How Depression Support Groups Keep You Depressed

One of the reasons I was able to beat my depression is I stayed away from depression support groups.

Sounds kind of odd, right?

Shouldn’t depression support groups, well, help?

Don’t get me wrong, you should get as much support as you possibly can.

However, depression support groups often will keep you depressed rather than actually help you fix the problem.

Depression Groups Keep You Stuck

One time I felt like giving back, so I logged into a depression support group on Facebook.

I posted about how I had beaten depression and I wanted to help others.  I posted for them to ask me any question they wanted.

I didn’t mention I had a website and I didn’t mention anything promotional.  All I said was that I had overcome depression and I wanted to answer people’s questions.

My post got deleted.

What the hell?

Here I am, trying to simply help everyone, and my post got deleted.

I went through the group some more and everyone was just complaining.

Here is an example:

“U know what really annoying? When ur hubby comes back from being on the road. And all he does is on the phone text and more texts. Am I really that boring ? Maybe u should just not come home at all !!!

Ahhhhhh ok end rant. No wonder I’m so dam depressed half of the time.”
Then the responses:
“Why don’t you just ask him ‘Am I so boring that you have to play with your phone instead of talking to me?’!”
“That’s rude I would plain ask him what’s so much more important on there then me!!??”

As you can see, I doubt those strategies will build a connection between the two people.

Here is another example of trying to help someone:

How Depression Support Groups Keep You Depressed

Everyone else was commenting and telling her how unfortunate she must be, how her partners and friends must be all assholes, and how the world sucks and it is horrible that we live in it.

This kind of group keeps people depressed because it reinforces the payoffs for being depressed.  Payoffs can be anything from attention, sympathy, company, feeling of being right or justified, etc.

If people are coming on there and getting benefits from being depressed and not moving forwards the group will keep them stuck.

It can also be the blind leading the blind.  Would you join a group about how to learn to become a millionaire and the only people in it were people that were broke and in debt?

How Depression Support Groups Keep You Depressed Blind Leading The Blind

Focusing On Depression Keeps You Depressed

I never really got much benefit from going to depression support groups.  It was a bit similar to the Facebook groups and online communities except, just a little less extreme.  A lot of them were also based on using medication, and after having my experience with Celexa and having a hell of a time to get off antidepressants, the advice wasn’t helpful either.

The problem with these groups is they focus on the depression like it is a disease and something to just be managed.  People go on there and simply vent (which can be relieving in healthy forms) and get validation for staying stuck.

This creates a constant loop and the same people are probably still depressed a year or two later.

It would be like going to a support group for a nail being stuck in your finger and everyone sitting there talking about what painkiller to take and how it sucks instead of how to actually fix the wound.

Chris Kresser likes to describe fixing anxiety or depression as if you have a rock in your shoe and it hurts.  You can take a strong painkiller like Advil to reduce the pain, which can help in the short-term.  Or you can take your shoe off and dump the rock out, and that is what we are really after when we want to fix depression.

How Depression Support Groups Keep You Depressed nail in finger

What Advice Would You Give This Person?

The Best Support Groups Are The Ones That Focus On Your Root Causes

I understand why depression groups exist and are the way they are. It is because there is massive confusion in our society about what depression actually really is.  People think depression is a disease and can’t be fixed, instead of realizing that depression is a symptom of something else.  People think that having depression means that there is something wrong with them.  In reality, you have to find your root causes for depression and then fix those.  When you do, the depression fades.

For example, when I was living in Thailand and Vietnam I got severe food poisoning and it completely wrecked my gut, and I probably had a parasite also (do NOT just eat all the street food you want over there).

All a sudden, after having already fixed my depression, I started feeling depressed and had severe brain fog, confusion, and anxiety.  All the same symptoms came back, but this time it was from a completely different root cause.

I went onto a few gut health support groups to fix the problem and the experience was completely different.

When I was in the depression group, only there to help others, people would say things like, “TJ you couldn’t be any MORE wrong!” and it was hard to have any sort of open minded discussion about the real problem.  People didn’t actually want help.

how-depression-support-groups-keep-you-depressed-focusIn the gut health group, people were focusing on the solution.  There was some honest venting, but it was almost always like this, “Damn, I woke up this morning and felt extreme nausea.  I can barely get out of bed.  Anyone else experience this? What should I do?” People then thanked others when they gave advice and reported back after trying it to let us know if it worked.

With depression, everyone is so confused as to what it is that I think people forget that the whole objective is to figure out what is going on with you and then fix it.  Depression, by its definition, causes negative and hopeless thoughts, which keeps people in the trap.  Depression will cause people to think, “This cannot be solved!” or “There is only two types of depression, circumstantial and that which cannot be cured!”  Depression itself feeds these hindering beliefs.

Depression Causes You To Think Money Is Evil

I fell victim to the idea that money was bad, and that paying someone to help me fix my depression was wrong.  I just wasn’t able to identify the limiting beliefs I had about investing money into fixing my problem, probably because I was, well, depressed.

It kept me from reading books, trying out therapy, going for the doctor and paying for tests, and anything else that could have helped me escape my misery.

I’m not saying that there are honest money difficulties (I was extremely broke and almost homeless at one point), but we are all spending money one way or another.  You have to find a way to redirect that to getting your depression fixed.  That’s actually the best investment you could ever make, because not only will you be able to live, but you’ll make more money when you can actually think straight and get out of bed.

People in the gut health support group realized they might need to buy a few supplements or see a doctor to get their issue fixed.  The owner of the group created a book to help people that took him a long time to create, and people bought it.

When you are depressed, you tend to think that anything that has a paid option is similar to the devil. Which makes sense, because again, depression itself causes the fear and doubt.  

For example, I built a program that helps people diagnose their root causes and then shows you how to fix it.  People tell me all the time that I should charge $200-$300 dollars for it, but I just keep it at $97 so that the site can keep functioning and it is enough so that people actually feel focused when they do it (I’ve given it away for free before, and the ones that got it for free didn’t take any action).

I even have a 60 day guarantee on there so that if you do it and there is no improvement you get your money back. This means that you either fix your depression for $97 or you simply get your money back and pay $0.00.  Yet people see it as extremely risky.

Even though I have a bunch of posts and emails to help people figure out how to feel better for free, just by having a program that costs money on the site every now and then I will get a hate email from someone even after emailing them for 3-4 weeks helping them for free.

Trust me, there isn’t a lot of money to be made by creating a depression site.  I do this to give back and because I’m passionate about it.

How To Move Forwards And Actually Beat Depression

The crazy thing about all this, is I used to have all those same negative thoughts.  Because I was depressed.  That’s why I am writing this post.  It’s because I am writing it to my previous self.

And I know how hard it would be to get into the mind of my previous self and actually change the thought patterns.  I know how hard it would be to shed light through the brain fog.

I used to think that therapists were messed up for charging money for their time and I never would spend anything on healthy food or any help.

The only thing that changed was my best friend (who was like a family member) died suddenly while I was already in a depression and I was sitting there by myself and just finally said screw it, I’m either going to fix my depression in one year or kill myself.

If that wouldn’t have happened, I might not have been shocked out of the mental trap that I was stuck in.

What I Wish I Would Have Known (And What Support Groups Should Promote)

I wish I would have known that I would make mistakes on the way to beating depression.  It is a trial-and-error process.  Nobody can tell you with 100% certainty that this or that will do it for you.  You have to try it and see.

You don’t know everything about depression.  If you are still depressed, then you simply haven’t figured out your depression yet.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t be depressed.  I fell into this same trap. I immediately would dismiss anything that sounded out of the ordinary or weird.  It wasn’t until that moment I told myself that I would either fix my depression in one year or kill myself that I finally had an open mind.
Be solution oriented.  Constantly remind yourself that the belief that depression cannot be cured is a symptom of depression itself.  There is a way out, but when you are in the depths of depression, it certainly won’t feel like there is.  You have to keep going.  What other choice do you have?

Pour Conclure

Get as much support as you possibly can!  Just be careful in any group that seems to be a constant cycle of people staying depressed and not being focused on the solution.  Aim to figure out what your root causes are, and then work towards fixing those so that you can get out of your depression instead.

Realize that a lot of this is simply because your brain is depressed.  By definition, that means that you will have a lot of thoughts that aren’t true and based in reality.  Learn to identify that depression can be beat, be willing to do whatever it takes to figure out your own unique root causes, and finally break free of your depression once and for all.

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  • elise a. miller

    I was recently thinking of entering group therapy, thinking that being in a like-minded community would help ease the loneliness of depression. But before i did, I started taking a lot of the supplements you recommend. The combination of reading your blog posts and the nutrition/supplement regimen healed my depression to the point where now even one-on-one therapy seems besides the point. Using a talking cure to heal an ailment that I now believe is biochemical in nature, is like watering a plant by chanting “water” at it. Your post illuminates a frightening group culture that validates victimhood rather than offering real support and healing. Thank you for the continued reminders that I am following a truly effective path, and for warning me against something potentially harmful. I’m sure there are helpful groups out there, led by competent therapists, but I’ll bet they would have better success rates if they incorporated nutritional education into their programs.

    • TJ Nelson

      Hi Elise. Good to hear. I like the analogy of chanting “water” at a plant, I’ve never heard that before. Did you make that up?

      Keep me posted on your progress :).

      • elise a. miller

        i did make it up, thank you! 🙂 all is well still despite situations popping up that would otherwise trigger me into a pit of despair. that’s how i know this is biochemical. i love being my own lab rat. looking forward to your next installment! have a great weekend.

  • Rinnie

    I’ve never heard anyone mention money being thought of as bad when you’re depressed but it’s true – at least for me.

    • TJ Nelson

      It was for me as well when I had bad depression. I thought everyone was bad. Which makes sense, because I was depressed.

  • Christena

    I totally agree with this. I was once advised by a therapist to join a grief counseling support group. It was the biggest downer ever! These people were claiming to me in agonizing pain. I felt horrible for them. I thought the events must have recently happened, but one by one, they told me, “Oh, I lost my mother 23 years ago,” or, “That happened 19 years ago.” I was dumbfounded. It was depressing to see that a group designed to free people from their burden of grief was actually keeping them tied to it. 23 years is a long time to suffer unnecessarily. I never went back to the group.

    • TJ Nelson

      I never knew that. 23 years is a long time to still be going to a grief support group.

  • Vickie

    Hi TJ, Great article! I have been free of the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder for just over a decade, having suffered with them for 21 years. Was on anti-depressants for about 8 of those 10 years and when I went stopped taking them, surprise surprise the symptoms returned. With lifestyle changes I have managed to keep them under control. The point is, I too have investigated depression forums and have had the same experience as you. For full disclosure, I do have a website helping me to become symptom free, something which I never imagined I’d do when I was recovering, but I now feel, like you, I have something to offer others. So I went onto the forums to see what people were saying and experiencing and found myself banned from two forums and questioned by another two (the admins, that is). Like you, I found that many of the posts were a kind of ‘mutual rumination’ session which is really bad for depression. I did however receive many positive comments about my posts, but the majority of people on depression forums are not recovered from the condition. I think there is definitely a place for venting and I do believe the majority of people on the forums sincerely want to support each other, but as you say, it’s support within depression, not to get out of depression. Of course, the disease (or whatever you want to call it) does tend to make one more pessimistic… All the more reason to get out and into the non-depressed world, I guess!

    • TJ Nelson

      Hi Vickie, thanks for posting and sharing! That’s amazing, so you were able to beat depression? How did you do it?

  • Cari Nadeau

    Hi Tj,
    This was my experience with depression support groups also, which is why I didn’t use them ever. I always knew that deep down I wasn’t broken and that I would figure it out and heal someday. I wish that everyone could have that innate trust. Great article!

    • TJ Nelson

      Yeah, I just received an email from someone saying that depression can never be fixed and you can only learn to manage it. She told me that I was lying to people.

      Sadly, I know that mindset so well that I know why she is saying that. It’s still a prevalent belief that once you’ve been depressed you’re doomed for life but it simply isn’t true.

  • Eblis123

    I just left a depression support group and i feel better already.I did it because i felt more depressed.When there is only one sad person in a group at a party or somewhere else can make other people feel bad too.What about when you put 60000 depressed people together?I know that when you are depressed you tend to focus on negative things and those negative things make you depressed ,it’s a vicious circle.So if it’s a good idea to join any other health group i don’t think depression or anxiety groups are a good idea.Therapists are so wrong…In yoga and meditation there is a word called satsang meaning being in the company of the truth or the good, by sitting together with a guru ..They say just by sitting with a guru you become one.It’s true with everything.Good and bad.Sitting with depressed people will make you even more depressed.I guess sitting with happy people its a good idea..Anyway.Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us..I needed

    • TJ Nelson

      Glad that you enjoyed the article.