This article will explore the link between depression and not showering, or taking care of personal hygiene in a general sense.
Mental illness affects different areas of a person’s ability to function. Those who experience depression in some form may neglect their health, well-being, and maintenance.
Depression itself isn’t necessarily a standalone mental health problem. It may also occur because of bipolar disorder, PTSD, or as a byproduct of other mental illnesses.
Two major indicators of depression include a loss of interest in things and a lack of energy. Either of those things may cause a depressed person’s life to suffer.
A loss of interest in things is often interpreted as things like hobbies or activities that may bring you happiness. It’s actually more complicated than that.
A loss of interest in things can include anything really, including not keeping up with hygiene. Why bother showering? Or brushing your teeth? Or putting on deodorant? Or wearing clean clothes? Or doing the laundry?
What difference does it make? I’m not interested in doing any of those things. I’m also not interested in looking my best, impressing other people, or even bothering to interact with the world.
A lack of energy just makes it difficult to function all around. Even the simplest of tasks becomes a herculean effort because you just don’t have the energy to do it.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have depression themselves, consider how you felt after doing a strenuous mental or physical activity. How did you feel afterward? What did you feel like doing afterward? Probably not a lot. Chances are pretty good that you just wanted to lay down or rest.
Now imagine feeling that way for weeks or months at a time. The difference, however, is that it doesn’t matter how much the depressed person rests. They don’t feel recharged afterward.
That’s also one of the reasons that depressed people can sleep so much and still be tired. You may lay down to take a nap, and boom! It’s 12 hours later, and you’re still exhausted, so you force yourself to get up and try to do something to feel human – like try to shower or brush your teeth.
But can you change that?
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you tackle your depression and develop mechanisms to better function in spite of it. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
How do I care about my hygiene when I’m depressed?
The short answer is: you probably can’t.
And the reason for that is the way the question is framed.
The key word in that question is “care.” It’s hard to care about anything when you’re depressed. And if it were so easy to force yourself to care while you’re depressed, then depression wouldn’t be nearly as devastating as it is.
You probably won’t be able to force yourself to feel the emotions surrounding wanting to care for or take care of yourself. However, there are strategies that you can employ that may help you engage in personal hygiene tasks.
1. Ask a loved one for help.
Is it embarrassing to ask a loved one for help with your hygiene?
We should think about and want to do these basic tasks so we can look, feel, and present ourselves at our best.
Unfortunately, that’s not always possible when treading water in the quagmire of depression.
Sometimes those thoughts, wants, and needs just don’t occur to you. So, asking someone you love and trust to give you a gentle reminder if you haven’t taken care of your hygiene can be helpful.
Do let them know that your reaction may not be wholly positive. For example, consider how you respond when people tell you obvious things, particularly while depressed. You may feel exasperated, angry, or irritated that someone would bother to remind you of something so obvious. And when you’re depressed, your ability to shrug those feelings off may not be as strong as it typically is.
The important thing is to take the reminder, try not to get irritated at it, and just do what you need to do.
You may also consider asking a loved one for help with some of these activities. They may be willing to help you wash your hair or do some laundry for you.
2. Make yourself a checklist.
You may not remember or care about your personal hygiene right now.
One way to keep it in mind is to write a checklist of the basics of what you need to do as a reminder. You can then post the list on a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, computer monitor, or wherever else you won’t be able to avoid it. That list can serve as a tangible reminder of, “Hey! You need to do these things!”
Sometimes you need tangible reminders when you’re depressed, or you may just forget things altogether.
Try to keep your checklist simple with basic activities. For example, doing loads of laundry or showering may be too much effort if you’re deep in a severe depression. However, you may be able to swing more reasonable goals like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, and putting on deodorant.
The nice thing about a checklist is that you don’t have to rely on your feelings to sort out what you need to do and not do. Instead, you can just look at the list, know that you need to do these things, and do your best to get them done.
3. Perform some smaller hygiene tasks.
Instead of a full-blown shower, you may want to try taking a “bird bath.” That is, washing the bits of you that get most dirty and smelly when you don’t clean them regularly in the sink with a washcloth.
You may not be able to swing a full shower, particularly if you have a complex care routine for your skin or hair. However, a bird bath is a much more reasonable goal when you’re depressed.
You may not be able to brush your teeth as thoroughly as you would like. Still, you may be able to tag a swig of mouthwash to just clear out some of that latent bacteria that can affect your oral health.
Some sugar-free gum or breath mints can help neutralize bad breath, though they won’t take the place of a good brushing.
4. Do as much as you are able.
People believe there are a bunch of rules about practicing hygiene. They are not rules, however; just good guidelines to follow.
If you can only brush your teeth for a minute, then do that. You don’t necessarily need to use toothpaste or water to brush your teeth. Just dry brushing or wiping your teeth off with a napkin removes plaque. Granted, it won’t be as much as with a traditional brushing, but in this case, anything is better than nothing.
You may be able to jump in the shower but not necessarily have the energy for your full routine. So just do a little bit, as the bird bath suggested before. You may also want to try keeping your toothbrush and paste in the shower so you can knock that out while you’re in there.
5. Make things easier where you can.
Sometimes the problem is not the activity but all the other activities surrounding it. So, for example, if you want to take a shower, you may also feel the need to do whatever hygiene activities follow it, as well as pick out your clothes and get dressed.
But, as with many things, depression suppresses your ability to handle complicated tasks. And while that isn’t a complicated task when you aren’t depressed, anything with multiple steps and considerations becomes complicated when you are depressed.
Try to break up some of those bigger activities into smaller ones. For example, if you know you’re going to shower in the morning, try picking out your clothes the night before. Maybe you know that you need to refresh the towels in the bathroom before you can shower. Try to do that ahead, so you don’t have to think about it when you actually climb in.
There may be other products that can make the process easier as well. Dry shampoos and leave-in conditioners can make hair care much less labor intensive. Some people adhere to a strict daily schedule of washing their hair, a practice that can damage and make your hair worse by stripping off all-natural oils. It’s okay to miss a couple of days of hair washing if necessary.
Try to keep some makeup wipes or wet wipes on hand to clean your face. These make it much easier to take off makeup and wipe away grease that you would otherwise wash off.
Laundry can feel intimidating when you have a bunch of it to do. So don’t do it all at once! Instead, just try doing a load of it here and there, so you don’t have to spend a lot of energy but still make some progress.
On particularly bad depressions days, you may find yourself wearing the same clothes. If you feel in that rut, stick to bigger clothes that won’t cling to you as tightly and won’t pick up as much of your daily sweat and grime. In addition, a spritz of fabric freshener can help kill unwanted odors.
But do make it a priority to change your socks and underwear daily.
A final note on mental health and hygiene.
A dramatic change in personal hygiene can point to a mental health problem. In this article, we have talked about the way depression affects self-care.
There can be other changes in personal hygiene practices that can point to a problem. For example, some people may have a genuine fear or anxiety about taking a shower, so they avoid it to not feel uncomfortable. Other people may feel compulsions for cleanliness that overwhelm them and often drift into unhealthy territory.
One stigmatic trope of OCD is that they may be obsessed with cleanliness. Unfortunately, that isn’t often portrayed correctly. Sure, it can happen. It may also be that a person obsessed with cleanliness may do harmful things like scrub themselves raw with a brush because they just can’t feel clean without it.
Too much or too little personal hygiene may point to a mental health problem either way. If you struggle with your personal hygiene, it would be a good idea to talk to a mental health counselor. There may be underlying issues that you need to address to fix a personal hygiene problem.
Addressing the depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems you may be experiencing will make it much easier to keep up with your personal hygiene.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
You may also like:
- How To Get Motivated When Depressed: 11 Tips That Work!
- I’m Depressed, So Why Don’t I Want To Get Better?
- Coming Out Of Depression: How To Bounce Back Using 10 Simple Tips
- How To Dispel Depression’s Dark Thoughts: 25 Tips That Actually Help
- Am I Depressed or Lazy? How To Tell The Difference