Navigating the Mental Health Obstacle – Understanding the Relationship Between FOMO and Depression

By Upassna B. Singh


The fast-paced, hyperconnected world, though has eased human connections and commerce, it has also induced the pressure among all to succeed while in a rat race with the others. It has led a majority of individuals to feel the fear of missing out (FOMO). It is observed firsthand the toll that FOMO can take on one’s mental health, often leading to devastating conditions such as depression. Let’s dive deeper into understanding the complicated relationship between FOMO and depression and offer actionable strategies to transform FOMO into the joy of missing out (JOMO).


To begin with, let’s dissect what FOMO truly means. FOMO is not merely a short-lived sensation of envy or restlessness; rather, it is a profound fear of being left out or excluded from rewarding experiences or opportunities that others seem to be enjoying. With the rising use of social media platforms, where curated snapshots of seemingly perfect lives are incessantly displayed, FOMO has found the ideal ground to flourish. Numerous studies have highlighted the detrimental effects of excessive social media usage on mental well-being, with FOMO emerging as a significant contributing factor.


A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, revealed a positive correlation between FOMO and symptoms of depression among young adults in urban India. Similarly, another research by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that university students in India who reported higher levels of FOMO also experienced greater levels of stress and anxiety.


Furthermore, the never-ending pursuit of success in the highly competitive landscape worsens the detrimental effects of FOMO. Ambitious individuals often find themselves trapped in a continuous cycle of comparison, persistently measuring their achievements against those of their peers. This constant comparison not only fuels feelings of insufficiency and self-doubt but also intensifies the fear of missing out on opportunities for advancement or recognition.


As a result, many ambitious individuals in India find themselves grappling with symptoms of depression, with persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and disinterest in activities that they once enjoyed. Research from several acclaimed international as well as national institutes suggests that individuals who experience chronic feelings of FOMO are at a heightened risk of developing depression over time.


So, how can we break free from the suffocating grip of FOMO and reclaim our mental well-being? The key lies in cultivating the joy of missing out—the thoughtful choice to prioritize our well-being and values over external validation or societal expectations. Here are some practical tips to help alleviate the burden of FOMO:


  • Practice Mindfulness – Engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation or deep breathing exercises to nurture present-moment awareness and reduce contemplation about past events or future uncertainties.
  • Set Boundaries – Establish boundaries around your social media usage and learn to disconnect from the constant bombardment of notifications and updates. Designate specific times for checking social media and resist the urge to compare yourself to others.
  • Focus on Gratitude – Encourage a mindset of gratitude by reflecting on the blessings and accomplishments in your own life, rather than gripping on what others have or achieve.
  • Define Your Success – Re-evaluate your definition of success and identify goals that are aligned with your values and aspirations, rather than external markers of achievement or validation.
  • Practice Self-Compassion – Stop being hard on yourself. Be kind and compassionate towards yourself, recognizing that it’s okay to not always be on top of everything or to miss out on certain opportunities. Hold imperfection as a natural part of the human experience.


To conclude, the deceptive nature of FOMO poses a significant threat to our mental health and well-being, particularly among ambitious individuals navigating the complexities of modern life. By understanding the relationship between FOMO and depression and adopting proactive strategies to alleviate its impact, we can regain action over our lives and nurture a sense of fulfilment grounded in authenticity and self-compassion. Remember, it’s not about chasing after every momentary opportunity but rather finding satisfaction and joy in the moments we choose to squeeze fully, free from the restraints of FOMO.


(The author is Upassna B. Singh, Eminent Life Coach, and the views expressed in this article are her own)