10 Mental Health Fixes That Fail

Mental Health Fixes

When struggling with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety, it’s easy to reach for “coping strategies” that aren’t actually helping us cope at all. In many cases, they are ways to distract, numb, or soothe ourselves that do not offer long-term relief. And, in the worst cases, they are “solutions” that create their own problems—secondary dangers that can include addiction, negative impacts on physical health, and even additional (more serious) mental health effects.

In other words, many of us start out trying to tackle one issue and potentially end up with many more, which only exacerbates feelings of unease. Here are 10 common tactics that remain typical fixes among those struggling with mental health concerns—and why they don’t work.

When struggling with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety, it’s easy to reach for “coping strategies” that aren’t actually helping us cope at all. Click To Tweet


1. Thinking a pill will solve everything.

While many people with mental health issues seek medication as part of treatment, the reality is that many of them will not receive sufficient relief through this intervention. Studies have found that depression, for example, can be treatment-resistant, including one study that reported only one-third of these patients will fully respond to treatment with antidepressant medication. On the other hand, natural treatments—including the proper diet, physical exercise, supplements, neurofeedback, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, meditation, and breathing exercises—can be very effective for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

2. Drinking your problems away.

Alcohol is one of the most culturally accepted drugs in our society, but it’s also the most dangerous, according to one study in which alcohol was deemed worse than heroin or crack cocaine in terms of its negative impacts (to both the individual using it and to others). But in addition to its harmful societal consequences, addictive nature, and detrimental health effects on the brain and entire body, it has a devastating impact on mental health. Causing issues from psychosis to sleep disturbances to hangover-related anxiety, it’s no wonder that studies have shown a strong association between alcohol dependence and depression.

3. Soothing your emotions with sugar.

We know that sugar addiction—a problem that many Americans struggle with—can stress you out, causing side effects like insomnia, panic attacks, aggressive tendencies, and anxiety. (Unfortunately, sugar substitutes, such as aspartame, have also been shown to increase anxiety symptoms.) Many people reach for sugar-laden “comfort foods” when they’re stressed out, while others consume sky-high sugar intakes by following the high-glycemic standard American diet. But these strategies will end up backfiring: Not only does this cycle encourage cravings and addiction, but high-sugar diets have been shown to be associated with adverse effects on mental health.

4. Smoking.

For those Americans who still smoke or vape—including “casual” users—many believe that the act of lighting up eases stress and anxiety. According to the Mental Health Foundation, nicotine hits the brain within about 10 seconds, so it seems to quickly boost mood and reduce anger and stress. However, because nicotine triggers the feel-good brain chemical dopamine, the brain turns off its natural dopamine-making mechanism, thereby depleting those levels among smokers (and making them more likely to reach for another to obtain another “hit”). Like with drugs and sugar, it’s an addictive cycle that soon creates its own problems—actually increasing anxiety and tension due to nicotine withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings.

5. Burying your head in the sand.

Explaining away or downplaying the difficult realities of mental health issues does not offer a long-term solution. Tactics like denial and avoidance occur for a variety of reasons, such as fear of the stigma still attached to mental health issues, or a lack of healthy coping skills. But finding better ways to face these concerns head-on will be more helpful in the long run—like seeing a mental health professional for anxiety or trying out natural solutions for depression. Avoidance, on the other hand, can cause those issues to be repressed, only to emerge in more severe ways, such as through self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or substance use disorders.

6. Buying things to feel better.

With the advent of online shopping, nowadays we don’t even need to leave our homes—or, for that matter, get out of bed—to go on a shopping spree. But the habit often called “retail therapy” is not a helpful coping mechanism. In extreme cases, it can even become a process addiction. Compulsive, impulsive, and/or excessive shopping can land people in severe debt or bankruptcy, negatively impact personal relationships, or simply crowd one’s home with unneeded purchases that ultimately increase feelings of stress and overwhelm. This “quick fix” is anything but.

7. Overeating or undereating.

When life seems out of control, many people seek to combat that sense of unease by overeating or binging on foods, especially unhealthy things like carbs and sweets. Others find their appetite has dwindled, or they avoid or restrict eating as a way of gaining some sense of control. In more advanced cases, these strategies can lead to eating disorders like bulimia OR anorexia (the most deadly mental health disorder). Binging can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that leave us depleted, fatigued, and feeling unwell, while undereating or starving is associated with malnutrition, lack of energy, and decreased cognitive ability. (Even mild dehydration can cause a host of mental health effects, so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids, too.)

8. Promiscuous behavior.

While we know that those who are emotionally dysregulated may reach for crutches like alcohol, food, or smoking, others find different outlets for stress, anxiety, and depression—including sexual activity. But the combination of mental health issues and promiscuity can lead to dangerous behaviors. One study, published in Behavioral Medicine, noted that the female participants with a mental disorder were more sexually active than the males observed, and the characteristics of antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder predicted risky sexual behavior for women in particular—such as sexual assault, or not using protection and being exposed to HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

9. Sleeping too much.

Sometimes, pulling the covers over our heads feels like the best response to a crisis, but oversleeping can function as another avoidant behavior and can have its own negative health effects. The Sleep Foundation reports that, because depression can cause fragmented sleep, it can lead to feeling sleepy or fatigued, and about 15% of those with depression experience hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness). But sticking to the typical sleep recommendation (7 to 9 hours per night) is best for optimal health.

10. Moving to avoid problems.

Some people try to avoid or escape problems by literally fleeing the scene—trying a tactic known as the geographical cure. Moving can seem like a straight path to a fresh start or a new life, but people more often find that they’ve simply carried their problems along with them to a new location. Others stay moving without going anywhere—that is, keeping themselves overly busy with a packed to-do list every day, in an attempt to avoid dealing with mental health issues like anxiety. Again, facing these problems (and their root causes) is the only effective way to start combating their effects.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. As a senior I have thoroughly enjoyed the newsletters and recommendations. But for many on SS alone it is nearly impossible to follow the majority of helpful instructions as we cannot afford the scan, supplements, or therapy. I try to keep active, use motivational material, read my bible daily, and mostly eat better. These alone don't help my anxiety/depression as I have spiraled down since Covid and caring for my elderly father by myself. Bottom line, if you want to participate in selfcare properly you have to have money, sorry to say.

    Comment by Suzy — April 5, 2023 @ 6:14 AM

  2. This article should include the use of marijuana to "fix" mental health problems as well.

    Comment by Ann — April 18, 2023 @ 7:04 AM

  3. Read Happier, you! There are lots of ways that are explained to thrive in the book without the scan. Personalized supplement suggestions for your brain type can cost under 25$ if you begin small. I went from having to learn to re talk and walk to a high functioning brain. I couldn’t afford the scan. I could afford the book and I was determined to improve, despite obstacles. Good Luck in your brain health journey!

    Comment by Tee — April 22, 2023 @ 12:31 AM

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