Are Musicians Depressed?

In this article, we will be answering the question “Are musicians depressed?”. We will also explore what depression is and its causes, musicians who have depression, the music industry and depression,  organizations that address mental health and answer frequently questions asked about the subject.

It takes a lot for a person to make it and be successful in the music industry. However, nowadays, it is easier for some because of the technology and how quickly a person can be supported and be known by just a click away.

Many upcoming and huge names in the music industry are also brilliant in creating music. It is said that such creativity may come from difficult situations and mental conditions of a person.

They are not necessarily stigmatized by many considering their popularity, unlike with other individuals that have similar mental conditions. However, they are not exempted from judgement and prejudice by some that expresses they take advantage or “fake” their psychological conditions to get attention.

Nevertheless, the list of names of musicians who put themselves in danger continue to add through the years. Many great musicians have passed due to suicide, like Avicii.

Are musicians depressed?

Yes, some musicians are depressed. According to a survey, a big percentage of musicians experience anxiety and deal with depression. This condition has been prevalent across the music industry. Many musicians have told the media they have been dealing with depression like Lizzo and Billie Eilish.

This is prevalent across the world in the field of music industry across ages and from up and coming to huge names of artists and musicians.  

And this is not recent, it is known that icons like Elvis Presley had strong depressive episodes.

What is depression?

Depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a disorder that negatively affects our way of thinking, behaving and feeling. 

For a person to be diagnosed with MDD or any mental disorder, the 4D’s should be considered.

These are namely:

–  distress

–  dysfunction

–  danger

–  deviance

And these should be followed with the signs and symptoms of depression. Note that the following should be present during the 2-week period and at least either or both symptoms, depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure is present:

·        most days in a depressed mood, nearly everyday as observed by one’s self and/or others. (note: children may show agitation)

·        anhedonia or loss of interest in pleasurable activities

·        drastic weight loss or weight gain

·        unfocused or diminished thinking

·        lethargy

·        feelings of unworthiness

·        psychomotor agitation

·        having recurring thoughts of suicide or death

·        lack of sleep or excessive sleep

Musicians with depression:

–  Demi Lovato

–  Janet Jackson

–  Billie Eilish

–  Justin Bieber

–  Kendrick Lamar

–  Lizzo

–  Miley Cyrus

–  Pink

–  James Blake

–  Lady Gaga

–  Chester Bennington

–  Kim Jonghyun

–  Goo Hara

–  Sulli

–  Adele

–  Big Sean

–  Charli XCX

–  Elle King

–  Kid Cudi

–  Kristen Bell

–  Logic

–  Michelle Williams

–  Miley Cyrus

–  Naomi Judd

–  Noah Cyrus

–  Rachel Bloom

–  Selena Gomez

Music industry and Depression

Results of a study showed that compared to an average person, musicians are three times more susceptible to depression. Due to the long hours of spending time working on their music and creativity, musicians become alienated from the society.

From one event to another and tours, their lifestyle can be rough. Disrupted sleeping schedules, late night performances, and likeliness to abuse substances such as caffeine, nicotine, and migraine medications.

Their busy schedules also take time for them to spend with their family, friends and loved ones. Constantly being away from the significant people in your life may also take a toll on one’s mental health.

As a way to cope with all the pressure, isolation, distance and busyness, musicians may opt to drink alcohol and drug use. These two have been associated and viewed to be a normal part of being in the music industry. With this, dependence and abuse is likely to occur for musicians which may also further lead to depression and even anxiety.

However, some artists romanticize drugs and depression because of its profitability. Nevertheless, there are musicians who are truly suffering with clinical depression.

A musician has a creative way of defining themselves and sometimes it is through their music. Their relationship to their work as musicians is an essential part to their sense of self.

Many researches suggest that it is recommended that not only musicians, and other artists should be provided with mental health services.  

Reasons for depression among musicians

69% of musicians confessed they have experienced at least once in their lifetime depression in a UK study from Help Musicians and the reasons are the following:

§  poor working conditions associated with exhaustion and challenges in sustaining a living

§  lack of recognition of their outputs

§  physical impacts such as musculoskeletal disorders

§  issues related to sexuality (for women) being in the industry

Other reasons:

§  drug abuse

§  drinking alcohol

§  need for perfection, love, acceptance and pressure

§  overthinking

§  pressure

§  high in musical career

§  more sensory input, less self-care

§  resentment and bitterness

§  unpredictable and precarious career

§  insecurities

§  working environment may be challenging and people around can be unsympathetic

Korean Music Industry and Depression

Kim Byung-soo, a psychiatrist at Asian Medical Center had several celebrities under his care. He mentioned in an interview that some of the idol’s depression is due to the instability on the individual’s emotions and separation from their true identity.

Feelings of isolation due to insecurities and distance and detachment from their loved ones might also be the cause of depression.  

Seeking for professional health can be an action they are hesitant to take due to the fear of being recognized. However, some K-Pop agencies have their own in-house counselors. But not all are willing and open to seek help because they do better in masking symptoms of depression and other mental illness.

Causes of Depression

o   brain chemistry and hormone imbalances

o   comorbidities such as other mental health disorder and other physical disorders and/or diseases

o   nutritional deficiencies

o   stinking thinking

o   impairment in functioning such as at home, school and work

o   traumatic life events (real or perceived)

Musicians and organizations for mental health

Here are 7 organizations that make a difference in raising awareness on mental health through artists and leaders that also supports music makers.

·        We Rise LA – Bringing together people to spark a national discourse on mental health services and care as a civil right.

·        Silence the Shame – Founded by music veteran, Shanti Das. She shares her story of growing up with a father who attempted suicide successfully at a young age.

·        MusiCares – Provides a safe haven for artists in times of need. They have services that cover a wide range of medical, financial and personal emergencies.

·        The WishArt Group – Encourages other artists to speak up and encourage others that directly impacts other artists.

·        Nuci’s Space – Focuses on prevention, education and access to treatment. Advocates prevention and ending stigma towards people with mental illness.

·        Phantogram x American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Contributes to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention gathered from their proceeds after Sarah Barhel’s (singer) sister took her life.

·        Music Minds Matter – Operates 24 hours a day that lends services for the whole community of musicians in the UK.


Are musicians depressed?

Yes, they can be. According to a survey, a big percentage of musicians experience anxiety and deal with depression. This condition has been prevalent across the music industry. Many musicians have told the media they have been dealing with depression like Lizzo and Billie Eilish.
This is prevalent across the world in the field of music industry across ages and from up and coming to huge names of artists and musicians.  

Are musicians mentally ill?

Yes, some of them are. A report says that a musician’s creativity is related to anxiety and depression and that 73% of independent music creators experience symptoms of mental illness.

Why are Musicians depressed?

Drugs, alcohol, lifestyle, genetic vulnerability, environment are one of the many reasons why musicians are depressed. Some are predisposed and only need a certain amount of stress and becoming a musician can be a very stressful career for an individual. Aside from a person’s diathesis, external factors should be considered.
Moreso, the need for perfection, love, acceptance and pressure can be potential triggers for a person to be depressed.  

Does playing an instrument help with depression?

Yes, it does. Playing an instrument help a person with depression due to its benefits such as calmness, ability to focus, reduces anxiety and depression, improvement in mood and vigor and relieves an individual from tension, exhaustion, confusion and hostility.

Why are musicians weird?

Although not all musicians are “weird”, there are others who seem to act so differently compared to the average people yet still come up with great songs and arrangements. They have a different perception and manner of creating their work. In abnormal psychology, weird is considered as being deviant. Note that deviance is also one of the 4 D’s to consider to infer a person to be abnormal.
In some cases, such behaviors are praised rather than stigmatized because of the benefits of once being eccentric.

Can depressing music make you depressed?

Yes, it can. This can be a maladaptive coping that can worsen depression or symptoms of depression. However, this can also be therapeutic due to the positive emotions and evaluations which explains why people continue to listen to it.

Is there a correlation between depression and creativity?

Yes, there is. A study found links between creativity and depression among writers. However, there is a need for further study with this due to the relatively weak literature that covers this subject.

Is music good for mental health?

Yes, it is. Music improves mental health and enhances focus and intelligence. It also boosts the immune system, confidence and self-esteem. Music also calms the mind and induces deeper and better sleep. Listening to music also improves our mood and functioning as an employee, a family member, a partner and whatever in whatever roles we play. It also makes us perform better with our daily activities.  

Can music cause suicidal thoughts?

Yes, it can. What we listen to tells something about what we feel inside, consciously or unconsciously. Preference in music partly reflects suicide risk factors, however, this is not always the case as this may only be a form of defense mechanism contrary to suicide urges.

Do artists get nervous before concerts?  

Yes, they do. Some of the musicians admitted to experiencing stage fright or anxiety right before their shows began or even during the program proper. Some of them are Adele, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Rihanna, Rod Stewart and Barbra Streisand.

Does playing music relieve stress?

Yes, it can. Studies have shown that playing music relaxes tension, exhaustion, confusion and hostility. It also shows music can decrease heart rate, stress, depression, anxiety and lower blood pressure. Evidence also shows creating music boosts immunity that enables us to fight against viruses.

What percentage of performing artists have reported mental health problems?

80% of independent musicians aging from 18 and 25 years old said they suffered from depression, anxiety and/or stress relative to creating music. Data also shows that younger artists were more likely to experience mental health problems.


In this article, we answered the question “Are musicians depressed?”. We also explored what depression is and its causes, musicians who have depression, the music industry and depression,  organizations that address mental health and answered frequently questions asked about the subject.


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