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Depression And Feeling Like A Burden: Causes & Coping Strategies

Depression And Feeling Like A Burden: Causes & Coping Strategies

Like we hear from members of The Depression Project's 3,000,000+ person social media community every single day, when you have depression (or anxiety or another mental- or physical health issue), it's extremely common to sometimes feel like a burden. And, for this reason, in this blog post, we'd like to share with you:

  1. Why feeling like a burden is so common when you have depression;
  2. Strategies to help you cope with the negative thought "I'm a burden" - in order to help you see that this negative thought isn't actually true, and to help you feel much more worthy and better about yourself as a result.

On that note, let's get started!

Why Feeling Like A Burden Is So Common When You Have Depression

Like we've said, when you have depression, it's very common to feel like a burden. In particular, according to members of The Depression Project's community, this is often because:

  • You may think that, as a result of your depression, you’re dragging your loved ones down and putting a damper on their lives;
  • You may think that your loved ones would prefer- and be better off doing other things rather than supporting you;
  • You may notice your loved ones shouldering some – or perhaps most – of what would otherwise be your responsibilities (since at this point in time, they’re too much for you to undertake).

Strategies To Help You Cope With The Negative Thought "I'm A Burden" When You Have Depression

As we often say at The Depression Project, just because you have a negative thought like "I'm a burden", it does not mean that it's true. And, in order to help you see that this negative thought is not actually true and to therefore feel much more worthy and better about yourself as a result, we'd now like to share with you three useful strategies.

Strategy #1: Cognitively Reframing The Negative Thought "I'm A Burden" When You Have Depression

In order to share this first strategy with you, we'd like to quote an excerpt from our cognitive behavioural therapy-based journal You Are Not A Burden.

You Are Not A Burden

Free excerpt

When it comes to freeing yourself from the negative thought “I’m a burden”, a helpful question to ask yourself can be:

Is there a more positive, self-compassionate, accurate way that I could be looking at things?

Asking yourself this question is an example of implementing a cognitive behavioural therapy technique known as “cognitive reframing” or “cognitive restructuring”1, and the reason why it can be so helpful is because there usually is indeed a more positive, self-compassionate, accurate way of viewing things!

In particular, the negative thought “I’m a burden for being in a low mood and needing support” could be reframed as, for example:

  • “It is OK to not be OK, and in the same way that I wouldn’t judge a loved one who needs support, I shouldn’t judge myself, either. After all, friends and family are there to uplift each other.”
  • “My loved ones are now supporting me just like I have supported them in the past, and just like I will support them in the future if and when they need me to.”
  • “Over time, EVERYBODY will experience difficulties in which they’ll need the support of their loved ones. Right now, it’s a time when I need support, and when it’s my loved ones’ time in the future, I’ll be there to support them.”
  • Depression / anxiety / PTSD / another mental illness is the burden – not me – and I did not willingly choose to suffer from this.”

End of free excerpt

Strategy #2: Reminding Yourself Of All Of Your Positive Characteristics

In case you don’t know, filter thinking2 is where you focus on only one particular aspect of a situation, and filter out all of the other aspects – such as when you only focus on the “bad” or the “negative” in a situation, and filter out all of the “good” or the “positive”. And, when it comes to the negative thought “I’m a burden”, what you’re almost certainly doing is:

  1. Focusing on the impact your depression is currently having on your relationships (which you perceive to be negative);
  2. And, at the same time, you’re filtering out all of the positive things about yourself.

Consequently, in order to free yourself from the negative thought “I’m a burden”, it’s really important that you stop thinking with such a negatively biased filter, and instead start looking at things through a much more balanced lens. And, in order to do this, it can really help to remind yourself of all of your positive characteristics that are no doubt appreciated by your friends and family, and prove that you are not "just a burden" like your mind is telling you that you are. In particular, some of these positive characteristics may include the fact that, for example:

  • You’re kind to others
  • You're generous with the time and energy you give to others
  • You're respectful of others' differences
  • You treat others with respect
  • You have a big heart and are empathetic towards others
  • You’re caring and considerate
  • You’re reliable and there when others are in need
  • You’re accepting of others
  • You're thoughtful
  • You're encouraging of small improvements others make
  • You're honest and true to your word
  • You're polite and courteous
  • You’re calm and patient with others
  • You're sincere
  • You're trustworthy
  • You uplift others when they’re down
  • You’re adaptable with others
  • You’re faithful and loyal
  • You are gentle and nurturing

We encourage you to take a moment to really sit with each of these points, and try to remember a time in your life when you have done these things. This is really important, because your instant reaction may be to reject-, dismiss-, or minimise them - however, if you take the time to recognise these positives in you, then like we've said, it can really help you cope with the feeling that you're a burden.

Strategy #3: Placing Yourself In Your Loved Ones' Shoes

In order to share this third and final strategy with you, we'd like to quote yet another excerpt from our cognitive behavioural therapy-based journal You Are Not A Burden.

You Are Not A Burden

Free excerpt

Like we mentioned in the introductory section of this journal, one of the underlying views and assumptions that can fuel the negative thought “I’m a burden” is the feeling that your loved ones would rather be doing lots of other things than supporting and attending to you.

But, who’s to say that your loved ones feel this way?

In fact, to help you see that they most likely don’t feel this way – which is further proof that the negative thought “I’m a burden” is indeed just a negative thought and not a fact – please think about and write out your response to the third prompt of this journal:

If a loved one was in your position and fighting depression, anxiety, PTSD and/or another mental health issue, would you rather ignore them and have them suffer in silence so that you can have fun and carry on with life? Or, would you rather support them through it – even if doing so is challenging at times?

And, what does your answer tell you about how your loved ones likely view supporting you?

End of free excerpt

If you have depression and sometimes feel like a burden, then we really hope you've found this blog post helpful.

All our love,

The Depression Project Team.


P.S. If you'd like to learn a lot more strategies to help you cope with and overcome the negative thought "I'm a burden", then click the button below to learn more about our cognitive behavioural therapy-based journal You Are Not A Burden.

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