11 Things NOT To Do If You Have Depression



Feeling blue? You’re not alone. The latest 2022 statistics show that 24% of adults reported having symptoms of depression in September, and 15% of youths (age 12-17) reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in the past year. That’s roughly 80 million adults and 50 million youths. How sad is that?

Chances are pretty good that you or someone you know is struggling with depression right now.

While there may be an occasional time and place to stay in bed and rest as an act of self-care, it can also take depression from gray to black. Click To Tweet

And since the last thing a depressed person needs is an overwhelming list of tasks to do, here’s a list of things not to do, based on research.

11 Depression Don’ts

1. DON’T stay in bed.

While there may be an occasional time and place to stay in bed and rest as an act of self-care, it can also take depression from gray to black. Staying in bed provides the perfect opportunity to ruminate on negative thoughts, which is associated with greater depression, according to research. If you can get out of bed and get active, it distracts your brain and helps you to feel better. Engaging in healthy distractions can decrease depression and anxiety. Sit up, call a friend, make a cup of tea, or take your dog for a walk. Find actions that will help you get out of bed and out of your head!

2. DON’T self-medicate with alcohol or marijuana.

If you are feeling the pain of depression or anxiety, you may be tempted to reach for alcohol or marijuana to make yourself feel better. Don’t. These substances may provide temporary relief, but ultimately alcohol and marijuana use depress brain function and make you feel worse.

Brain SPECT imaging at Amen Clinics shows reduced cerebral blood flow in both marijuana and alcohol users. It’s not surprising that a 2019 review found that cannabis use during adolescence increases the likelihood of depression and suicidal ideation or attempts in young adulthood. It has also been associated with increased anxiety. Heavy alcohol use is associated with the development or worsening of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, according to the CDC. Take healthy mood-boosting actions instead.

3. DON’T just take any antidepressants.

Depression is nuanced to each individual; it’s not simple like a cold. Using brain SPECT imaging Amen Clinics has identified 7 types of depression. Each type requires a different treatment plan. SSRIs (such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro) work well for certain types of depression, yet they do not work for all 7 types of depression and can even exacerbate symptoms for several subtypes of the condition. And with mild cases of depression, antidepressants are typically not that effective, according to research.

Depression can also be a symptom of biological issues (such as head injuries, heart disease, and low blood flow, inflammation, obesity, chronic insomnia, etc.). In these cases, antidepressants would not solve the issue. As a general rule, medication should never be the first or only thing you do to treat depression.

4. DON’T believe every negative thought you have.

Our thoughts lie to us, a lot—especially when we are experiencing low mood. A 2020 study in BMC Psychiatry indicates that in countries around the world, automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are a hallmark feature of depression. Instead of believing your troubling thoughts, learn to question their accuracy, and correct or reframe them. Write down persistent ANTs and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you be 100% certain it is true?
  3. How do you feel when you believe that thought?
  4. How would you feel without the thought?

Kill the ANTs, don’t believe them!

5. DON’T isolate or spend too much time alone.

While some alone time or solitude is good and necessary for well-being, too much loneliness, and isolation are highly associated with depression, according to findings in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. That’s because humans are social beings. Satisfying social relationships are the antidote to low mood.

This truth became abundantly clear at the height of social distancing during the COVID pandemic. A Norwegian study with more than 10,000 participants found a very high correlation with loneliness or isolation and depressed mood, low energy, and feelings of worthlessness.

6. DON’T compare yourself to others on social media.

Social media use has a detrimental effect on mood, and a 2019 study in the Journal of Affective Disorders shows that the highest increases in depression occur as a result of upward social comparisons, aka “compare and despair.” That’s when you compare yourself to someone you perceive as superior or having a better life. We all know that images don’t tell the truth, especially heavily curated ones that only depict life’s happy or glamorous moments and doctored images that alter the way people look! Don’t make your depression worse, limit your social media time.

7. DON’T let stresses stack up.

While some stress is good and even necessary to avoid danger and motivate us to meet life’s challenges and achieve goals, letting it pile up is particularly hazardous for those with depression.

When the stress response is activated by a threat or circumstance, real or perceived, your body releases a number of stress hormones. Normally, when the perceived threat has passed, stress hormone levels return to normal. However, if stressors continue and you constantly feel under attack (which is common if you are prone to ANTs), the stress response remains activated and stress hormones remain elevated. This can disrupt a number of processes in the body (such as sleep) and cause or exacerbate mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Indeed, a 2018 study points to a strong association between chronic stress and depression. It’s critical to engage in calming activities and find relaxation if you struggle with low mood.

8. DON’T smoke.

Smokers are more likely to be depressed, research has found – especially women. Smoking restricts cerebral blood flow, which is never good for brain function or mood. For a depressed or anxious person, smoking provides relief from the pain of the disorder, temporarily. The nicotine in tobacco activates your brain’s pleasure centers, giving you a hit of feel-good dopamine. Over time this encourages your brain to make less dopamine because you are getting it from the nicotine. Having lower levels of dopamine in the body can ultimately result in feeling even more depressed since there is less of it to promote positive effects.

9. DON’T stay in the dark.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight. This simple change can affect your biology and moods. Less sunlight can cause an overproduction of melatonin, which can contribute to depression. Less sunlight can also reduce the production of serotonin and vitamin D. When these take a dip, so can your mood.

Fortunately, bright light therapy (BLT) can help. Simply sitting in front of a bright light therapy lightbox for a certain amount of time each day can be helpful in the treatment of mood disorders, according to a review in Neuropsychobiology.

10. DON’T eat a poor diet.

What you eat can affect your mood profoundly. If you eat a poor diet, you are adding insult to injury. An analysis in Psychiatric Research found a diet characterized by high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined carbohydrates and sweets, saturated fats, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression. The best thing you can do is eat a brain healthy diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meats, healthy fats, and whole grains—all associated with lower rates of depression!

11. DON’T ever give up hope.

It’s hard to be hopeful when you are feeling dark and down, but the truth is depression is highly treatable. People who seek treatment do get better. All you need is the very slightest flicker of hope…enough to make a call to ask for help. You can feel better.

Depression 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. Thank you !

    Comment by Edith Foley — November 16, 2022 @ 3:23 AM

  2. very good advice

    Comment by linda — November 16, 2022 @ 3:36 AM

  3. it the game i already told you that and i cant live like this any longer if my life is going to be like this and not back to normal real life i dont want to be hear i cant live my life in a show and fake relationships being tossed around from person to person not know whats going on expected to read peoples mind always having to hide and talk in code i can not live like this anymore and this is felicia adams and that is the truth i can no longer stand this game and acting like i like it makes it even worse . i have not talked to charles bryant in a long time i dont know wether we are together or not and i am expected to read his mind and know what he wants to do and other things i cant do that that is not how a real healthy relationship goes this game stuff is really unhealthy for me and i no longer watn to do it i want out . i dont want to be in this cult i never asked to be they are mean and brainwash people i will not pretend that i am happy when i am not i am in total survivle mode

    Comment by felicia adams — November 16, 2022 @ 3:52 AM

  4. Excellent counsel

    Comment by Gayle Erwin — November 16, 2022 @ 4:13 AM

  5. My husband has been dealing with depression since his stroke four years ago. I find your articles helpful and would appreciate tips for caregivers.

    Comment by Susan — November 16, 2022 @ 4:36 AM

  6. I use to get depressed a great deal. Started taking Vitamin D and wow what a difference. Now if I forget it for several days that feeling starts coming back (black cloud, gloomy feeling), then I remembered I hadn't taken my Vitamin D. Once I take it I am back to normal shortly there after.

    Comment by Deanna Lewis — November 16, 2022 @ 5:35 AM

  7. Thank you.

    What about vitamin D, that also helps me.

    Comment by Kate — November 16, 2022 @ 5:35 AM

  8. Great advice, for those of us who can focus ,and follow the message. I am particularly sensitive to lack of daylight at this time of year, so my feelings are more greatly affected at this time. I have a routine I follow religiously, of getting up, getting ready , and getting out of the house by 10 am , latest. I go out for my coffee, my errands, shopping, and then I sit and read for at least 40 minutes….in the best daylight I can find…and this helps tremendously. I also follow a routine of helping my friend who is housebound, and we often go out for lunch, or appointments that she may have. This does us both a world of good…and for her positive reinforcement I am eternally grateful. I also have dinner a few evenings per week with another friend, so my social network is uplifting and meaningful, regardless of its size. Quality in relationships matters …so my advice to others is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and do what is best for you, as a person. Don't be a doormat, and don't accept negative behavior , from anyone, friend or family. COVID has taught me to be more self-reliant, and to be authentic. …this is all we have, here and now. Be the best person you can be….and you will succeed. And if you need companionship, adopt a lonely , forgotten animal…you will be repaid immeasurably for your kindness. Mine have saved me through some of the darkest days in my life , over the past 3 plus years. I love them dearly, and they are my life.
    Thank you
    Rachel Bailie

    Comment by Rachel Bailie — November 16, 2022 @ 6:00 AM

  9. Great article!

    Comment by Cristina Romao — November 16, 2022 @ 9:51 AM

  10. Wonderful information.

    Comment by Wendy H. BARRIOS — November 16, 2022 @ 3:38 PM

  11. Find out what's causing the depression, that's key. Otherwise all the above advice might not work, especially if you have MDD which I suffered from most of my life. Once I figured out it was caused by mold, I used binders to eliminate it and do not suffer from depression anymore.

    Comment by Lois D. — November 16, 2022 @ 6:51 PM

  12. My brother age 70 is a multiple sclerosis patient. He is very sad, quiet,angry,non compliant anxious etc . I live with him and his dr tells me he's ok? His psychiatrist puts him on lomitrigine and rispitarol but it's not helping, 12 years now on same meds. He's very agreeable when at appointments so most docs dont realize his sadness
    He knows he needs more care in a facility and the chronic stress of this is so hard on us
    Are we able to get an appointment teleconference?
    Does our insurance cover any of this
    Bankers Fidelity?

    Comment by Cathy Abdnour — November 17, 2022 @ 4:51 PM

  13. And ask yourself what you're anxious about. Depression is very often something we choose to do in order to take our anxiety level down. It's a defense against burnout. Focusing on the depression may be the wrong thing to focus on. Keep the depression while you problem solve your situation. As you remediate your anxiety, the depression will lift naturally.

    Comment by Ian Munroe — November 18, 2022 @ 5:06 AM

  14. My sister ,at the very least , is severely depressed and she is doing all these things. She was a teacher and does not have a lot of money. Do you accept insurance? She really needs help.

    Comment by Ann Rogers — November 28, 2022 @ 5:06 AM

  15. Excellent article! thank you for sharing this.

    Comment by Doug Morris — September 2, 2023 @ 2:00 PM

  16. I suffered a TBI, and it has been a difficult recovery. I am a lot better physically today, thanks, to my medical team, my ffamily and friends. But my emotional health at times, is worrisome. Since my accident, I have been hospitalized two times for depression. I think I am doing better, but have those moments when the world is closing in on me. I have no income, solely surviving off my husband. And that is a struggle, but he is depressed as well… The disability is taking forever, even after my doctors have called and verified my condition.. paperwork sent for verification, etc.. I then had to hire a lawyer. And that is still taking time to get a positive decision. My home is in a dangerous spot, my bills are becoming months past due. I am at a lost right now and think what’s the point… … I am fluctuating between good and very bad days right now.

    Comment by Keisia — September 3, 2023 @ 10:20 AM

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