Depression Does Not Eliminate Your Basic Needs

July 20, 2016 Tiffanie Verbeke

Depression can make you ignore your basic needs. But if you don't take care of those basic needs, depression worsens. What's the best thing to do about it?

It's important to realize that depression does not eliminate your basic needs. There are many mornings that I wake up in an uncontrollable rage with nothing to show for it but unwavering anger. In these instances of rage, my usual coping skills of painting, cooking, writing, or exercising do not work. They seem to require too much energy, effort, and thought. I find that my angry self wants only to sit in a tense position with clenched fists, mercilessly criticizing my messy brain. After sitting frozen in this furious position and mindset for a few hours, I fall deeply into a depressive state. I typically ignore my body at this point, skipping meals despite my growling stomach and refusing to use the restroom (Importance of Self-Care to Your Mental Health). But I've learned that depression does not eliminate your basic needs.

Depression Doesn't Change the Human Body’s Basic Needs


In order for the human body to survive, it needs a few things: air, sleep, food, water and shelter. Humans must breathe, rest, eat, and have a physically and mentally safe place in which to do those things. I like to include hygiene in the list because cleanliness is important in preventing illness. Fulfilling these basic needs enables the body to properly carry out its primary functions of maintaining vital organs, providing energy for activity, healing, and so on.

Depression can make you ignore your basic needs. But if you don't take care of those basic needs, depression worsens. What's the best thing to do about it?In order for the body to focus its energy on more complicated things, it must first take care of the basics; the body must prioritize its functions hierarchically, like a pyramid. Without a well-laid and maintained base built of food, water, sleep, air, shelter, and hygiene, the body cannot dedicate its energy to support the upper level, complex stuff like balancing out brain chemicals and promoting good brain health.

Depression Worsens If You Don't Fulfill Your Basic Needs

Bad brain days (days during which mental illness is especially nasty) make it impossibly difficult to get out of bed and grab a glass of water, or to take some deep breaths and rest. Eating seems like a chore and showering seems unnecessary. But in order to reach a place of balanced brain health, we need rest, energy, and healthy bodies. Without focusing on the basics, mental health is merely an idea (Implement Extreme Self-Care for Depression).

Focusing on Basic Needs Is a Coping Mechanism for Depression

Trying to sort through my intangible needs makes me feel like I am drowning. However, focusing on my body’s biological requirements—thus temporarily disregarding my emotional dysfunction—puts me into a simple, task-oriented mindset. Biological needs never change, as the human body will always need food, water, et cetera, so I have a set, uncomplicated list of things to do to ensure physical health. And being physically healthy will enable me to be mentally healthy in the future (8 Things to Do Every Day to Enhance Mental Health).

Feeding oneself, breathing, and sleeping are not complicated tasks. Those tasks are incredibly difficult to carry out on bad days, but the tasks themselves are simple. I find the simplicity involved in fulfilling my basic needs to be invigorating and empowering. I cannot hush the wild emotions inside my brain, but I can turn down the loud grumble in my stomach. And that’s progress.

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APA Reference
Verbeke, T. (2016, July 20). Depression Does Not Eliminate Your Basic Needs, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Tiffanie Verbeke

Tiffanie Verbeke is a writer who delights in thinking and despises typing. She gets fired up about mental health and societal inequalities and she finds joy in driving under shadowy trees, running when it's raining, and kids' brutal honesty. Tiffanie welcomes feedback, so contact her freely. Connect with Tiffanie on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and her personal blog.

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