What’s The Link Between Depression And Hygiene?
Alongside anxiety disorders, depression is known as one of the most common mental health concerns. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it’s estimated that around 5% of adults live with depression across the globe. It can impact anyone, including kids, teens, and adults. Depression can come with a wide range of symptoms, and it has the potential to impact all parts of life—including hygiene and overall self-care. Although this is common, some people experience shame, guilt, or embarrassment. The good news is that if depression affects your hygiene, there are things you can do.
The Connection Between Hygiene And Depression
Various studies have found a connection between mental health and hygiene. Depression can come with several symptoms that may make personal hygiene and other self-care pieces tricky. Symptoms of depression may include but aren’t restricted to:
A down, low, or depressed mood
Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
Trouble with focus or concentration
Low energy and fatigue
Social isolation or withdrawal from others
Changes in sleep (such as sleeping too much, sleeping too little, or restless sleep)
Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
Changes in appetite
Slowed physical movements or psychomotor activity
Many people who live with depression also experience body aches, muscle tension, GI distress, and other physical symptoms. Depression can range in severity, and the signs may vary from person to person, as can the level of difficulty someone has with hygiene and overall self-care. Now, let’s discuss what it might look like when mental health impacts hygiene.
How Do Mental Health And Hygiene Affect Each Other?
First, what exactly does personal hygiene refer to? The definition of the word hygiene, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a science of the establishment and maintenance of health” or “conditions or practices (as of cleanliness) conducive to health.” Personal hygiene refers to the personal practices that we use to care for ourselves with this in mind. It can include:
Dental or oral hygiene. This can refer to brushing, flossing, and attending regular dental appointments. With symptoms of depression, such as low energy and fatigue, it can be challenging to do these things. However, dental hygiene is strongly related to your overall health, including your heart health and other essential areas of well-being.
Food quality, adequate nutrition, and more. Alongside common depression symptoms like changes in appetite, some individuals who live with depression and other mental health conditions have trouble with tasks such as going to the grocery store and preparing meals.
Body hygiene. This can refer to washing and brushing hair, showering or bathing regularly, physical activity, and more.
A clean home or living space, which may be challenging for individuals who live with depression at times. It takes a lot of energy to maintain a clean home, and it may be more difficult for individuals in certain situations, such as those who live alone.
Symptoms like sleeping too much, sleeping too little, early waking, or restless sleep can concern people who live with depression. However, sleep hygiene can be another issue. Sleep hygiene refers to a person's practices to support their sleep. For example, sleeping in a cool, dark, clean space, reducing caffeine consumption, limiting alcohol, and restricting technology use before bed are positive examples of sleep hygiene.
While these concerns can relate to the low energy or fatigue that often show up for those who live with depression, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness and negative feelings about oneself can also play a role. Unfortunately, some people run into another challenge in that difficulty with hygiene can make them feel worse, both physically and mentally. In turn, depression symptoms can worsen further, making this matter somewhat cyclic. Addressing depression symptoms can help people overcome these concerns and improve their quality of life.
Addressing Depression Symptoms
Despite the prevalence of depressive disorders, not everyone reaches out for help. Some studies have found that most don’t. However, it is important to do so. Several different treatments can address depression symptoms, but if it is left untreated, depression can worsen.
The treatment that works for you may depend on several different factors, and often, people use a combination of different treatments. Various types of talk therapy, like online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), have been found to be effective to treat depression. Additionally, medication*, lifestyle modification (i.e., getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol, and stress management), peer support (whether that’s through an in-person support group or remote methods, like online support groups), or even various alternative treatments, like acupuncture, can be helpful or supplementary.
*BetterHelp does not prescribe medication. Before starting, stopping, or changing medications, please consult with a prescribing doctor, such as your primary care physician or a psychiatrist.
As depression symptoms improve, concerns such as difficulty with hygiene may get easier to manage. If the first treatment you try doesn’t work, it’s fully valid to try something new. Trial and error are normal in finding what works to address your depression symptoms and care for your health and well-being. Having support throughout the process matters; not only can a professional like a therapist offer emotional support and a safe space to talk about what you’re going through, but they can also help you find ways to improve your quality of life and treat depression in a way that’s effective for you as a unique individual.
Several different tips can help you manage your hygiene when you experience depression or another mental health concern that affects this part of your life. Here are some things you can do:
Do What You Can
Sometimes, it can help to move in small steps or do what you can vs. trying to do it all. Let’s say that, for example, it feels overwhelming to stand up in the shower and engage in every single step that you want to. Instead, you can sit in the shower and do only what needs to be done. You can also use tools that make caring for your hygiene easier if available to you, like mouthwash, flossing sticks, or dry shampoo in place of a full routine on tough days.
Ask For Help From Others
Self-care doesn’t mean doing everything on your own. Sometimes, it also means letting another person assist you or reaching out to ask for that aid or support. Consider making a game plan for when hygiene is difficult, including people you can reach out to under these circumstances. If you have a therapist or counselor, they may be able to help you write out or brainstorm this plan.
Modify Unhelpful Thought Patterns
Positive self-talk and mitigating negative feelings or beliefs about oneself can be vital. For example, instead of thinking, “I am a failure,” when concerns related to hygiene and self-care arise, you might instead say, “I am learning how to navigate this better, and I deserve kindness.” Living with depression is nothing to be ashamed of. As much as it isn’t always spoken about, many people face challenges related to hygiene, whether that’s due to a physical or mental health condition.
Taking Care Of You
When you take steps to care for your hygiene, it is something to be proud of, and it’s important to be compassionate with yourself throughout the process. It takes effort, and for many, it isn’t simple. That said, things can get better in time, and it’s crucial to reach out for help if you live with depression, think that you might, or find mental health is affecting your hygiene or other areas of your life in another way.
BetterHelp provides a licensed therapist at a time that works for you. You can meet wherever you have an internet connection. Your BetterHelp therapist can help you develop a plan for working through your mental health issues and getting back to the routine you desire and deserve.
Online therapy is a research-backed way to get the help that you need from your own home or anywhere else with a reliable connection to the internet. BetterHelp is an online therapy platform with over 20,000 independent, licensed mental health professionals. The professionals on the platform have a wide range of specialties, including common mental health concerns like depression. When you sign up for BetterHelp, you’ll take a brief questionnaire. Then, we’ll match you with a therapist based on your answers. If you need to do so at any point in time, BetterHelp makes it easy to cancel services or change the therapist you work with. Our plans are often more affordable than traditional, in-person therapy is without insurance, and financial aid may be available in some circumstances.
If you’re interested in online therapy, sign up for BetterHelp, or read the FAQs and therapist reviews on our website.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Does Depression Affect Personal Hygiene?
Depression can cause fatigue and other symptoms that may make personal hygiene challenging, like feelings of worthlessness. Tasks like brushing one’s teeth, brushing one’s hair, or bathing may seem draining or daunting. One may also feel like they “don't deserve" hygiene and self-care, though this is not the case. It is possible for those who experience difficulty with personal hygiene or overcome it, and having a support system can play an important role in doing so.
Is Poor Hygiene A Symptom Of Depression?
Poor hygiene is a potential symptom and consequence of depression. Depressive disorders are treatable, so if you live with depression or think you might, it is imperative to reach out to a medical or mental health professional for individualized guidance and support.
Can A Dirty House Make You Depressed?
Many people find that clutter or a dirty home worsens their mood. However, depression and other mental health concerns may also make it challenging to clean or care for the home, which could result in a cycle that has the potential to exacerbate depression symptoms. Working with a professional can help you break the cycle.