Self bullying

Being overly self-critical and hard on yourself is a very common depressed thinking habit and one of the key ways that depression reinforces itself and becomes entrenched. Recognising your self-bullying habit and learning how to challenge it is vital.


It is very common for the tunnel vision of depression to narrow your focus so much that you find yourself over-personalising outside events or actions of others. For example, instantly believing that your friend’s worried look means you have done something to upset them (rather than being something to do with their own concerns). Personalisation also leads to taking on an inappropriate amount of responsibility for things or self-blame.

Self blame

Blaming happens when we are trying to identify reasons for things happening – usually because we want to prevent them happening again. It is often tempting to make simplistic judgements about who is to blame as this gives simple seeming ‘solutions’ to problems.

Self-blaming can make things paradoxically feel more hopeful – we feel as if we have more power to change things if we can believe that the fault lies within our own control. Blaming ourselves instead of others can also be a way to try to protect ourselves from conflicts with others.


Taking inappropriate responsibility for ‘getting it right’ in this way is closely linked with perfectionism or a tendency to base self-worth or self-acceptance on performance or ‘success’. However, setting unrealistically high standards for oneself is more likely to lead instead to repeated experiences of demoralising ‘failure’, underachievement, procrastination, self-blame and self-bullying.

Self criticism and self attack

Perfectionism or self blame often lead to habits of self-criticism. We may believe that we will only do things if we ‘kick butt’ with threats and punishments.

But overusing this form of motivation becomes self-defeating in depression – we beat ourselves down beyond any motivation.

This self-critical habit can spiral into self attack, where we make the mistake of believing that we are bad because we feel bad (emotional reasoning) and go into an aggressive all-or-nothing mode of self blame.

This self attack and sometimes even self-hatred are the basis for the feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness which help to entrench depression.

Learning self compassion

Learning how to challenge the depressed thinking habits which maintain self bullying, and building skills of self compassion, are vital longer-term strategies in resisting depression. A helpful first step would be to notice  how often you are self critical and to start to acknowledge your own self bullying habit.

Understanding why

Not understanding why you are depressed commonly leads to over-simplistic self-blaming explanations. In the next section you can learn more about the complexities of what causes depression and why you may have become vulnerable to depression.

Next: Why me, why now?

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My depression spiral Self-compassion quiz


Taking care of yourself
Learning self-compassion
Coping with self-harming urges