Have you ever thought or heard from others that you might be too self-critical or hard on yourself? If your answer is yes, then you are not alone. Self-criticism is something that many people struggle with. While some self-evaluation and criticism can be helpful, constantly being self-critical or hard on ourselves can be detrimental to our mental health, and it might even lead to issues such as anxiety or depression. In this article, we’ll explore the complex relationship between self-criticism and depression.

What Does Being Hard On Yourself Mean?

Being too hard on ourselves or being self-critical is the tendency to negatively evaluate ourselves. Some amount of self-evaluation and criticism is normal, and it can help us in self-improvement and growth, However, when self-criticism becomes constant and overwhelmingly negative, it may contribute to several mental health issues. Self-criticism can usually come from various causes, such as having strict parents in childhood or undergoing difficult childhood experiences such as abuse, etc.

Understanding Depression

While depression is often associated with sadness and a low mood, it is much more than that. It is a complex mental health condition affecting one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. Depression also hurts one’s physical health. Depression can manifest in different ways for everyone, but common symptoms of depression range from loss of interest, low mood, and lack of energy to feelings of worthlessness, difficulty in concentration, irritability, etc.

Linking Self-Criticism And Depression

Scientific inquiry suggests that depression and self-criticism are closely related. Researchers have found that highly self-critical people are at increased risk for both anxiety and depression. 

In a 2018 study conducted on self-criticism among students, it was found that there is a significant relationship between being overly critical of oneself and the development of mental health issues The research also suggests that the connection is particularly significant when it comes to symptoms of depression. Thus, self-criticism shares a strong relationship with depression.

In addition to the above research, being hard on oneself is related to depression in the following ways:

  • Negative Thought Patterns:

Constant self-criticism can contribute to the development of unhealthy or unhelpful thinking patterns. These negative thinking patterns might lead to feelings of hopelessness and pessimism, which in turn can contribute to or worsen any pre-existing depressive symptoms.

  • Low Self-Esteem

Constantly judging or negatively evaluating oneself can negatively affect one’s confidence and self-image. It can also lead to feelings of worthlessness. Feelings of worthlessness and low self-confidence can contribute to depression.

  • Low Mood

Being hard on ourselves negatively impacts, not only our thoughts but also our feelings and mood.  Constantly being hard on ourselves can lead to unpleasant feelings and low mood, which is a common symptom of depression.

  • Social Isolation

People who are excessively hard on themselves may withdraw from social interactions, fearing judgment and rejection. Social isolation is both a consequence and a symptom of depression.

  • A Vicious Cycle

Self-criticism and depression share a bidirectional relationship. In simple words, it means that constant self-criticism might lead to depression, while depression by itself might cause people to be overly critical of themselves by hurting their self-image, leading to people being trapped in a loop of self-criticism and depression.


Many people struggle with the tendency to be too hard on themselves. While self-evaluation and criticism can help at times, they can be harmful to one’s mental health if they become a pattern. Although being too hard on oneself doesn’t automatically mean that someone is depressed, it certainly is an indicator of underlying, unresolved issues. If you are looking for a way to deal with self-criticism, you can check out our article on self-compassion.


  1. Depression and Self-Criticism | Psychology Today. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2024, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/self-talk-science/202211/depression-and-self-criticism
  2. Luyten, P., Sabbe, B., Blatt, S. J., Meganck, S., Jansen, B., De Grave, C., Maes, F., & Corveleyn, J. (2007). Dependency and self-criticism: Relationship with major depressive disorder, severity of depression, and clinical presentation. Depression and Anxiety, 24(8), 586–596. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20272
  3. McIntyre, R., Smith, P., & Rimes, K. A. (2018). The role of self-criticism in common mental health difficulties in students: A systematic review of prospective studies. Mental Health & Prevention, 10, 13–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mhp.2018.02.003
  4. The Role of Self-Criticism in Depression | Therapy Cincinnati. (2023, June 5). Sheldon Reisman. https://www.therapycincinnati.com/blog/the-role-of-self-criticism-in-depression
Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin