Health conditions

Depression – reversing the vicious cycle

The symptoms of depression can bring about some drastic changes in a depressed person’s life, daily routines, and their behaviour.

Often it is these changes that makes the depression worse and prevent the depression from getting better.

For example, a lack of motivation or a lack of energy can result in a depressed person cutting back on their activities, neglecting their daily tasks and responsibilities, and leaving decision-making to others.

Have you noticed these changes in yourself when you are depressed?

You may find that you:

  • have become less and less active
  • don’t go out much anymore
  • avoid hanging out with friends
  • have stopped engaging in your favourite activity.

When this happens, you have become locked in the vicious cycle of depression, which might look like this:

Flow chart illustrating the cycle of depression

Read the long description for 'The vicious cycle of depression' image.

'When your activity level decreases, you may become even less motivated and more lethargic.

When you stop doing the things you used to love, you miss out on experiencing pleasant feelings and positive experiences. Your depression could get worse.

Similarly, when you begin neglecting a few tasks and responsibilities at work or at home, the list may begin to pile up.

When you are depressed and think about the things you have to do, you may feel overwhelmed by the pile of things you have put off doing. This may result in you feeling guilty or thinking that you are ineffective or even a failure – this will also worsen your depression.

Reversing the vicious cycle of depression

One of the ways of breaking the vicious cycle of is through the use of medication.

Medication such as antidepressants can help change your energy level and improve your sleep.

Another way is to simply increase your activity level, especially in pleasurable activities, and tackling your list of tasks and responsibilities, but doing it in a realistic and achievable way, so that you set yourself up to succeed.

Becoming more active has a number of advantages because activity can help you to:

  • feel better
  • feel less tired
  • think more clearly.

When the depression cycle is broken, it will look like this:

Flow chart illustrating how to reverse the depression cycle

Read the long description for 'Reversing the vicious cycle of depression' image.

Fun activities

Here’s a list of possible fun things to do. You can add your own to this list.

  1. Soaking in the bathtub.
  2. Collecting things (coins, shells, etc).
  3. Going for a day trip.
  4. Going to see a comedy at the movies or watching a DVD.
  5. Going to the beach.
  6. Playing squash, tennis or badminton.
  7. Having a barbecue at the park.
  8. Going for a walk, jog, or hike.
  9. Listening to uplifting music.
  10. Gardening

Try some of them out and evaluate how you feel before and after the activity.  Chances are, you’ll find that you’ll feel a little better.

The important thing is to persist – keeping your activity levels up is the first step to breaking out of that vicious cycle.

The second step is to look at how thinking patterns contribute to the vicious cycle of depression.

Where to get help

Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI)

See your doctor

Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222

Mental Health Emergency Response Line (MHERL)

  • Metro callers: 1300 55 788
  • Peel: 1800 676 822


  • Rural and remote areas 1800 552 002


  • When you are depressed your activity levels decrease.
  • Depression can make you feel less motivated, lethargic and overwhelmed.
  • Medication can help to manage your energy levels and improve sleep.
  • Increasing your activity levels can help you to feel better, improve fatigue and give you more clarity.

This information provided by

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Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI)

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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