Dealing with Loss of Identity in Depression

March 21, 2018 Jennifer Smith

Loss of identity caused by depression is one of the most painful effects of the disorder. But it is possible to maintain or regain who you are and want to be. Learn how on HealthyPlace. Don't let depression make you lose who you are.

Many of us face the loss of identity in depression. It feels as if there is a stranger living inside of us. We don't recognize the person we see in the mirror. It's as if depression has stripped us as bare as a tree in the midst of a long, cold winter. It's difficult, but I deal with a loss of identity in depression and so can you.

Some Ways Depression Causes the Loss of Identity

Memory Failure

One of the things that depression has changed about my identity is my memory (Depression and Memory Loss: Causes, Effects, Treatments). Before my battle with depression began, I was able to remember names, important dates, plans with friends, past events, and almost everything else. Now I can't remember what happened yesterday or whether or not I got the tickets for a show (I recently didn't. We had to turn around and go back for them.) I've cried several times in frustration and in mourning of the person I used to be. I've cried in anger toward depression for this part of my identity.

Afterward, though, I realized I had to find some logical ways to beat this. I now use both a paper calendar and the calendar on my phone for keeping up with important appointments. I make lists and post them where I'll be sure to see them. I also set timers and alarms on my phone. Even though my memory isn't what it used to be, I can still keep track of things -- with some help.

Losing the Ability to Find Pleasure from Once-Favorite Activities

Another aspect of identity loss that depression causes for many people is the ability to find pleasure in activities they once enjoyed (How to Recognize Depression Symptoms). If you've always enjoyed a particular hobby and suddenly you receive no joy from it, it can be quite painful. When going out with friends was always one of your favorite things to do, but then it becomes unbearable because you have to act like you're having fun when you're actually miserable, it's painful. It feels as if you're slowly sinking into deep, dark water and being covered up bit by bit. This is what it feels like when depression is stripping away another part of your identity.

So, how have I coped with this part of depression? First of all, I sought professional help. I currently take medication and I've had therapy. In therapy, I learned how to get to know myself again and I also learned how important it is to practice self-care. I let go of some of my old hobbies and discovered new ones, which I found breathed fresh life into me. So, try rediscovering some old hobbies and branch out and try some new hobbies, too.

As for my friends, now I'm honest with them about how I'm feeling. When I feel like going out, I go out. If I'm more comfortable staying in, then my friends will gladly come over for coffee or dinner. It is important to have a support system to encourage and support you through your depression and your struggle to maintain (or grow) your identity (How to Effectively Communicate Your Mental Health Needs).

Decreased Libido

Finally, one loss of identity that depression often causes, yet many don't want to mention, is the loss of or decrease in libido. Depression affects sex and relationships; I deal with this problem and it affects both my husband and me. Prior to depression, we had no issues in the area of our sex life. Now, we have to make plans and put in more effort in order for things to go well. Sometimes I grieve the person I used to be, and at times I also feel guilty because my husband does not have the same me he used to have.

However, in spite of these and other challenges, we still keep this part of our marriage alive. We believe that being together in this way is worth the extra work it takes. I've learned to communicate with my husband about my needs. He listens and does everything he can to make our time together as wonderful as can be. If you struggle in this area, don't give up. Be honest with your partner. Together you can find some things that work. You can also talk with your about sexual concerns. There is help available. Don't allow depression to take this part of your identity away.

Don't Let Depression Take Away Your Identity Completely

While depression might change parts of our identity, there are ways to keep it from taking away our identity completely. For me, it has been a journey of reclaiming myself piece by piece and also becoming someone new, too. I hope you will discover a stronger and more beautiful identity underneath your exterior of depression.

APA Reference
Smith, J. (2018, March 21). Dealing with Loss of Identity in Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from

Author: Jennifer Smith

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Greg Rhodes
August, 20 2018 at 1:11 am
Hey Jennifer, thanks for your compassion. What got me out of depression was ECT. I think my brain quit functioning after quiting from over 20 years of HEAVY weed use. I'm scared that the ECT changed my personality. It is a quick change in cognition, emotions and even behavior. I'm also afraid for my memory. I don't recognize my old vocabulary. Logically though it is probably just going to be a rediscovery of an abandoned self that was also interrupted by a violent disruption of depression. Even though ECT probably saved me from being warehouses in a state mental institution it should be used if the depression has taken on strong biological factors that just don't quit. What I wonder is does the brain bounce back from depression or am I stuck with a bad memory and lack of identity permanently. So far I have been picking up small miniscule pieces of an old self that I barely recognize. I wonder will I ever recover a sense of self from the past or new and will my memory be the same again. It was 3 1/2 years of severe depression. What are your thoughts Jennifer?
August, 21 2018 at 9:42 am
Hello, Greg. Thank you for checking back in. I have no personal experience with ECT, but I'm glad to hear that it has been effective in treating your depression. I'm sorry you are dealing with some unpleasant side effects. I suggest speaking to your healthcare provider about what to expect after ECT. Since you mention the return of some pieces of your old self, I find that encouraging. I'm sure your doctor or therapist can tell you more. Please keep us updated.
Greg Rhodes
June, 24 2018 at 7:50 pm
Thanks. I've struggled to find an article like this. I Don't want to be alone in this.
March, 26 2018 at 12:35 am
My identity loss is from the fact that you simply are just not yourself. Fear and excessive worry take over. You think strange stuff and worry about things that have not happened. As the saying goes, 'You are what you think about'.
March, 24 2018 at 7:46 am
Many people don't even know about this concept of losing the identity by depression, they think you just are feeling sad and need to shake it off your system.

Really good post. Thanks for sharing!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 21 2018 at 9:44 am
Andy, thank you. I appreciate the encouraging words and am glad to hear that this post is helpful.

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