Can A Depression Chat Room Improve Your Mental Health?

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated February 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feelings of isolation can be a major challenge when you’re living with depression. It might seem like you have no one around you who understands what you’re going through. At the same time, your symptoms may make it difficult to find the motivation to leave home or reach out and communicate. Some people experiencing depression find online chat rooms to be helpful resources that can function as internet-based peer support groups. 

The people you meet there may be able to relate to your experience, offering empathetic support and firsthand advice about managing depression. At the same time, there may be downsides to making depression chat rooms your primary resources for mental health support. 

Below, we’ll discuss the possible benefits and drawbacks of depression chat rooms and explore ways to get help for depression.

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A depression chat room can’t replace crisis support

If you’re having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, depression chat rooms likely can’t provide the support you need. You should get in touch with trained crisis responders right away. You can reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or by visiting Lifeline’s website for chat support.

On the other hand, if you’re not experiencing a crisis and you’re looking for help managing your ongoing symptoms of depression, an online depression chat room may be helpful in a number of ways. 

Making social interaction easier

Research shows that regular contact with other people can have important benefits for mental health. A 2013 paper in Social Science & Medicine reported that participation in multiple social groups substantially decreased symptoms of depression and reduced the risk of relapse after treatment.

However, the challenges associated with depression may make pursuing social relationships harder for many people. Depression can be associated with difficulty in motivating behavior. Even if you know it would be good for you to get out of the house and meet people, it may be hard to make yourself do it.

Internet chat rooms can lower the ordinary barriers to social interaction. They may enable you to rapidly meet other people with no need to introduce yourself to strangers or enter unfamiliar places. The other participants may be understanding if you choose to engage at your own place or if you go for long periods without responding. All of these factors may make it easier for people living with depression to find a sense of community through chat rooms.

Encouragement

People within your in-person social networks may have trouble grasping the experience of depression. They might give well-meaning advice that doesn’t really address what you’re feeling, or they might struggle to grasp why certain aspects of day-to-day life are difficult for you. When you want to express how depression makes you feel, they may sympathize without truly understanding.

This doesn’t mean that you have to neglect your relationships with family and friends, but depression chat rooms could provide an important source of additional support from people who have had experiences similar to yours. You may find that you can relate to them about depression in ways that you can’t with other people you know.

At the same time, some users of these chat groups may have made substantial progress in treatment for their depressive symptoms. People like this may be able to offer encouragement and hope during times when you’re wondering if your mental health will ever improve. They may be able to help motivate you to pursue treatment and stick with it even through rough patches.

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Advice based on firsthand experience

In addition to providing spaces for social support, depression forums and chat rooms can enable people to impart knowledge about what’s helped with their symptoms. Sometimes hearing about what worked for someone else may give you ideas for improving your own mental health. Fellow chat room users may also be able to alleviate fears about things like medication side effects or finding a therapist.

What does the research say about depression chat rooms?

Researchers are still examining the potential benefits of internet-based mental health interventions, such as depression chat rooms. However, some studies have produced encouraging results.

A literature review published in General Hospital Psychiatry found that peer-support interventions decreased symptoms of depression. Also, a randomized controlled trial published in PLOS One studied internet support groups and found that they reduced depressive symptoms relative to a control group when researchers followed up 6 and 12 months later.

Another study conducted in 2015 also found that online support groups reduced depression symptoms and self-stigma. However, the researchers noted that some participants were reluctant to engage with the program due to fear of judgment or concern that they might accidentally say something that would hurt others.

More research will probably be needed to confirm the benefits of depression chat rooms and determine how they can be most effective. However, these early studies suggest that at least some people can find genuine help in these online depression support groups.

Possible drawbacks and risks of depression chat rooms

Despite the possible benefits of depression chat rooms described above, chat rooms for depression can have some possible downsides.

Amateur advice

While chat rooms can sometimes provide helpful tips on day-to-day strategies for managing depression, they may also include inaccurate or outdated advice. People participating in online chats are usually not mental health professionals. Their suggestions on coping with depression may not be based on clinical experience or up-to-date, peer-reviewed evidence.

It’s probably best to exercise caution when receiving advice in a depression chat room. That’s especially true if it’s related to medication or to managing a severe psychological crisis.

Disruptive personalities

Some people in a chat room may not be there out of a genuine desire to help. Even depression support groups aren’t immune to so-called “trolls”—people who deliberately try to hurt people’s feelings, derail discussions, or spread misinformation. Sometimes these individuals may deliberately target the psychological difficulties of people living with mental health conditions.

If a chat room community isn’t able to respond effectively to these individuals, it could become a space that isn’t beneficial for your mental health. You may be able to reduce this risk by seeking out depression chat rooms with active, responsive moderators. 

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Over-reliance depression chat room

Chat rooms for depression may not be able to take the place of in-person interactions. However, because of the ease of interacting online, some people may be tempted to conduct more and more of their social life through these groups.

Some studies indicate that people with depressive symptoms are more likely to fall into problematic, excessive internet use when they spend lots of time in chat rooms. If you’re using online groups as a support system for depression, you may want to make sure you’re also making an effort to engage with the people around you. Some strategies that can help with depression may require you to get out of the house and move around, such as exercising or spending time in natural settings.

Where can you find reliable depression chat rooms?

Some online support groups for depression and anxiety may be more useful than others. The following long-running groups have substantial communities that may provide effective help:

Therapy and depression chat rooms

Depression chat rooms may work best when used in conjunction with therapy from a trained mental health professional. Clinical research has repeatedly found that psychotherapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is an effective treatment for reducing symptoms of depression. 

If the convenience of online depression chat rooms appeals to you, you may find online therapy helpful too. Internet-based platforms like BetterHelp can connect you with therapists for sessions conducted via text chat, voice calls, or videoconferencing. This may make it easier for you to attend sessions regularly, as you’ll be able to communicate with a therapist from anywhere with an internet connection, including your own home.

Evidence indicates that online therapy can lead to substantial mental health improvements for people with depression. A study published in 2020 found that online therapy was at least as effective as in-person therapy for depression.  

Takeaway

Chat rooms can be an effective source of support for people who are living with depression and anxiety. However, there are some potential pitfalls of relying too much on depression chat rooms, especially if it leads you to neglect other social relationships or avoid treatment. Depression chat rooms may be best used as a way to support your recovery while you work with a therapist in your community or online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a mental health professional who has experience treating people with depression. Take the first step toward getting support with depression and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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