Is depression your fault?


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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

In this article we will discuss the misconception that depression and other mental illnesses are under the control of the person affected. 

We will look into the various pieces of evidence that prove that depression is not your fault and look into the ways you can choose to heal because you owe it to yourself. 

Is depression your fault?

No, depression is not your fault. You are not the one that has caused yourself to have depression or any other debilitating mental health condition that is getting the way of you living your life. 

Research has found that there are plenty of factors that cause depression. These factors include:

  • Neurobiological impairments and imbalances
  • Genetic disposition
  • Life experiences
  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Personality disposition

All of these factors impact the way you see yourself, the world, and others which can lead to risks in the onset of depression.


If you have any mental illness, depression or not, you must have heard this at least once. “Snap out of it” or you might have heard some inspirational influencer on the internet saying “Choose happiness” as though it was so easy. 

If you have come across this “advice”, you are not alone. The misconception that depression is somehow under the control of the people offered by it is still rampant and it will continue to be so until people recognize depression and other mental illnesses as the disabling condition it is. 

Depression impacts adults, children, teenagers, and older adults alike. It is so common that it is considered an epidemic that is a leading cause of disability and has taken the lives of many people. 

Depression can rob a person of not just happiness but control over their own lives- their relationship, their careers, their physical health, and a healthy sense of self. 

Mental illnesses like depression have been misunderstood for centuries and it is only in recent decades, with advances in research and science, we are beginning to understand what they are and how they affect people. 

Despite this growing awareness there is a lot of stigma and shame around it. Let us take a look at the Blame, shame, and guilt surrounding mental illnesses like depression.

Blame, shame, and guilt surrounding mental illness

There is no contest that the stigma around mental illnesses lead to blame, shame, and guilt. People do not understand that depression or any mental illnesses as a matter of fact is not a person’s fault. 

Sam Dylan Finch from healthline highlighted common ways blame seems to crop up around people with mental illnesses owing misinformation and ignorance. He writes that this blame festers as a result of.

“…A culture that routinely questions the severity of our illnesses and the sincerity of our efforts — effectively blaming the victim — keeps many of us from accessing the care that we need.”

According to Finch, a lot of this guilt arises from people’s expectations for people with mental illnesses to simply overcome it by sheer willpower. That it is somehow them not putting effort to “get over it” that is causing the issue.  

This sort of attitude makes people buy into the idea that mental illness can be done away with if you simply try hard enough. This perpetuates the idea that people who suffer from depression lack willpower or strength.

Finch also highlighted that people disregard the fact that it is so hard to find services that can help treat depression and other mental illnesses due to the stigma and the lack of mental health service providers that are geographically accessible, well-informed, culturally aware, and affordable amongst many challenges. 

Another issue is the process of recovery itself. When people do get the help that they need and their process of recovery seems to be a struggle for them or “slow”, the culture does not choose to understand that recovery is hard instead blame people for not trying enough.

Most people do not understand that treatment and recovery of depression takes time and there are many setbacks in the process and oftentimes the environment around the person, family, jobs, friendships , can all be part of the reason why they might relapse. 

Society and its culture of blame does not necessarily have to be direct. Finch brings to our attention that the system of societies does not support healing. Instead people with depression with it’s varying levels of severity are shamed for either not seeming “depressed enough” or made to feel guilty for being not functional and productive enough. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Is depression your fault?

Proof that depression is not your fault

In an article for huffpost, Lindsey Holmes lists  several scientific studies that seemingly proves that depression is not under the control of the person affected by it and thus not their fault.

She brings to attention that Depression may be caused by inflammation in the brain physiology caused by over-exertion or stress. Several separate studies also found that brain inflammation may also be correlated with clinical depression.

Holmes also refers to a meta-analysis of nearly 30 studies that suggests that depression could be a systemic, total-body illness which also explains why people with depression are also more prone to health issues like heart conditions.

Various twin Studies suggest mental health conditions like schizophrenia and anxiety could be because of  genetic relationships. A person who has a family history of diabetes becomes more susceptible to the disease, this is the same case for mental illnesses like depression. 

Even if they do everything in their power to prevent mental illnesses and have a life condition that is close to perfect and healthy, there is still a high likelihood that they might suffer from depression. 

People with depression and anxiety may perceive the world differently. A person with anxiety and depression may experience the inability to objectively identify stressors from non-stressors. They tend to over-generalize threats leading to extreme fear and a sense of hopelessness about their life and the world around them.

Other than the studies that Holmes has mentioned in her article, there is a general understanding- through years of research with antidepressants- that depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Specifically chemicals such as serotonin or dopamine that seem to be lower in people with depression. 

These neurobiological and genetic factors that play a huge role in the development and progress of mental disorders in people is only some of the proof against the mininfromed notion that people affected are to be blamed for their depression.

Responsibility and healing

So researchers and advances in psychiatric sciences all agree: depression is not your fault. However, you owe it to yourself to take on the responsibility of healing.

You might be depressed today because of your genetic heritage, your childhood, abuse, and loss- things you couldn’t control then nor can you control now. You might find yourself depressed because of your abusive boss at your workplace or because the stress of college is just too much. 

You did not ask to be depressed and it is unlikely that you chose to be depressed either. The reality is, while you are not at fault for your depression, you have been affected by it and the symptoms of depression are yours to manage and cope with.

It becomes your responsibility to manage them and deal with them in such a way that you are able to live a satisfying life on your terms. That is something that you owe to yourself.

It is a difficult thing to come to terms with- the responsibility that has been pushed on to you, that it is your job to deal with it even though it isn’t your fault that you have the problems you have. 

This sense of responsibility comes from a very existential school of thought. It goes beyond simply taking drugs and medication to help manage the symptoms of your depression.

In fact, the stories of many people and their experiences of being under treatment describes their experiences as losing their autonomy and control over their journey of healing. 

Medicine, while there is enough evidence that attests to it’s efficiency in treating depression is sometimes not enough. Research finds that depression and anxiety is best treated with a dual effort of pharmaceutical therapy and talk therapy which involves changes in beliefs, perspectives, behaviours, thoughts, and feelings. 

It is through therapy and your own personal active participation of taking control over uour own thoughts, feelings, and behaviour can you take responsibility over your own healing in ways that make you more resilient against relapse.

It can give you a sense of control over your own lives, treatment, and well-being that can be a breakthrough for many who suffer from a debilitating disorder that makes them feel like they are losing control. Infact, the simple act of making an appointment in itself can be your first act of responsibility not for other people but for yourself. 

This act of taking action can also include advocating for yourself when it comes to your medications, your dosage through open discussion with your doctors and if your doctor does not seem to be taking the effort to understand you, you always have an option to seek a second consultation. 

It is important that you remember that your depression is not your fault and that It’s your responsibility to heal- not just the doctors or the people around you. Your therapist can help you develop the tools and strengths you already have within you to help cope with people who are not supportive, or things that stress you out. 

By taking responsibility, you take into account your limits and your strength. You acknowledge what you are capable of and what you can do to make small realistic goals to help you change your life in ways that can help you cope better. 

These small acts of change- in the way you see yourself, the world, and other people; or taking moments of rest and kindness towards yourself; and also the act of acknowledging your own emotions in adaptive ways can help you heal in ways that medicine might not be able to.


In this article we have discussed the blame, shame and guilt that surrounds mental illnesses like depression and the various pieces of evidence that supports the notion that depression is not the fault of the person who has been affected. We also discussed the responsibility of healing.


What we recommend for Depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Frequently asked questions related to “Depression is not your fault”

Does depression make you blame others?

People that struggle with mental health problems may have issues with anger even if they are dealing with depression. This anger or irritability could lead to people lashing out and blaming others, often without meaning to, when the stress gets the best of them.

There are also instances that people without positive sources of support can become critical of the people around them who are unable to understand their emotional distress and even blame them.

When someone doesn’t believe they have a mental illness?

Lack of awareness or insight of their own mental illness is generally seen in people who struggle with mental disorders with extreme severity. 

People often do not know they have a disorder and reject treatment especially when the disorder has progressed to such an extent that they are unable to objectively judge their behaviours as being maladaptive. 

Can you convince yourself you have a mental illness?

People who fake symptoms of mental illness can convince themselves that they genuinely have those symptoms. There are also various mental disorders where people convince themselves of having a certain illness and seek out treatment for it- often orienting their entire lives around this non-existent mental illness. 

Is blaming others OK when you are stressed?

No, it is not okay to lash out and blame other people when you are stressed. The practice of blaming others for everything can create a learned helplessness. It is important for you to understand that blaming other people or yourself does not help deal with the stress effectively.

What is it called when you blame yourself for everything?

Self-blame is a cognitive process in which an individual attributes the occurrence of a stressful event to oneself- events that are or are not under their control. Self-blame can contribute to depression, and lead to self-directed emotions like guilt and self-disgust.