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 24 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.

February, 18 2024 at 12:55 am

Maybe I'm just to weak to live in this world. This world is not for me.

February, 19 2024 at 11:41 am

Hey Chima,
I want to start with thank you for reaching out... I have been in your shoes, feeling hopeless and that the world is a difficult place to be. I want you to know you are not alone. Truthfully.
There are resources and people ready to support you and help you through these thoughts and times of hopelessness. Please call or text 988 or click this link for other people to reach out to:….

December, 15 2023 at 1:53 am

Practicing self-compassion is important. Google Dr. Kristen Neff on self-comparison. Self compassion is not self pity or self esteem or self indulgence. It's turning the compassion we would give to others inward. It's admitting we feel bad but acknowledging that it's ok and we are not the only one. " The care intrinsic to compassion provides a powerful motivating force for growth and change, while also providing the safety needed to see the self clearly without fear of self-condemnation.":- Dr. Kristen Neff Self-pity is not inherently bad. It's just important to try not to stay in it for too long. Be kind to yourself and others.

April, 22 2023 at 11:53 pm

Hi, I am currently off of crystal meth for 2 months. I was diagnosed with depression anxiety and ADHD years ago but continued to use crystal meth until the past 2 months. I am a lost soul who has wasted so many years of drug abuse. I am currently in an out patient program but it seems senseless. I have been in recovery B4 and doing what my sponsor suggested I do, I did feel better. Now as I've gotten older I feel their is no hope in sight. Feeling sorry for my self does give me some relief. But I am so damaged mentally I feel I need more than na or aa can help. I am not suicidal because I am afraid of death. But I do think of the day I would die and how I might die. I don't know what to do from here.

June, 12 2023 at 6:41 pm

My goodness I hope you see this and realise that you are now about to embark on the best years of your life you can’t go back but you can rebuild that future however you want I have recently quit alcohol for two and a half months and have recently been diagnosed with adult adhd so hence my need to comment randomly on some post im very depressed however it’s years of addiction causing that brains readjusting keep going it will get better have some nice hot coffee lots of sugar and a nice cake keep on

November, 14 2023 at 1:03 pm

Hi, I am also in recovery from 23 years of meth use. I will have 1 year sober this month. Meth destroys the pleasure receptors in the brain and it takes quite a lot of time for it to repair itself. I know exactly what you are going through. Through working the program and staying sober I have finally started to feel better. Antidepressants (Prozac) were a big help with regulating the overwhelming negativity and sense of hopelessness and feeling damaged beyond repair. I have come off my antidepressants and now I have intense, but healthy, feelings. I feel better than ever. Physical recovery from meth takes a really long time, but nothing is hopeless. Be patient and work your program.

April, 6 2023 at 4:50 pm

Everyone goes through a lot, and I find no reason to have self pity. I’m thankful, think of others often, and don’t dwell on my own circumstances. But I am fighting severe depression, even having great faith and doing all the steps to feel better (good diet, exercise, etc), and I try not to tell anyone I know or even my doctors because of the very things mentioned in this article. I don’t want to tell anyone how I feel or that I’m ever contemplating an end because I don’t want them to think I feel sorry for myself or have self pity, because I do neither. I’m very thankful for every blessing and help others often. The rest I don’t share with those I know in fear of judgement.

February, 12 2023 at 7:22 pm

Maybe I have depression, but I can feel my choice in it all. Like I am letting myself fall into it. Then someone will say or do something and it brings me out. Exploring this sense of "possible" control helped me find this article.
So, maybe I don't have depression. I used to have a victim mentality and maybe self pity is the next stage up. That explains why I can know that my life has improved, but feel myself falling sometimes. Thank you. I appreciate the clarification.

January, 3 2023 at 11:45 pm

Just a pin.point issue that would like a pin point answer; how do you not feel depression and self pity when illness/disease divorce, taking care of a parent and mad you have been delt a healthy plate of crap? What happens when the cup runneth over?

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

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

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.

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.

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