Unfulfilled Needs: A Cause of Depression

In this post unfulfilled needs that may contribute to depression are covered.  In providing counseling to people with depression I’ve seen time and time again how unmet needs have either sparked or maintained people’s depression.  Often when people aren’t having their needs met they are more susceptible to life stressors.   By finding ways to fulfill important needs people are better able to climb out of their depression and avoid depression in the future.

Basic Needs

Everyone has basic needs which can be seen as a foundation from which higher needs can be more easily met.  Ask yourself the following questions to determine if your basic needs are being covered:

  • Are you getting a healthy, well balanced diet?

  • Are you getting enough, quality sleep?

  • Do you have a comfortable living arrangement?

The Need to Feel Safe

A feeling of being unsafe can darken one’s experience of the world.  There are several areas where you can consider if you feel safe:

  • Emotionally: Are you free to express yourself openly without fear of ridicule?  If the people in your life are frequently causing you emotional pain this may be contributing to your depression.

  • Physically: If you often feel unsafe in your community and/or home this could be weighing you down.  It is important to ask if others are currently respecting your physical boundaries.

  • Financially: Are you concerned your income isn’t secure?  Or is it a struggle to get by?  These worries can darken your day. 

Social Needs

People need a social life that brings them a sense of belonging and being cared for. Consider:

  • What are your relationships like with friends, family, romantic partner, etc.? 

  • Are you able to be authentic with others in your life?  Meaning are you able to show your true self and be open with your feelings?  Do you feel accepted and supported by others when you are authentic with them?

  • Are you obtaining the physical connection you need?

  • Do you have a community you participate in where you can be yourself and receive support?

Need for Purpose

Do you have a sense of meaning or purpose in your life?  Something you are working towards?  If you aren’t sure what your sense of purpose is, you can find it!  This is something that may change multiple times over your life.

Need for a Sense of Control

Feeling out of control can make people feel depressed.  It is important to let go of seeking to control that which you cannot and focus on what you can: yourself and your actions.

Need for Fun and Creativity

Everyone needs to have fun and the opportunity to be creative.  While for many it can be hard to find time for fun and creativity, it is important to fulfill this need.  Are you making this time for yourself?


Start working towards fulfilling your unmet needs and you will likely notice any depression lighten and your sense of enjoyment of life increase. 


Written by: Bill McCadden, MSW, LCSW