Some people describe depression as emotional numbness. They struggle to feel happiness, hope, courage, pride, or any number of emotions that make life enjoyable. To handle this lack of emotions, some individuals engage in risky behavior.
Suicidal thoughts -- another effect of depression -- also tend to take away an individual's normal inhibitions regarding risky behavior. Both suicidal thoughts and risky behavior can quickly put a depressed person in harm's way.
Examples of risky behaviors include:
Unprotected sex with multiple partners
Criminal activity such as theft, vandalism, and trespassing
Uncharacteristic thrill-seeking activities like climbing a roof, tree, or mountain without safety equipment.
Excessive Drug or Alcohol Use
Excessive drug or alcohol use gives the user a high, which seems like a welcome change for someone who has been grappling with depression. Unfortunately, alcohol and many drugs are depressants themselves, which means when the high is over, the "low" can feel even worse than it did before.
Increasing alcohol consumption or using drugs not prescribed as a treatment for depression are ineffective long-term coping mechanisms. Healthier options are available for depression recovery, such as talk therapy.
The symptoms of depression can make it easy to isolate from friends and family. Depression can produce feelings of loneliness and worthlessness, which makes it challenging to pick up the phone to connect with a friend for fear of being bothersome or a burden.
Depression also drains away energy and motivation for socializing. When people are experiencing it, staying in bed alone feels like the only thing they want to do.
It's useful for people to stay busy when they experience depression because it distracts the mind from ruminating on negative thoughts or worries. However, sometimes these activities go too far and turn into addictions as unhealthy as depression itself due to the impact they can have on daily life.
Gambling, playing video games, shopping, watching porn, working, exercising, and even scrolling aimlessly through social media represent common behavioral addictions.
Depression can cause people to both under and overeat, but overeating, in particular, tends to turn into a negative coping strategy. Food consumption leads to a spike in blood sugar, which in turn leads to a boost in serotonin.
However, as is the case with alcohol and drug use, serotonin levels will eventually drop, leading to a "low" feeling. Over time, a cycle develops with highs after eating and then lows, creating an unhealthy coping mechanism.
Risky behavior, excessive drug and alcohol use, social isolation, behavioral addictions, overeating, and other negative coping strategies may bring temporary relief or comfort but will not result in a healthy long-term recovery.