When we’re depressed, many of the habits we develop come down to survival. We might need to spend all day in bed if we want to even consider going to work the next day. We might need to skip that party we promised we’d go to, because we need a night to focus on ourselves.
But what happens when spending one day in bed becomes three? When months after one skipped party, you realized you’ve completely isolated yourself from family and friends. Sure, maybe you needed it in the moment, but when these depressive traits become bad habits, that’s when depression can leave us feeling stuck — and that’s where the work comes in.
To find out what “bad habits” people develop when they live with depression — and how they combat them — we turned to our Mighty mental health community. If you can relate, it’s important to remember that having a bad habit doesn’t make you a bad person. On your journey with depression, you might just find better ways to cope. In the meantime, wherever you are, you aren’t alone.
Here are some “bad habits” our community shared with us:
1. Eating Food That Doesn’t Make You Feel Good
“On days when I’m actually hungry, I always opt for fast food because it’s quicker, and I have no desire to do the dishes or cook for myself, even though I have plenty of food that ends up going bad.” — Kelsey J.
“A bad habit I have is emotionally eating. I’ve struggled with it since I was small. Whenever I’m sad, depressed, stressed, I eat to feel better. Since depression never hops off my back, emotional eating never goes away. Now, I always tell myself, food is fuel, not for feelings.” — Braelyn S.
“My eating habits go down the drain. I either eat junk food because it’s easy or I barely eat anything at all because I’m not hungry/too exhausted to make anything.” — Ashley O.
“On my roughest days, I stress eat all day long with anything I can get my hands on. Unless I get truly busy with something, there are not many times you can find me far away from some type of food or snack.” — Ashlyn B.
2. Isolating Yourself
“Hibernating and retreating, pushing everyone away until I’m completely on my own… Then it makes me feel even worse because I’m alone. Oh the irony!” — Kate G.
“I isolate myself and ignore the people who care about me. I can’t help it because some days I don’t have the energy to answer simple questions such as, ‘What’s wrong?’” — Serity M.
“Isolating if by far the worst. I isolate and then because I have BPD, I often get mad at others and act like they’re ignoring me or don’t want to be around me. Vicious cycle.” — Tasha O.
“I isolate myself. I avoid as much human contact as I can, including the people I love. I ignore texts and phone calls, I’ll walk right past someone in a hallway and act like I didn’t see them. The best way I’ve learned to deal with it is to basically force myself to deal with people, force myself to talk to someone, force myself to go to that meeting or class or party. Slowly, of course, but eventually leading up to a time when I no longer avoid people.” — Linzee G.
“Isolation is a hard one for me when depression hits hard on certain days. I avoid everyone and everything as much as I can. On days like those, I force myself to be around my daughters, [who] are 7 and 14, because sooner or later they’ll make me laugh. Laughter feels amazing, and then the love brews in my belly and chest just long enough to give me a breather from my brain, even if it’s just for a second.” — Lora G.
3. Neglecting Personal Hygiene
“I won’t get dressed. I’ll sit around for three to four days in the same clothes (usually pajamas) if I let myself get too bad. The only way I’ve been able to combat that is by trying to find a cute outfit or find something that makes me look good. Look good, feel good.” — Antasia H.
“Not brushing my hair. I have extremely thick hair and especially on the bad days, it just takes so long to brush out all of the tangles and by the time I get done, I’m so exhausted. If I’m having a hard time, I will just throw it in a bun for days and not do anything to it. This usually lead to huge rats nests forming at the back of my head and they are a pain to get out.” — Madison F.
4. Getting Stuck in Negative Thoughts
“Thinking negatively. Letting myself wallow in self-pity although I know things will get better. I combat those issues by making myself get up and do something — no matter how bad my depression wants me to stay in bed.” — Vannah A.
“Feeling an overwhelming sense of doom and gloom, not being able to talk to anyone about it, because if I start to tell others or talk, I develop a huge need to keep talking and it will become too much for any person to support, so I just have to keep it to myself. And that leads to more loneliness.” — Jake M.
“One of my bad habits is submitting to it. I try to think positively, but it rarely works and it sure does like to kick me in the head.” — Rosie B.
“I get ‘stuck.’ I’ll drive to the store or start driving to a friend’s house and end up sitting in a parking lot for hours, not being able to move, crying or just staring out the windshield. I’ve missed a lot of important moments this way.” — Brittany Y.
5. Snapping at Loved Ones
“Snapping at those I love, so I avoid everyone until I’m sorted. When I’m low, I feel like I don’t deserve help or comfort, so I refuse to accept it. When I feel my mood going down, I seclude myself for a few days away from everyone while feeling a like a burden, basically a shell of my former self. When I hit the gates of hell, I fight on through with will and hope, always remembering tomorrow is a new day.” — Fhil O.
“Snapping at the people I love who are only trying to help me feel better. When I’m low, I feel like I don’t deserve help or comfort, so I refuse to accept it.” — Andrea W.
“My bad habit is lashing out at people. Since I know I can get angry and mean when I am depressed, I try to isolate myself so I can’t get people. Doesn’t always work.” — Monica L.
“Pushing away people trying to comfort me! Why do I feel angry at them? They are genuinely concerned for me. I take a shower and ask them if we can hang out or make dinner together.” — Lucia C.
“Pushing my negativity onto others. Stop, identify the mood, what started it, what the effect is on me and combat the distortion. If I snap at someone, I literally say “I’m sorry. I didn’t filter myself. Let me rephrase that.” And then respond appropriately.” — Lucia C.
6. Sleeping Too Much
“I take naps in an attempt to avoid all the other things I have to do, but then I don’t sleep at night. So instead, I try and make lists of things from waking up, eating, brushing teeth and so on, so I can see what I have to do in what time frame.” — Peyton M.
“I tend to isolate myself and just sleep. When I’m having a bad day, I can’t even leave my bed to eat. I just lie there hoping that with enough sleep all my problems will disappear.” — Karla A.
“I find myself sleeping a lot. And ignoring everything around me. Isolating myself in my bed to try to sleep and hinder the emotion. I try to battle this by getting up and at least getting dressed for the day and doing one thing on my to-do list. Doing one thing gives me the confidence to keep moving forward.” — Abigail Y.
“Literally wanting to sleep all day long and not take care of myself and do the things I need to do. I’ve been struggling with that lately and just yesterday, I had to just force myself to get up and shower. I had to just do it. Otherwise I would have laid there all day.” — Christa O.
7. Letting Go of Cleaning
“Letting all of my chores slide. The laundry mounts up, the sink gets full, the floors dirty. I don’t want to cook meals, so food spoils. I don’t take care of myself either. As bad as it sounds, I go days without showering or brushing my teeth. I barely even brush my hair to put it up every day. It’s embarrassing to have people come into my home, especially because some of them are quick to judge and be very vocal about it. It’s embarrassing to go into public when I haven’t taken care of myself because I know people are silently judging me then, too. But at the end of the day, I just don’t have enough in me to care about any of it.” — Brittany O.
“I get messy when it gets worse. And the mess makes my anxiety worse! I try my hardest to force myself to keep my surroundings clean, because I know it will help overall with my mood, because it means I try to fight even when I don’t want to.” — Shiree S.
8. Not Eating or Drinking Enough
“I stop eating, stop feeling hungry and even after days, the sight of food makes me feel sick. Times like that I try and stomach a packet of ready salted crisps, they don’t taste of much and don’t make you feel too full or sick. It’s not much, but on days like that, it’s the little wins, isn’t it?” — Sophie L.
“Not eating or drinking. I’ve had to go to the hospital and get fluids because I let it get too bad in the past. When I’m struggling, I also don’t wear makeup or brush my hair.” — Stephanie C.
“If I’m hungry, I’ll go and look at food. I won’t eat it because it gives me control. It’s a very weird tick, but when your really down, you feel out of control.” — Cameron M.
9. Spending Too Much Time on Social Media
“Constantly refreshing my Facebook/Twitter feeds without looking up from my phone for hours on end. It’s a distraction method I know doesn’t work, but it’s at the point where it’s practically compulsive. To combat it, I throw my phone onto the other sofa where I’d have to get up to use it. Depression bricks keep me pinned where I am so I break the refresh cycle.” — Jess W.
“Going on social media and reading hateful comments on everything, I try to keep busy and off my phone because it makes me worse.” — Shannon C.
10. Watching Too Much Mind-Numbing TV
“Spending hours staring at the TV (not even watching) when I have a million things I need to get done.” — Anita M.
“Watching the same TV show over and over… Not wanting to turn the channel.. I don’t know why this is, but when I feel low, it’s always a factor.” — Brooke H.