Designers with depression?

Just wondering if anyone here suffers from clinical depression (if they don’t mind admitting it) or know of designers with depression. How does it affect their design work and how they dealt/are dealing with it.

I guess you could PM me if you feel this is too public… Thanks!

Yep, degrees of depression from time to time.

I think melancholy is OK, so long as it confines itself to introspection, self criticism and deep thought but it can be a creatively crushing. The constant search for distraction is a symptom, but it has been said that distraction is vital to creativity. Another way to frame it is ‘tragic realism’: a state of mind that’s maybe pessimistic, but realistic about the viability of an idea.

“Many artists are prone to depression due to the highly emotional aspect of their craft. The angst and solitude that usually surrounds the creative process also makes them vulnerable to bouts of sadness. The strong emotions that compel artists to create are the same forces that lead them to pits of depression.”

Disclaimer: Depression is a serious condition, not to be triviaized and the above is far from representing a qualified point of view. Talk to a qualified professional.

Not to draw this conversation off of your topic, but I think that the following is pertinent to the discussion.

“Depression” can also be a symptom of a physical disorder.

Hypothyroidism in particular. Primarily identified as a “female” condition (post postpartum “blues”), but it also affects men.

I am, or was, identified by my doctor’s nurse as exhibiting some characteristics of “clinical depression” and a few other early signs of the disorder. A simple blood test was done; I was diagnosed with secondary hypothyroidism (seen only about 5% of all cases). The percentage of males with hypothyroidism is so low that my doctor had never seen it before.

It is not “curable”, but it is treatable; I will take a synthetic thyroid pill every morning for the rest of my life.

Early signs (the ones I exhibited are in red)
Poor muscle tone (muscle hypotonia)
Any form of menstrual irregularity and fertility problems
Hyperprolactinemia and galactorrhea
Elevated serum cholesterol
Cold intolerance, increased sensitivity to cold
Rapid thoughts
Muscle cramps and joint pain
Thin, brittle fingernails
Coarse hair
Decreased sweating
Dry, itchy skin
Weight gain and water retention
Bradycardia (low heart rate – fewer than sixty beats per minute)

Uncommon signs. lucky me
Shortness of breath with a shallow and slow respiratory pattern
Irritability and mood swings.
Decreased libido in men
Decreased sense of taste and smell

And how did it affect my work? Immensely. I found it hard to maintain an optimistic point of view; definitely a hindrance when trying to work with clients. It was hard to concentrate on complex tasks (rapid thoughts), and I found working more than three or four hours at a time difficult (fatigue); try and make a deadline like that. My hand/eye coordination was affected (poor muscle tone); my sketching, rendering, airbrush work suffered. I was constantly cold, to the point of wearing sweaters in the summer. And, it wasn’t helping matters “at home” either.

Combined with the actual insufficiency of TSH (thyroid stimulting hormone) the other symptoms contributed even more to my depression… you find yourself asking… what’s wrong with me, why can’t I do this anymore, I don’t want to do this anymore, etc. The effects can snowball to the point where you really begin to question why you’re even alive …

Remarkably, for me, replacement hormone therapy cleared up ALL of these problems.

From my experience, I urge anyone to eliminate the “physical” conditions before tackling the “psychological”.

I feel like I could be. I agree with the earlier post about artists. Also, perfectionists in general are prone to depression, I believe. When one is constantly critical, looking for ways to improve their environment, it is only a question of time before that turns inward to how can they improve themselves. That is a thin edge between being something positive and negative.

Also, as stuff vulture said, seek professional help. If you are constantly down for more than three weeks, you might be depressed. There has been a lot of criticism, but GPs actually have a good handle on diagnosing depression. The drugs are not addictive, but very effective.

I feel like the design profession is not only extra critical (and self critical), but it also has a lot of highs and lows.

Does having an enormous challenge placed on you, to be handled in a short amount of time sound familiar to anyone? Crazy, but satisfying, hours putting together something that you really believe in. Working late hours on your passion at expense of more leisurly activities. Then, when you’re finally finished at the 11th hour, presenting the work, getting a sign-off, and just stopping cold turkey on the project. (yes - you could go on, but when it’s sent off, that’s as far as its going to go in some sense)

For me, usually the pursuit of the best ideas in the time allowed is a big rush and very enjoyable. Then when you stop, there is a little empty spot in you that is hard to fill… until another project comes along, then it starts all over again.

My fav. professor used to say, “Design projects are never finished, they are abandoned half-way.” I think that’s you are probably feeling Travis. I know I feel that way. A week after sending something off, I’ll have a great idea and think, “oh no…if only I had thought of that!”

We have to thicken our skin and really learn to let go sometimes.

So what’s goin’ on h-dden? Is this helping?

Communications is a two-way street. Tell us what’s going on on your end, if you feel like it. Or PM one of us, if you prefer.

I find this to be especially true come portfolio time. I don’t think I have ever been 100% happy with any thing in my portfolio. Also when I sit down to update it I always get frustrated as I am extremely critical of myself.

Thanks for your insights, guys. Sorry I didn’t think anyone would respond so I sort of forgot to check in.

I’m not really comfortable talking about my problems in public, so I’ll send you a PM later.

I’m kind of at a point where I don’t think I can be a designer anymore because of my depression.
I would really like to take some time off from work to actively treat this, but I’m too afraid of screwing up my resume…

Sorry I didn’t think anyone would respond so I sort of forgot to check in.

You’re new to the site brother, but the longer you hang out you’ll learn that we tend to watch out for our own around here.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking some time off to work on things, and these types of things require both time and focus to work on in my experience. If I saw a gap in a resume, and upon questioning it the person told me simply that he or she decided to take some time to focus on himself/herself and his or her family before reseting and adjusting the aperture of his or her career, I would think nothing of it other than positive.

Thanks Michael, I think that’s the first time I heard anyone say that it’s not a bad thing. Wish I actually took time off while I was still in school…

I think we’re going to see more and more of this in the coming years, too. The economy simply isn’t what it once was. Jobs can be gone very quickly these days, and it can take a very long time to find new work. But I think many designers and creatives look inward in times like that and may see the lack of work as an opportunity to re-establish who they are and where they’re going. Could be a few months, could be a year or two. Any employer who sees that as a negative certainly hasn’t looked around to see the new state of employment in this country.

And to reiterate what Michael said, if the time off is simply for personal reasons, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Even if you were a car salesman, or an actuary, or a cab driver.

+1 Nurb and Yo!

I remember talking to guys that graduated in '91-'92 and had a hard time finding that first job. Same around '01. Once the economy starts to take off again, everyone is going to be swept up. Right now, before the rush, might be the perfect time to take that time off!

It’s a much more common practice in the UK (it seems) to take a year off for travel or life experience or sorting oneself out. People don’t seem to hold it against you

in my humble experience, it’s happened to me a few times in the rolling layoffs that used to plague tech companies after the 90s boom times. If you get yourself sorted out mentally and present yourself as a fresh, pleasant applicant who can fit the job requirements, nobody will hold the break against you

Although hesistant (VERY) to actually speak about this openly, yes, I suffer from extreme depression. Clinical. I know that the public will find this post eventually and don’t care…I suffer from Bi-Polar II. It’s not that awful uncommon and shows itself in people that are creative commonly. I’m on meds for it and also see a therapist. Rest assured, it’s something that can be controlled but yet is always there, and always will be.

I have no problem with this being public knowledge. Bi-Polar is a serious B***h. I feel the ups and downs, but more than that. If my designs aren’t accepted, it hits hard. HARD. And if things are a success…well, then that’s nice. I focus more on the negative. Not by choice, that’s just my personal nature. For a designer, Bi-Polar is a curse. It makes things that much worse. Still, I wouldn’t trade my chosen profession for anything. I’m no doctor. I’m no accountant. Rather, I’m a creative and am damn proud of it. I suffer because of creativity as well, as I suspect many of us do. We have ideas that don’t ever see the light of day because we are suppressed by those in control. The marketing specialists, the CEO’s, the CFO’s. They are the way of killing ideas, at least those that don’t directly benefit themselves. I see it all the time. And it’s sad to see.

A great friend of mine is bi-polar as well. I know it can be tough to keep in check, glad to hear you’ve got it under control, and know what gets you down and what pushes you up.

Thanks for sharing, it’s really tough to be open about it. I think it’s a good thing to talk about it publicly though, helps decrease the stigmatism regarding mental health issues.


I am at the same time impressed and shocked by the amount of regulars coming here to
face up. It surely might have something to do with “creatives” being more likely to suffer. I do have
a different angle to it, though:

I am not a suffering patient but a close relative to a patient, who was treated with clinical
depression for years and with improving success, lately.

I’ll try to keep it short here and just make some point that may or may not help you guys.

  1. Don’t give up on yourself and don’t devalue yourself becouse of being ill. See it as handicap,
    that eventually can be overcome.

  2. Don’t expect doctors or psychologists to “cure” you. Clinical depression is diagnose that
    spawns rather vague possibilites of long term treatment, which is a lucrative market for all
    kinds of people. Some being serious about what they do; some less so.

  3. Take back responsibility for yourself. In my monitoring eyes there are some factors, that every-
    one suffering a depression or impending to suffer one can controll himself:

Clean up your metabolism !

One main foundation of clinical depression is the brain metabolism going wrong. Badly wrong.
There can be many reasons for this, many of them being curable.

  • quiet smoking while you are able to.

  • quit drinking alcohol if it is addictive for yourself

  • start leisurely and regular workouts

  • monitor the food you are eating closely. This is one of the factors that gets easily overlooked.
    Shy away from a sugar and histamine laden diet, that is typicall for western societies. Histamine
    intolerance (or Histamine overload is one of the latest factors that are clinically examined at the

  1. Try to improve your “angle” on life. One is not born a pessimist or optimist. Try to achieve a
    view that is constructive and helps you to gain the results you are seeking. For me NLP has proven
    to be a helpful path in my career, but it might not be for everyone.

  2. There are factors outside yourself that can contribute to depression. Resolve those situations
    while you can. Being in the wrong job was the main reason that send my father down that spiral.
    “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.”
    There is nothing negative in changing a career path or adjusting it. And this is where I see designers
    prone to suffering the most:

  3. Learn to destinguish between the worth of yourself as a person and the worth of your works. Get
    a professional angle on that as well. Myself I had to back out of hands on industrial design, because
    I was unable to keep a sane distance. This made my projects successful but I felt burning my energy
    at a rate that was not sustainable longterm. Nowadays wearing a business suit ,managing projects on
    a more distant level doesn’t give me the same satisfaction, but also not the same frustration and self

  4. For heavens sake keep your most invard and intimite views private. You can’t expect your work
    collegues to cary some weight for you, or even to understand you. Let alone your customers.

I see some worth in this discussion, but some of you might want to alter what you wrote here. Facing
up like that may give you even more insecurety in the future, thinking. “What does customer X or
investor Y know about me.” This kind of post may be relieving at the moment but can prove
destructive in the long term. And as a designer I’d expect you to be constructive and realistic at
the same time. Designers are not artist and do not command the kind of freedom a Picasso or Hemmingway

  1. Built long term relationships within your comminty. Go see actual people.
    If you can: Built a family. Having your baby smile at you in the morning is a mighty cure for all flues.

  2. Don’t let life get the best of you. What I respect most about Steve Jobs is his ability to stand up,
    dust his clothes off and try again without making the same mistake again… Most guys would have
    given up in 1989.


P.S. : I tried to keep it short…

really good advice Mo-i, and agree it’s good to get this kind of stuff out in the open

I grew up with a psychologist father and two things he always railed on about was that might add something too…

First he would always complain about the way insurance in the US would steer health care. He would say that psychiatrists sometimes prescribe medications that are a quick fix for symptoms, but that also don’t cost insurance as much money as longer term treatments, working through issues in one on one session. Going to a professional over some time and talking through your issues costs insurance more money, but might help change the way you look at life and handle problems

I had to talk to someone after some experiences and it really does help to work through things with an impartial professional you can trust

The second thing he’d say that he’d say is that nobody is “normal” - psychological issues aren’t always black and white, it’s like a sliding scale and everyone might veer one way or the other a little