Self criticism causes depression

self-criticismWe all make mistakes from time to time, it’s inevitable. But how you react to them can make a big difference to your self esteem.

What do you tend to say to yourself when you make a mistake? If you have a judgemental inner voice that says something like “I’m so stupid, I always make a mess of things” or, “why did you do that again, you’re so useless”, then of course you’ll feel bad about yourself as a result.

If you have many of these self-criticisms happening regularly, it tends to lower your opinion of yourself, and can lead to depression, and from there to drinking more.

depressionSimilarly, how you respond to your alcohol consumption has an impact on how you feel about yourself. If you drink more than you intended one night, you might judge yourself for it, saying something like “you’re such a loser, you got drunk again”. The consequences of such a thought are probably feelings of hopelessness and low self esteem. Contrast that with a different reaction to getting drunk, like “I wish I hadn’t done that again, I really need to work out what’s going wrong” – there’s no judgement or self-criticism in that, and you’re more likely to feel hope that you can change.

This is just one small example, but the important point is to listen out for the content of your inner voice, and notice when it’s being harsh or critical, then stop to consider what you could say to yourself instead that would be more understanding and caring.

And before you reject this idea, saying “but that’s just how I am”, these self-statements are not a fixed part of your personality, they are just habitual, so they can be changed.

You can start by making yourself more aware of what you habitually tend to say to yourself. Write it down when you notice you’re being self-critical, then you can begin to challenge such thoughts when they pop up next time, maybe something like “hang on a second, I’m not useless, I just made a mistake, that’s all”. No judgement, no labelling yourself as faulty, just an acknowledgement of human error, and maybe some forgiveness too.


  1. mike muschamp 2 January, 2015 at 7:27 am - Reply

    Hi all,
    well I have decided I am messed up with drinking,I am a 54yr old cinematographer living in the Philipinnes with my wife and son,I used to mainline heroin,and amphetamines,but did a year in treatment in the U.K.I thought I was “clean”and all that was behind me…but recently I have noticed how my beers and tremadol(to deal with the hangovers)is totally messing with my life,thing is I have a beautiful son now,and my wife is pregnant with our 2nd child…but I am still lisnin to “joy division”(the singer killed himself at 22)Nirvanna and Linkin park..all music which says “suicide is o.k.” this time I have a said if we run out of money..then I will die..sick I know,but the perhaps the drinking has caused such feeling I don,t know?,use to study buddism,and pratice meditation,so reckon I should go back to my next contract,and wake up at 6 and work out..then mediate..hope I can do it,but I am really not sure if I have the strength anymore..but GREAT to find this site,and to know I am NOT alone with my struggle.

  2. sqibby 4 November, 2013 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    I am not talking for everyone on this subject, but personally i firmly believe that Self criticism causes depression” big time. And even the statement about others critical opinion of you being a cause?

    In order for anyone’s criticism to affect you in the first place, is not your ‘self opinion of self’ very low already for it to effect you?

    If you felt more self ‘worthy’ surely ‘others criticism’ would make you more determined to prove them wrong? You ‘allow’ others to get to you because YOUR opinion of you is low. Happiness is nothing to do with other peoples mind and statements, it’s the ‘state of mind’ your in. Love Sqibby xxxx

  3. David 1 July, 2013 at 2:38 am - Reply

    Well done,

    It sounds like hell to go through, and have been reading about how you are never really cured, live one day at a time.
    I also seen a program on tv where people from all walks of life have struggled with drink.
    My worst enemy was cigarettes, I did finally quit. My friend is drinking heavily and is in total denial right now. Or he seems to think he needs it to deal with stress.
    I can’t get through to him, maybe he has to hit rock bottom before he wakes up.
    I want to wish you the best in your life, and thank you for sharing.

  4. jah 24 November, 2012 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Hello readers, I’m a 23 year old male in the military. It is very easy to become depressed away from home. So I binge drink to numb it all down. I work 12 hour shifts so I often go through withdraw as I am suffering from know. I fear that my coworks know what I’m going through and some don’t care. This causes my anxiety witch leads to my depression which I self medicate. I would like to know how to avoid getting this mild withdraw? Also I can slow my drinking down and stop for about two days but in the military alcohol is everywere all the time.

  5. Pam63 22 November, 2012 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    I am starting to believe that drinking alcohol and having a low self esteem or lack of self confidence go hand in hand with each other. I used to be a very confident person and it seems that now that I drink way to much my confidence level has decreased significantly. I am looking forward to getting it back as I start my journey without alcohol. I’m hoping I’m not just saying this because I feel like crap today from drinking yesterday. I really really want to live without alcohol!!

  6. suzy 13 May, 2012 at 8:46 am - Reply

    i am 59. it has taken me over 40 years to realize what has been happening with me.
    consistently criticized as a child.always unhappy.but learnt how to put on a it appeared no one cared a teenager heavily into drugs and more drugs, but always a binge drinker.overeat too. which is another merry go round i am on.high as a kite when i am on a diet, then i fail and beat myself up.cry when i try clothes on, do not want to go out.shut myself away. but have to go out to work etc. so mask goes on again, even though i am feeling so depressed.emotions dead, but can cry about anything…..the list goes on.finding this site has made me feel hopeful,am seriously thinking about doing the therapy online.i know i can go to gp, but will have to wait ages for the cognitive therapy through them……….

    • Lynne 19 October, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your story really resonates with me. I too am 59 and feel really depressed and a total failure. I managed to stay sober for 7 years but have relapsed on and off for the last two years. I am devastated and am going to try yet again one day at a time and am going to go to more AA meetings. I am gutted and feel I am on my last chance.
      My drinking causes me to loose control and once I start I cannot stop I know I am an alcoholic and am very critical of myself. I had an abusive Father but did not really accept this until recently when I visited a therapist.
      On taking therapy I soon realised I was overly self critical and it was useful but the therapist was not really able to understand alcoholism and I have to take what she said but concentrate on AA and forums like this as unless you are alcoholic you cannot comprehend why you simply cannot just give up alcohol or limit your intake.
      Am really grateful to have found this forum today when I am at rock bottom. Again.

  7. WasterSpace 1 March, 2012 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    While I agree with some of Sean’s comments, I personally feel the original article is still valid. I suffer badly from this myself, and certain parts really chimed with me. There can be many contributing factors, but all the same it’s a real kicker for some people. I cannot count the amount of times the reflex has kicked without me even realising it. I seem to recall a Councillor speaking of “The F**k-It-Button”… the unconscious pick-up-trip-up.

    “Shit! I fucked up bigtime”… Take a drink
    “I forgot to do “… Take a drink
    “Well, I fucked up number one, didn’t achieve number two, I’m a useless waste of f****ng space, why the hell NOT take a drink!!!”.

    • David 1 July, 2013 at 2:28 am - Reply

      I seem to remember something about the “addict that is talking” in a quitting smoking book. I am sure it’s the same for any addiction. Even non addictions, I often say to myself, god I feel so down right now, let me eat some chocolate, or have a glass of wine.
      I am also reading some interesting stuff about Happiness not coming from outside, but it’s inside of all of us.
      Are we conditioned maybe even to always look to outside to feel better? New car, new baby, more ,more , more.
      When really all we need is to find peace within ourselves, strength, confidence and Love for ourselves.

  8. Jody 4 August, 2011 at 2:09 am - Reply

    This is way better than a brick & mortar establishment.

  9. Sean 20 September, 2010 at 1:50 am - Reply

    “Self criticism causes depression” I am not to shore about this one. I think we all Criticize our selves at some point. No matter if your an alcoholic or a Tea Drinker. All so most people that “Self criticize are in fact really very good at wat ever it is that they “Self criticize them selves over and lets just take drink out of the way for a moment i am not talking about drink. Thats a hole different ball game. Most people that “Self criticize there selves do not do so on there own they do not sit at home and get there selves in to a dizzy no they do it in front of people all most to get reassurance that they are good at wat they do. In fact you could say they are low in confidence that would be a better word and probably more in line with wat they say or how they feel. Also if they are around people that criticize them they will begin to question there own ability’s and slowly loose confidence in wat they can and cant do or think they cant do. And then yes that can lead to Depression and alot of the times does but you have clinical depression and normal every day depression and then a little bit in between that i do not have a name for but i have had it. If you are a drinker you will get it at some point. You have to because i am afraid that’s wat booze does to you and if it is not at the moment well it will rest assured it will. Normal Depression that most people get is easy to treat with no meds. Clinical depression is a little harder but treatable all the same. In fact all 3 are linked drink depression criticism. Most alcoholics criticize people most alcoholics get depression and then there is Alcohol most alcoholics drink it.

  10. Luigi Fulk 16 February, 2010 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Awesome topic like the great motivational speakers like Les Brown

  11. Maria 8 February, 2010 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    I agree on that that selfcriticism takes a lots of energy from a person leading to depression. That’s what depression is: law level of energy. it’s much more useful to practice breathing psychotherapy in order to restore the level of energy than take some benzodiazepines which normally lead to addiction.
    A person needs to learn how to forgive him or herself and understand that everyone makes mistakes!

  12. Paul 19 January, 2010 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Well, after drinking 32 pints of cider a week which to me was way too much and also drinking every day since I was 14 (47) now, I can say it’s easy to give up without any help from anyone but yourself.
    Make a day and stop, that’s it, easy

    Still not had a drop since my date dec7th 2009, saved £120 and prob my liver, family and job.

    I feel great knowing I can get up in a morning and not worry about driving, I can come home at night and not worry about if anyone needs me to do anything for them involving driving, and as for being boring at parties I have proved that I am still as daft, happy and funny as I was when I had a drink.

    Beer is like cigs, it’s addictive and you must take control and stamp on it.

    • diane 16 February, 2010 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      paul i have just read your reply with interst. I have made up my mind on numerous occaisions to stop drinking. i admire you, it sounds so easy. but the cravings come, and i stuggle like mad and give in. what i would like to know, is how did you cope with this? and how long does it take?? please.

    • Marco 23 February, 2010 at 1:54 am - Reply

      Hi Paul

      Whilst I really commend you for quitting and wish you all the best going forward I really have to say that you were not really an alcoholic. I mean 32 pints a week? That is 4 or 5 pints a day, not saying its ok mind you but that is not over board. Quitting from such amounts is easy. My friend I consume a bottle of vodka a day, yes a DAY, not proud of it, but this is a serious problem…. Anyway I guess we measure things according to our own standards therefore I hope I will achieve what Paul did soon!

      • Suzy 10 December, 2012 at 10:12 pm - Reply

        Marco, I reacted quite strongly to your statement to Paul, “You are not an alcoholic, etc”.

        First, you have never met this gentleman, and even a seasoned drug and alcohol counselor (like myself) would be remiss to ever base a diagnosis on a person’s brief paragraph regarding the issue.

        Alcoholism is NOT how *much* you drink, period. It is defined by how much or how often the person’s drinking *causes impairment in their social, work, or family functioning*. For instance, Fred only drinks on the holidays, but every time he has he has either cheated on his wife or gotten a DUI. He continues to repeat this behavior (drink) despite the obvious consequences. THAT is the disease of addiction.

        Sharon is a housewife who drinks almost every day. She has one or two glasses of wine (occasionally more)with dinner and throughout the evening. Alcohol has never impaired her ability to take care of her children, affected her marriage, had her make poor decisions or say angry things. SO even though a few people might say she is hard-core alcoholic, this isn’t the case (although if any of those undesirable things start happening it would be time to reassess…alcoholism is cunning and baffling disease that can sneak up insidiously, so it is to be respected).

        Hope this sheds some light on things. 🙂

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