The Link Between Depression and Imposter Syndrome

October 28, 2020 Mahevash Shaikh

Depression has a lot of ripple effects -- and the crippling self-doubt of imposter syndrome is one of them. Feeling like you are not good enough at your job and that any professional accomplishments are due to luck is part of imposter syndrome. While one does not need to have depression to feel like an imposter, I sometimes feel like one when my depression intensifies. Here are some signs to help you identify if you have this issue.

Signs You Have Imposter Syndrome Due to Depression

  1. Feeling inadequate -- Do you feel like whatever you do at work is never good enough? If the answer is yes, then you are experiencing inadequacy. While low self-esteem is responsible for this frame of mind, depression also makes one feel unworthy, as if everyone is better than you. If this toxic and untrue mentality is left unchecked, you might spiral into shame and self-loathing. I've been there -- and it's not easy to overcome. 
  2. Self-sabotage -- There are a variety of ways in which depression can sabotage one's career. In the case of imposter syndrome, I've found that it typically manifests as negative self-talk. For example, when you finish a project, you look for flaws instead of feeling proud. In fact, perfectionism and mental health issues like depression are often closely related. It's good to have high standards, but focusing only on mistakes is a bad idea.  
  3. Procrastination -- In the point above, I mentioned how perfectionism causes self-sabotage. In my experience, it also causes one to feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed leads to stress, and stress leads to anxiety and depression. To avoid all of this, I sometimes go into procrastination mode. In the past, procrastination was not even my choice. Wanting to be perfect would make my mind freeze or shut down for a while.
  4. Playing it safe -- This seems like a good option if you frequently think that the worst is going to happen. On occasion, the fear of failure compels me to stick to my comfort zone. While this can be boring, it reduces your chances of failure. However, people cannot grow personally or professionally if they don't try and learn anything new. Predictability, although comfortable, results in stagnation. Also, there is no success without failure. 

Dealing with the Imposter Within

Shutting down your inner critic isn't always possible, but you mustn't let it take over your life. When the voice speaks up against you, you must learn to ignore it and proceed with whatever you want to do. When irrational thoughts enter your mind, you have to learn to counter them with logic. Also, online and offline comparison with others must be minimized at all costs.

Imposter syndrome due to depression can be successfully managed with therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helped me cope, and it may help you too. Make sure to consult a licensed mental health professional before imposter syndrome becomes debilitating.  

How do you prevent imposter syndrome from depression from controlling your thoughts and actions? Please let me know in the comments below. 

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2020, October 28). The Link Between Depression and Imposter Syndrome, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 27 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.

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