Overcoming Depression Stigma To Get Help

Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC

Published 06/27/2022

It's another morning with you waking up to exhaustion. You're feeling hopeless and you wonder what's wrong with you.

Are you questioning whether it's just a small phase you're going through? Or are you wondering if maybe it's something more?

Could it be depression?

You're not sure, but you know how people respond negatively when they hear the word depression. So, that keeps you from sharing your concerns and seeking the answers you need.

Actually, the way you're feeling has a name. It's known as depression stigma, but before you understand depression stigma, you first need to understand depression.

Understanding Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, with an estimate of 16.2 million adults suffering at least one major episode a year. If you're suffering from depression, it can affect how you think, feel, and behave. It can cause emotional and physical problems to such a degree that it can make your life difficult to navigate.

Unlike sadness which occurs because of a trigger, depression is an ongoing emotional state or mental health challenge. Sadness will usually leave when your circumstances change, whereas depression can't be changed by just shaking it off, reciting positive quotes, or receiving good vibes from your friends.

Therefore, it's beneficial to know the symptoms of depression to help receive the correct treatment.

Symptoms Of Depression

  1. Unexplained sadness or hopelessness
  2. Increased anger, irritability, or frustration
  3. Not being interested in things you used to enjoy including normal daily activities or hobbies
  4. Insomnia, sleeping too much, or other sleep disturbances
  5. Fatigue, general lack of energy or tiredness
  6. Changes in weight or eating habits including eating too much or too little
  7. Feeling anxious or agitated
  8. Restlessness
  9. Slowed reaction time or difficulty concentrating
  10. Feeling worthless or like a failure
  11. Physical pain that is not connected to something else

If you've read through this list and still aren't sure you're suffering from depression, you may want to take this short depression quiz to find out if you're at risk.

While it isn't something you should be ashamed of, it may be something you're not sure you're ready to share with others because of the stigma attached to depression.

What Is A Stigma?

A stigma is the result of people believing stereotypes. Their belief in those stereotypes causes them to view people in a certain way. These stereotypes could be connected with the personal traits and characteristics of a person. But they are often also connected to the general attitudes that people have towards those with mental health challenges. This includes things like anxiety and depression.

Sadly, depression stigmas are common. For that reason, you may be aware when you're being treated differently, because someone may make negative remarks to you about your mental state. Or it may be in more subtle ways, like when people avoid you after learning of your diagnosis.

If you're suffering from depression you may notice there is a stigma attached to depression that isn't attached to other diseases, like cancer or diabetes. This can lead to deeper feelings of failure or worthlessness.

One of the stereotypes that some people believe is that a person suffering from depression could become violent, so the risk of a depression stigma is more likely than with other illnesses.

What Is Depression Stigma?

A depression stigma can happen when you share with other people that you've been diagnosed with depression. Quite often a person with depression is thought to be incompetent because of their mental health challenges. You may discover that your family, friends, or boss believe you're unstable, or unable to handle your job or family in a safe and healthy manner.

If you worry that people will be rude or judgmental towards you, it can cause you to decide to keep silent, rather than seek help.

The Ugly Side Of Depression Stigma 

Because of depression stigma, and the fear that comes with it, people with depression may find themselves social distancing. This can in turn cause the person suffering from depression to feel even more isolated and lonely.

Following is a list of the harmful effects depression stigma can create.

  1. Stop people from reaching out for help
  2. Break down in relationships between family, friends, and co-workers
  3. Being passed over for opportunities at work or in school
  4. Bullying, harassment, or abuse
  5. Lack of needed health insurance that will cover treatment for mental health challenges
  6. Self-doubt and low self-esteem
  7. Feeling that you won't be able to change your situation

Depression stigmas may also have you believing lies about yourself, and when this happens you begin operating with a self-stigma.


If you're being stigmatized by others, it can lead you to struggle with self-stigmas. You believe the same stereotypes about yourself that others believe about you which can lead to a "why try" attitude. This can prolong your recovery from depression.

5 signs That You May Have A Self-Stigma Caused By Depression

  1. Compare yourself with others and believe you don't measure up
  2. Suffering from negative internal self-talk or negative verbal self-talk
  3. Feelings of worthlessness
  4. Feeling like you're incapable of accomplishing or achieving anything that really matters

3 Ways To Stop Self-Stigma

While self-stigma can have a lot of negative impacts on your life, the good news is that you're able to change that. These tips can help you put an end to the stigma that you may be struggling with.

  1. Keep Track Of Your Negative Self-Talk.What is occurring at the time you start speaking negative words against yourself? Is there a certain time of day that triggers your negative self-talk?
  2. Intentionally Redirect Your Thoughts When They Turn Negative. Choose a few positive thoughts that you will focus on instead.
  3. Make A List Of What You Like About Yourself.If you need help, ask someone you trust who is honest and an encourager. 

The Root Of Depression Stigma

The false beliefs and lies that you believe about mental health challenges can cause you to suffer even more. Some of the common lies that you may believe about your depression include:

  • You just aren't trying hard enough
  • There is no hope for you
  • Nothing matters
  • Being alone is better
  • There's no hope of a good future
  • You'll never amount to anything

You may feel like you're without hope, but there are steps to help you cope with depression stigma, so you are able to reach out for professional care.

Steps To Cope With Depression Stigma

It's hard to take the first steps, especially when you're working from a place of depression, but a good plan can be helpful. Below are some steps you can take and strategies you can use as you start your journey to overcome stigma and depression.

  1. Get Professional Treatment.Don't let the fear of being labeled with depression prevent you from seeking help. If you're not comfortable talking to a therapist right now, reach out to your physician.
  2. Don't Allow Yourself To Feel Guilty Or Ashamed.Educate yourself about your depression and connect with others who have overcome it. The more you learn about it, the more you'll see that you have no reason to feel bad about your diagnosis.
  3. Connect With Others. Reach out to people you trust. Find those that will operate without a depression stigma in order to provide support.
  4. Choose Your Words.You are not "depression". You are a person that has been diagnosed with depression. They are two separate things.
  5. Find A Support Group To Join. Spending time with people who understand depression can allow you to voice your experiences without judgment.
  6. Help Put An End To Stigma For Others.Educate yourself and your friends. The more people that understand depression, the greater chance depression stigmas will be destroyed.

Now that you've tackled depression stigma, here are some ways to fight depression.

How To Fight Depression

  1. Accept yourself as you are each day.
  2. Recognize the good in each day. It's easy to focus on the bad things that happen but focusing on one good thing can keep your mood from spiraling downward.
  3. Remember that how today was is not indicative of how tomorrow will be. Let go of the day that's past and look forward to the good tomorrow may hold.
  4. Set attainable goals for each day. Overloading your schedule with goals you can't keep will have you feeling overwhelmed and like a failure. Instead set small goals that will fill you with a sense of accomplishment as you complete each one.
  5. Celebrate each victory by treating yourself to a reward. You don't need to splurge; you can celebrate by simply treating yourself to a bubble bath or favorite latte.
  6. You can also celebrate reaching a goal with positive self-talk. Compliment yourself using the same encouraging words that you would use towards someone else.
  7. When doing chores, you may want to listen to music. If you're feeling overwhelmed, try listening to a soothing
  8. Take a walk, especially if the sun is shining. Getting your daily dose of vitamins from the sun can ease mild depression.
  9. You may find symptoms of depression ease when you are helping others. Therefore, becoming a volunteer for others may be a good choice for you.
  10. Praying and meditation, are beneficial to calming our emotions and easing depression. 

Depression stigma shouldn't keep you suffering from depression alone. Remember that depression is a medical diagnosis, the same as a broken arm or diabetes. You can seek help from a professional without any fear of judgmen