Is It Depression? Is It Self-Pity? Here's the Difference

February 24, 2021 Mahevash Shaikh

Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling depressed, at least one person in your life tells you to "stop feeling sorry for yourself?" Depression and self-pity seem to go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing. Experiencing self-pity is significantly different from being blue. Here's how you can tell the difference.

How Depression Is Different from Self-Pity

A person with depression is more likely to engage in self-pity, and a person who often wallows in self-pity may have depression. In my experience, both depression and self-pity are undesirable mental states that negatively impact one's quality of life and self-esteem. So, how are they different from each other?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health,

"depression [major depressive disorder or clinical depression] is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks."1

Psychotherapist Amy Morin explains why self-pity is unnecessary and pointless.

"It goes beyond healthy sadness. When you feel sorry for yourself, you'll exaggerate your misfortune and experience a sense of hopelessness and helplessness."2 

Basically, self-pity is a choice. Depression isn't. The former tends to stem from a pessimistic outlook on life and is often seen in people who are so self-absorbed that their own troubles are all they see. It makes one oblivious of the good in life because they are so busy focusing on the bad. As destructive as self-pity is, I have it on good authority (mine) that it can be controlled. 

From Self-Pity to Depression and Vice Versa

It's perfectly normal and okay to feel sorry for yourself from time to time. Life is hard and unfair, after all. But if you often find yourself down the rabbit hole of self-pity, you need to work on it. Trust me, throwing yourself one pity party after another is one of the quickest ways to get depressed, especially if you are already vulnerable to the black dog. 

To stop feeling sorry for yourself or to prevent depression from causing self-pity, you need to be mindful of what you think. Counter negative thoughts with reality checks. And most importantly, ensure you don't have a case of victim mentality.

How do you deal with self-pity to reduce or prevent depression? Please let me know in the comments section below. 


  1. National Institute of Mental Health, "Depression." Accessed February 24, 2021.
  2. Morin, A., "2 Psychological Tricks That Will Help You Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself.", Inc., Accessed February 24, 2021

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2021, February 24). Is It Depression? Is It Self-Pity? Here's the Difference, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

Fighting Depression
February, 24 2021 at 9:21 pm

I think being aware there's a problem is the first step. Then, as you're able (be patient with yourself), you can explore ways to fix it and find a couple that work for you.

Roger Mounger
September, 19 2021 at 5:44 am

Being a alcoholic, ppl tell me it's self pity. But I refuse to let a book written by alcoholics define the way I feel.
I've battled depression, over 30 years.
I lost both my parents and my this March, it's difficult keeping what sanity I have..

September, 21 2021 at 6:28 am

I'm sorry to hear of your loss, Roger.
Depression and alcoholism are a formidable combination. Losing your parents must have definitely made things a lot harder. I hope you are seeing a therapist, grief counselor, or have someone who listens to you without judgment.
Please take good care of yourself. I sincerely hope your mental health improves soon.

John mcneil
October, 4 2021 at 12:00 am

My wife, common law of 30 yrs suddenly passed away last year..she was selfless and humble of spirit . I've had grief therapy for a year.,I can't get her out of my sweet..I have no strong support group ... I'm 75..and feel alone what can I do........John my feel

Jeffrey Davis
March, 15 2022 at 4:56 am

I appreciated the commentary. I think I have both depression and self pity. It comes in bunches. I am 67 years old and was homeless for over a year and lived on the streets in garages and in homes when it was extended to me. When I got a car I slept in that for awhile until I finally moved in a senior apt in 2018. However I live in the hub of an industrial community. Refineries 18 wheelers and a noise level that often has me feeling unsteady and agitated. Covid didn't help either

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