Feeling Hopeless? Signs, symptoms and ways to recover

Mental health and addiction related issues are often accompanied by a sense of hopelessness.  Hopelessness ensues when the individual feels stuck in the state they are in, especially after failed attempts to get well.  Individuals in such a state of mind feel stuck in a deep and dark hole that feels impossible to climb out of.  It may lead individuals to lose interest in activities, events or people that they once found pleasurable.  Hopelessness is frequently associated with a desire to isolate, and with negative feelings such as helplessness and powerlessness.


Feelings of hopelessness may be caused by a variety of events such as financial issues, relationship problems, health concerns, or other such negative circumstances.  Hopelessness also may be a symptom of a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety, or a symptom of an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, food, sex or other behavioral addictions.  Ultimately feelings of hopelessness may lead to suicide if the individual feels that their situation is severe enough and will never improve.


Hopelessness can be a vicious cycle in that when one feels hopeless, they may engage in behaviors such as oversleeping, isolating, drinking alcohol, or overeating that usually only end up exacerbating feelings of hopelessness.  As such, when feeling hopeless one must often push themselves to do things that they might not feel like doing such as getting out of bed in the morning, talking to a friend, exercising, or eating a healthy meal.


Fortunately, there is hope for anyone that feels hopeless and is struggling with a mental health issue.  There are more evidence-based methods of treatment today than at any time in history, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as new psychotropic medications that can help to aid one’s recovery.  There is also more access to therapy and treatment than ever before.  Seeking out such professional help is often encouraged for those with a mental health issue or anybody feeling hopeless, and can be done so through an internet search for a mental health professional in your area, by contacting your insurance provider, or through contacting a helpline such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


There are also a variety of practical holistic steps anyone can take to improve their mood, help stabilize their mental health, and live an overall healthier lifestyle.  Some examples of behavioral changes that people can make that will have a positive impact on their mental health include things such as getting 7-8 hours of sleep, eating healthier natural whole foods, engaging in a regular exercise regiment, quieting the mind through breathing exercises and meditation, using less technology (especially social media), being more social, avoiding alcohol, and the list goes on.  While these changes may sound simple to some, they can be overwhelming for many.  The key is to make small incremental changes in our daily lives that will ultimately lead to a healthier version of ourselves.


It is also important to question your hopelessness.  Individuals tend to catastrophize their mental and physical state and present circumstances.  In other words, they tend to over-exaggerate how bad things might be.  It is important that when one is facing a problem that they see it as it is, and not worse than it is.  For example, if you tell yourself you will never get out of your depression, try thinking of a time when you were not feeling depressed.  If you can recall such a time, then you know that it is possible for you to not feel depressed.  Questioning such thoughts allows particles of hope to come into your life and diminish feelings of hopelessness.


Most importantly, never give up.

Lin Anderson & Aaron Sternlicht

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