Did David Bowie have depression?

In this blog we will briefly discuss David Bowie’s struggle with his mental health and depression. 

Did David Bowie have depression?

While it was not explicitly reported whether Bowie had depression or had been diagnosed with depression or not, he has a history of addiction and a family history of depression and schizophrenia which makes it highly likely that Bowie could have suffered with similar disorders. 

It is very possible considering that he was reported to have described what appears to be anhedonia or a lack of interest- a key symptom of depression. 

“The ’80s were very strange for me. I lost all interest in what I was doing. I was doing exceptionally well commercially but I did not understand why I was enjoying none of it.” — David Bowie (The cabin).

David Bowie was a superstar and an icon in music and pop culture. He is well known for his ability to change his persona every once in a while and his unapologetic way of expressing himself creatively. 

For someone as famous, successful, and unapologetically himself, Bowie has had a tragic journey when it comes to his mental health- marked with addiction, paranoia, and depression. 

For David Bowie, his family has had a history of mental illness- from drug addiction to schizophrenia and it is often to these conditions that he has lost his brother as well as had been subjected to negative and unhealthy home environments. 

Bowie not only struggled with drug addiction but was also depressed and often engaged in self harm as a result of addiction and schizophrenia.

David Bowie’s family was plagued with a history of mental disorders. His mother Peggy Jones (née Burns) was a victim to what is considered the family curse in Bowie’s family- schizophrenia. 

Bowie’s mother was subjected to cruel abuse form Bowie’s grandmother as well as the trauma of war in the 1940s only exacerbated his mother’s problems. 

True to the fact that mental disorders ran in the family, David Bowie’s half-brother was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia that became apparent when he was a boy. 

When their father died passed, Terry spent time in and out of mental hospitals for years until he committed suicide.

Along with the struggles of abuse, hostile family environment, history of mental illnesses in the family, you also have to understand Bowie’s context. 

David Bowie lived in a time when the LBGT+ community was hunted and prosecuted for their sexuality and identity and it is possible that, considering Bowei himself was fay, could  have caused immense stress. 

Being unable to live honestly and openly as well as express himself and his ability to love with joy and pride could have been a difficult experience for Bowie as it was for other people as well- often leading to depression. 

While it was not explicitly reported whether Bowie had depression or had been diagnosed with depression or not, it is very likely considering that there has been a history of mental illness in the family as well as the various stressors he had to experience due to his career and his addiction. 

What is depression?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a leading publication used for diagnosis of mental disorders by mental health professionals, Major depressive disorder or depression is a serious mood disorder.

Depression is marked by the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

Depression symptoms also include extremely low mood and fatigue and is often accompanied by thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness which can lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts. 

Depression related symptoms such as inability to focus, lack of energy, and hopelessness can impact a person’s ability to work and meet the demands of their daily lives. 

People with depression often struggle with low self esteem and self worth which can cause them to negatively assess themselves. They may fear rejection and abandonment from other people which may cause them to isolate themselves in a bid to protect themselves.

This social withdrawal can make it difficult for them to maintain social commitments and relationships as they might choose to push people away especially when they do not have the skills to communicate and manage their emotions and thoughts. 

While these are some of the ways depression impacts a person, the disorder itself can cause the quality of life of people who have it to drastically decrease and in extreme cases, if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to suicide attempts and death. 

How to cope and manage if you have depression?

Here are a few things you can do to cope with depression:

Seek professional help

If you have not been diagnosed, do not stick to self diagnosis based on your symptoms. Seek out professional consultations starting with your GP who can refer you to specialists in the field. 

There may be different medications- some which might work for you while others that might not help you. 

Taking time to find a doctor who can help you with estimating the right dosage of medication and the right medical treatment can make the quality of your journey to recovery drastically different. 

Reduce stress

If it’s a job that is causing you immense stress, maybe it is time to consider taking a leave of absence. Or it could be your own family environment that is causing your symptoms to flare up- consider moving out if your financial situation persists. 

The intent here is to reduce or remove the things in your life that add stress. If it is a certain relationship, taking the time to set boundaries or communicate that you are taking time out can be one way. 

By reducing stressors, the thought of waking up and facing your day may seem a little less daunting, you might even look forward to it. 

Learn and apply coping skills

If you are depressed, you can learn coping skills and techniques and apply them at least once a day when experiencing depression. 

This can be learning how to tackle your anxieties and negative moods by regulating your breathing and engaging in deep breathing techniques. 

You can also try grounding techniques to help you cope with spiralling down a negative rumination. Make goals for each day and let your goals be small, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound, 

Make plans for your day that suit your pace- if today is especially difficult, make a step by step plan from your bed to the bathroom in the mornings. Reward yourself when you succeed and be kind when you slip up. Remind yourself that you are learning. 


Engaging in exercise, even if it is only a 15 minute stretch can be a wonderful step towards loving yourself and caring for yourself. 

You can opt for joining the gym however, if this is too much you can consider yoga or pilates that you can start gradually; you can also go for walks or runs alone or with your loved ones. 

Getting out of your house and doing something that allows you to get your blood pumping in itself can be a great way of self care. 

Eat a healthy diet

Diet is an important aspect of overall health and is an important component of maintaining a positive state of mental health. 

There has been plenty of research studies that have been linked to what we eat and higher risks of depression. Research finds that well balanced meals with adequate intake of vegetables, fruits, grain, and healthy fats are related to lower risks of depression.

Sleep well

Take time to improve your sleep hygiene. Research has found that sleep disorders are also a core symptom of depression. Irregular sleep and not enough sleep can make your healing process difficult and can even heighten the risk of relapse. 

Some of the things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene are

  • Avoid substances that impact your sleep, this includes caffeine. 
  • Exercise daily
  • Avoid heavy dinners
  • Change your sleeping environment to be more soothing and sleep inducing. 
  • Make changes in your pre-sleep routine such as taking relaxing baths before sleep, avoiding gadgets two hours before sleeping time.

Connect with loved ones

Reaching out to people who love you and letting them know that you are having a hard time now, can bring you closer to people who truly love and care for you.

These are positive relationships we want and need around you as you begin your journey to recovery. Positive relationships help you discover joys and meaning to your life. 

Make plans to meet them for lunch, or go for a walk with them. Make sure you make clear what you can and cannot do and agree on something that both you and them can enjoy. 

You can also take the step to connect with other people who are coping with depression through group therapy or support groups.

Oftentimes, listening to other people’s successes can instil hope, it also gives you the opportunity to learn new perspectives of living and life along with new techniques to cope. 


In this blog we have briefly discussed David Bowie’s struggle with his mental health and depression. 

FAQ related to david bowie depression

Did David Bowie’s brother die?

Yes, bowie’s half brother terry died by suicide after struggling with years fo schizophrenia and depression soon after the death of their father. 

What mental disorders did Bowie’s family have?

For David Bowie, his family has had a history of mental illness- from drug addiction to schizophrenia and it is often to these conditions that he has lost his brother as well as had been subjected to negative and unhealthy home environments. 

What did Bowie say about his addiction?

He believed that drugs would eventually kill him. 

“Drugs had taken my life away from me. I felt as though I would probably die and it was going to be all over.” — David Bowie


David Bowie’s Tragic Real-Life Story. Grunge. Retrieved on 25th April 2022.  https://www.grunge.com/115894/songs-famous-musicians-youll-never-get-hear/

Stalked by madness. Tony Renell. Retrieved on 25th April 2022. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3404278/Stalked-madness-David-Bowie-driven-brink-insanity.html

Did Depression lead David Bowie to Addiction? The Cabin. Retrieved on 25th April 2022. https://www.thecabinchiangmai.com/blog/did-depression-lead-david-bowie-to-addiction/

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