If you have experienced depression or anxiety at any time during your life, you know that it can be hard to manage alone. The symptoms can make it hard to function in your everyday life to such a degree that even getting out of bed can prove to be a difficult task, much less go work or manage your basic responsibilities.
While there are many treatments and medications that have proven to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, people often continue to feel like they are experiencing something novel that others just don’t quite understand. This can cause them to feel isolated from their friends and family, and that social withdrawal can significantly increase symptoms. That is why many people find comfort in groups that are designed for people who experience depressive or anxious symptoms, both in person and online.
Support groups can provide a struggling person with a sense of connectedness to others, seeing that others are experiencing similar things and can relate to what they’re going through. While there are many physical support groups that offer assistance and insight to people struggling with depression or anxiety, many people often prefer the anonymity of online chat rooms to connect with others.
A Background on Mental Health Chat Rooms
Depression and anxiety chat rooms have been around since the Internet first arrived, but with advancements in mobile technology, have become more easily accessible and widely disseminated. However, the increased access is not exclusively to reputable services, but to unverified and misleading platforms as well.
Mental health chat rooms that are not provided or moderated by a trusted mental health source can put people in situations where they are subjected to deception, bullying, threats, and other inappropriate forms of communication. It is important for those who are seeking support from chat rooms to make sure that they conduct their due diligence in finding the right groups that are populated with people who genuinely want to help. Health Unlocked and 7 Cups operate two of the more popular and reputable mental health chat rooms, but there are others to choose from.
Main Benefits of Using Depression and Anxiety Chat Rooms
As mentioned above, depression and anxiety chat rooms can provide people struggling with these diagnoses with support from those that can personally relate to these issues. In connecting with others that have had similar experiences, sufferers tend to feel like what they are going through is not as unique and indescribable as they may have previously believed.
While this can be extremely useful in helping people that experience depression or anxiety feel more understood and accepted, it is important to note that these chat rooms and support groups should not be viewed as treatment for their issues.
Chat rooms provide people with the ability to be connected to one another, but the people with whom they are connecting are generally not mental health professionals, so any advice or suggestions provided are more likely to be based on personal experience than research and science-backed approaches to mental health treatment. In addition, suggestions of things that have worked for others may not be appropriate for every person who struggles with anxiety or depression.
Here are some of the qualifications that can help you decide if joining a depression or anxiety chat room is appropriate :
- You are currently receiving treatment (i.e. therapy or medication) to help manage your depression.
- You are currently stable, i.e. not in a severe depressive or anxious state where you intend to harm yourself or others.
- You have learned some coping techniques to manage your symptoms enough that you can manage them without 24/7 assistance from someone else.
- You are looking to help connect with others who feel similarly and to seek support and motivation to work on reducing your symptoms.
- You have questions about things that you believe only others who experience depression or anxiety would have the answers to.
- You understand that chat rooms, even the ones run by professional mental health organizations, may have people on them who say and do inappropriate things.
- You are prepared to take any advice with a “grain of salt,” and to check in with your treatment providers before trying anything (ESPECIALLY medications or supplements) that may counteract with your current treatment.
Pros and Cons of Depression and Anxiety Chat Rooms
When you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, it can feel isolating. The loneliness that often accompanies mental health issues can cause people to feel like no one cares about them and that they are worthless or “broken.”
Chat rooms can be a place where others can share similar experiences and provide support for those who have similar conditions. They can provide them with the acknowledgment that others understand and have been in their shoes. Here are some of the benefits of depression and anxiety chat rooms:
- Easy Access: Chat rooms are virtual, so they are easy to access and allow people almost instantaneous support.
- 24/7 Support : Chat rooms are available 24 hours a day, so no matter when a person needs to connect with others, they can log on and either read through things already discussed in a chat or speak with others in real time.
- Anonymity: Depression and anxiety chat rooms form a separation from the real world where a person can disclose as much or as little information about themselves as they want. This can encourage them to open up more freely.
- Feeling Connected: Probably the biggest benefit is reducing the barrier that people may feel in terms of connectedness to others. Seeing that others are experiencing similar things can help reduce feelings of isolation.
Mental health chat rooms can offer tremendous support to those who use them, but they can also be a place where people can obtain misinformation or run into people who may exacerbate, trigger, or increase their symptoms. The following are some of the negative aspects of depression or anxiety chat rooms worth keeping in mind:
- Cannot be Used as a Sole Form of Treatment: As mentioned before, chat rooms are not an appropriate treatment solution for most people who struggle with depression or anxiety; rather, they should be used to supplement treatment. If someone were to attempt to receive treatment in a chat room, they may be subject to information that is not advised by experts and does not come from clinical research.
- Predators and Scams: The Internet is filled with well-meaning people trying to help one another and provide information, but it is also filled with people who have more malicious intent. It is important to do your research about any chat rooms you join and to make sure you are being careful about not providing any personal information or financial information to anyone when attempting to seek support from others.
Concluding Thoughts on Mental Health Chat Rooms
Trying to find others with whom to connect when you’re experiencing depression or anxiety can feel overwhelming, but chat rooms have made it easy to make those connections with just a swipe on your phone. Having this access to resources and support is obviously helpful but can also present challenges or dangers if you are not thinking critically about the sites you are using. It is important to remember that online depression and anxiety chat rooms are meant to be a place to obtain support, and not treatment.
Chat rooms do not replace the need to meet with a mental health professional in order to obtain guidance and treatment support. Also, they should not be confused with professional online counseling services, which connects people with licensed therapists. Seeking out reputable and safe chat rooms is a great way to receive support. As long as you are able to recognize the difference between support and treatment, online depression and anxiety chat rooms can be a great place to feel connected to others and be reassured that you are not alone.