Researchers have found both positive and negative links between the internet and depression. While internet use itself cannot cause depression, there’s no shortage of research that it can worsen it. But given the right resources, the internet can also lessen depression symptoms.
The Mindset of Depression
In a depressive episode, the person feels a distinct lack of hope and motivation. It’s similar to grief, with the same inability to focus and overwhelming sadness. A person can swing between numbness and hypersensitivity with no warning. Small, innocuous comments can send a person with depression into a breakdown. The symptoms may also manifest physically in loss of appetite, muscle fatigue, insomnia, hypersomnia and pain.
How the Internet Helps
Loneliness is all-encompassing and crippling to a person with depression. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to find someone on the internet with similar experiences. This sense of community can be life-saving.
The distraction that the internet provides can also be helpful. For clinical depression, it’s sometimes a good idea to escape reality for a little while until one’s brain chemistry gets back to normal.
Finally, the internet’s full of resources for anyone with mental illness. There are thousands of pages with tips and tricks on how to survive a depressive episode. There’s also easy-to-find research into what is actually going on with the brain. Lastly, there are support groups, activitiei and so much more. Some good places to start are Healthline, HelpGuide.org and Support Groups (Depression).
How It Hurts
While social media can help, it can also hurt. There’s no better place to find toxic people than in comment sections of places like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Social media can also lead users to compare their own lives to others’.
In addition to social media, the Internet has a true 24/7 global news cycle. Reading about the horrible things happening all over the world can make anyone feel hopeless, but especially someone who has depression. Thoughts range from feeling helpless to do anything to thinking they have no reason to feel depressed because people have it worse. Both circumstances can worsen depression.
Signs To Look For
A study published in 2012 show that people with depression use the internet differently from others. Because of this study, we now have signs to look for. The depressed brain cannot focus, so the person may engage in excessive multitasking. Anxiety coupled with depression can lead to frequent email/chat checking. Sharing files, watching videos and playing video games excessively are all signs of depression. While a student may engage in these activities on a regular basis, a spike in any of these activities may be a warning sign. For more signs, check out Recognizing Signs of Depression in Students.
Just like any tool, the internet has its pros and cons. Teaching people with depression to use it effectively can have a huge impact on their prognosis.
Text by Jennie Tippett