Depression and Humor

By Katie Weinstein

Humor is not only used as a way to get a good laugh with friends, but as a coping mechanism to defuse a situation. Using a positive humor style is associated with good health outcomes, but using a negative humor style, such as self-deprecation, is linked to depression.

It is important to know how to laugh at yourself, but it is also important to know when your self-deprecating has gone too far and is leading to depression. Some signs might be that you can’t take a compliment or that it is a reflex to use self-deprecating humor since this is indicative of low self-esteem. It is easy to justify self-deprecating humor as not wanting to sound too arrogant, but if you use it alone, this is a major warning sign since no one will be there to laugh at your jokes. Another sign might be that you start to actually believe what you’re saying. The point of self-deprecating humor is to make light of imperfections, not to validate insecurities. When you’ve gone too far with self-deprecating humor, the people around you might either tell you this or stop laughing at that type of humor since it makes other people uncomfortable.

The relationship between self-depreciative humor and depression remains unclear as to which causes the other or if there is a cyclical effect between the two. It is possible that people who are depressed choose a self-deprecating humor style because they are attempting to cope with low self-esteem or it is possible that repetitive negative humor causes low self-esteem and depression. A third possibility is that genetic and environmental factors affect depression and negative humor styles.

One way to stop using self-deprecating humor is to fight the urge to put yourself down when someone compliments you and just say thank you. Being cognizant of when you are using self-deprecating humor and the way the way that it makes you feel is important for helping you to stop using it.

If you or someone you know is experiencing low self-esteem and or depression please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit

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