Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

How can behaviour keep depression going?

We take a look at behaviour change in depression.
Our behaviour can change for many reasons, and reduction of activity or withdrawal from certain types of activities is common in depression. When you’re depressed everything feels much more of an effort, and the symptoms of depression (eg fatigue, concentration problems) often make it harder to engage in activities. As we heard in Week 2, appetite and sleep can also be affected which have a knock on effect on energy levels.

However, while avoidance of activities can provide short term relief (eg the young person avoids having to make the extra effort involved in seeing their friends), in the long term this causes more problems as every time you avoid something, it gets even harder to do. This avoidance also means that the young person is missing out on opportunities that might boost their mood and encourage them to keep doing those activities (‘positive reinforcement’).

The other downside of avoiding social situations is that a teenager’s friends might feel they aren’t interested and stop making an effort to keep in touch. This can then make it even harder to stay connected with others. In this way, a young person’s behaviour can maintain depression symptoms and may make them worse.

A cycle with 6 circles: 1st circle- Feel low/ irritable, lack of interest, low motivation, 2nd circle- Avoid friends, miss school, stay in room , 3rd circle- Short term: Relief from additional effort, 4th circle- Friends stop calling/making an effort, get behind at school, 5th circle- Long term: Fewer opportunities for positive experiences and 6th circle- Makes depression worse.

© University of Reading
This article is from the free online

Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now