Positive vs. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Depression

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  • 0:01 Depression
  • 0:53 Negative Coping Strategies
  • 2:22 Positive Coping Strategies
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
In this lesson, we'll talk about different approaches to coping with the mental illness depression. We'll cover both healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with the feelings of sadness caused by depression.


We all feel down sometimes. When we do, we might retreat to the couch for a long day watching television, or we might eat a big meal of our favorite comfort food. It's not a problem to use these strategies to deal with feeling sad every now and then. But if we're talking about depression, a mental illness characterized by intense feelings of sadness, then we might need to be more careful about how we cope with this sadness.

Persistent depressive disorder affects about 1.5% of the U.S. adult population, while about 6.7% of the adult population experiences one or more episodes of major depression in a year. In this lesson, we'll talk about some of the coping strategies that can help with depression. But we'll also talk about some of the strategies that might not be so healthy.

Negative Coping Strategies

If you're suffering from depression, there are some ways that aren't very healthy in terms of dealing with it. Many people who are depressed might not recognize depression as an illness at first. As a result, many people try to numb the pain of depression with drugs or alcohol. These substances provide a sense of temporary relief, so it can be tempting to use them to escape depression. But this can be dangerous. Drugs and alcohol can actually worsen symptoms of depression. They can also interfere with prescribed medications for depression, making them ineffective.

Overeating can also be an unhealthy way of dealing with depression. Eating our favorite comfort food every once in a while is no problem, but if you find yourself eating any time you are feeling sad, this could be a problem. Overeating is unhealthy, and being overweight might actually be related to feelings of depression.

Compulsive shopping or spending money on things you can't really afford in an effort to make yourself feel better is another harmful way to deal with depression. Shopping might provide a temporary relief but in the long run it's not sustainable, and it won't actually alleviate your depression.

Self-harm is also a dangerous way to cope with depression. Sometimes, people who are suffering from the emotional pain caused by depression might turn to self-harm practices, like cutting themselves, to try and ease depression.

So now that we've talked about some of the more negative ways to cope with depression, let's talk about the healthy ways we can deal with it.

Positive Coping Strategies

It's important to recognize that depression is a mental illness and generally requires professional treatment, in addition to more everyday ways of dealing with the disease. In other words, it's important to recognize when self-help methods might not be enough on their own. Therapy is often a very effective way to help symptoms of depression. Talking to a professional can help you deal with the negative thoughts and feelings that are plaguing you. Sometimes, medication is necessary. Antidepressants can be very effective in helping with symptoms of depression.

Lifestyle changes like improving your diet and introducing regular exercise can help as well. You also want to practice keeping a routine, making sure you're getting enough sleep, but not sleeping way too much, as this can be a symptom of depression. Eating well and eating regularly can help regulate mood.

It's important to maintain social connections with friends and family, even when you don't feel like being social. Isolating yourself can make depression worse. It's also important to get a little bit of sunlight every day, which is another reason to avoid isolating yourself.

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