[Written by Sarah Schuster from The Mighty].
While depression can be in some ways the absence of action, there are still little habits, little routines, a person may pick up on when they re-enter a depressive episode. These habits can be small indicators you’re beginning to feel depressed again. They can even be positive things — habits developed to help you survive. And because depression affects everyone2 differently, these little habits are different for everyone, too.
To find out what habits people developed when they were experiencing depression, we asked our mental health community to share one thing they do when they’re depressed.
Here’s what they told us:
1. “I turn into a hermit. I just want to stay in my home and not go anywhere or see anyone. It’s my safe haven, and I just don’t want to leave it.”2 — Deanne R.
2. “Avoid everything. I ignore my phone, skip appointments or plans, don’t leave my house, stop paying bills, try to avoid talking to anyone. I’ve totally screwed up my life this way –failed classes in college because I couldn’t leave my room.
3. “I pretend I’m tired and napping or sleeping so I can avoid people, but really I stay up all night with the thoughts in my head (or if I do sleep, I have nightmares). I barely eat but only eat empty calories and drink a lot more. I try to distract myself with empty crap like TV shows, social media or games just to avoid having to think about anything real.” — Sarah S.
4. “I wouldn’t say there are any habits involved other than obsessively trying to figure out why I’m in such agony, how long it will last and what the hell I’m going to do with myself to keep sane in the meantime while having no energy.”1— Jennifer S.
5. “I not only isolate myself, but I let the voice in my head run rampant that tries to tell me I am not loved, life has no meaning and there are no reasons to try. I have dubbed this voice ‘The Glorp’ and try to personify it. I tell it to shut up every once and awhile.” — Sarah C.
6. “I just sit on one end of the sofa and watch TV. Favourite shows or series or random stuff. I can’t even get myself up to eat, shower or go to sleep. I can spend countless hours on that sofa, desperately trying to get some sort of strength from stories about other people’s lives, imaginary or not.” — Laura G.
7. “I sleep too much. And I drop every hobby I enjoy. I go home and lay on the sofa until someone feeds me. Then I lie there until I can drag myself to bed.”4— Alexandra K.
8. “I write poetry and little story books for kids… I base stories off the happy times so the depression doesn’t take over.” — Amanda T.
9. “It’s less of what I do and more of what I don’t do. Usually, I fight extreme insomnia, I work, I workout, I play with my dogs. When a severe major depressive episode creeps over me, I can’t do any of those things. I go from not sleeping to sleeping all the time. I shower maybe once a week. I avoid my friends, family, spouse, work, and anything that requires more effort than pulling the comforter back up over my shoulders. When I am awake I’m on Facebook or staring at the wall until I’m asleep again. I’m barely eating, barely talking to anyone and barely holding on.” — Melina A.
10. “I stay up all night to watch series or pull hair. I have trichotillomania. I can’t sleep until I’m exhausted. I eat less and feel tired all day, ‘forget’ to take a shower, pull more hair. If I absolutely have to go out I hide under a cap and hood.” — Elenor H.
11. “At its worst, I will sit in the shower for hours, numb, in the dark, even after the water has gone ice cold. When I finally do manage to get out, it’s sweating and being wrapped up in a big comforter, usually staring into space until I come around. Sometimes I can do this several times a day/night.” — Leslie G.
12. “Food tastes like cardboard. I start to eat less. Sometimes I would rather let my stomach growl for hours than get up and make something. Sometimes I drink a lot of liquids to stave off the hunger because I can’t bring myself to make something. Sometimes I use sleep the same way.” — Christal S.
13. “I have multiple chronic illnesses, so I see many different doctors. When I’m going through a depression, I tend to cancel all my appointments. I just don’t have the energy, nor do I care about my health when depressed.” — Meg G.
14. “I will completely isolate myself from everyone and everything. I also pick at myself until I’ve either left marks and scars. It’s a habit I struggle to control.” — Michelle S.
15. “I run. I’ve been a runner for years now, and how I run really reflects my mental state. Some days just getting up and doing a mile or two is enough for me to feel like I accomplished something…. staying active and releasing those endorphins really helps when I know I’m in a depressive cycle (bipolar).” — Steven W.
16. “I hide. I pull away from my friends and family, stop answering texts and phone calls. I don’t go out and do fun things with them. I do school, work and home, talking as little as possible but still smiling for everyone else. If anyone asks, I’m always just tired. I don’t specify why I’m tired or what I’m tired of. ” — Paige L.
17. “I procrastinate beyond logic. From doing chores, brushing teeth, bathing or even changing my clothes… I procrastinate everything that is on hand, no matter how dire the need… I just lie down and toy around with this phone.” — Shivani A.
18. “My taste in music changes when I’m having a significant struggle with depression. As a teenager, my mum could always tell how I felt by the music I was listening to. Turns out, music is also a powerful tool in helping me out of the pit of depression as well.” — Desiree N.
19. “I have days when I can’t ‘people.’ I can still get around just as long as I don’t have to interact with humans. I can put my headphones on and still appear to be functioning when I’m actually not, just as long as I don’t have to speak to anyone or make eye contact.” — Gillian W.
20. “I get into the habit of taking long multiple showers every day, up to three when I’m bad. The sound of the water is relaxing and helps me chill and find balance. The sound also gives me something relaxing to concentrate on.” — Leanne M.
21. “I clean everything. It’s a distraction and when I have something to focus on, I’m less likely to be caught up in my negative thoughts.” — Rachel M.
22. “I buy food and stop cooking at home because I don’t have enough energy. But, it makes my mood worse because my brain criticises my excessive spending and eating of unhealthy foods.” — Joy L.
23. “I tend to push people away. But I do it so hatefully that half the time people believe I am angry at them instead of depressed. It makes it very hard to have my spouses/friends/family help me when all I do is ask to be left alone.” — Miranda E.4
24. “Eating nothing but cereal. I don’t have the energy to make anything else. And when I do eat something with actual substance, I binge on it.” — Jamie H.
25. “Sugar, sugar, sugar…” — Noel R.
26. “I’m rather snuggly. I’m very grounded by contact. I’ll randomly hug friends or family members, or snuggle with my rabbit, and if there’s a baby around I’ll hold it for as long as I can. There’s just something about the warmth of another living thing nearby that is calming and peaceful.” – Mikayla A.