Maintaining Personal Hygiene During a Depressive Episode

One of the less commonly talked about aspects of mental illness is maintaining personal hygiene—more specifically, the inability to do so. This topic can be embarrassing for many people which is what contributes to the lack of conversation surrounding it.

Depression virtually drains you of all your energy which can make it difficult to function on many different levels. Sometimes it can be hard to even get out of bed, much less take a shower and brush your teeth. The little bit of energy that you may have often gets used to do “more important” things, such as going to class or work. In a society that shames those that don’t maintain their hygiene (think of the accusations of assumptions of grossness and laziness), worrying about being judged or ignored can make depressive symptoms worse, and the cycle continues.

There is no need to feel embarrassed, though. You would not be lamed if you were physically ill and did not have the energy to do these daily tasks. Mental illness is the same thing. The fatigue, lack of energy, and lack of motivation is no different.

You are not gross. You are not lazy. You are not less than those who do not struggle.

It is important to take even little steps to maintain your personal hygiene. This is not only for your physical health but keeping yourself clean can help boost your confidence. Here are some tips you can take to stay clean on even the hardest days:

Use Dry Shampoo and Deep Conditioner

Using dry shampoo will help get rid of the oils in your hair, giving you a “just washed” look—and it smells good too! If you have not been able to brush your hair for a while, and it’s beginning to matte, use a deep conditioner to loosen up the tangles.

Sink Baths and Baby Wipes

Using a washcloth and some soap in your sink to hit the “hot” areas like your armpits before applying more deodorant is a way to clean up a bit. If your sink is deep enough, you can even wash your hair under the faucet. You can also use baby wipes instead of using a wash cloth. This is even quicker and can be done while you’re still in bed.

Take a bath instead of a shower, or get a shower chair

Sometimes just the thought of standing that long in the shower is what deters people the most. Taking a bath is a way that you can get clean without having to stand so long. If you do not have a bath tub, you can also buy a shower chair.

Use Mouthwash and Carry Gum and/or Mints

Carrying a travel bottle of mouthwash can help on those days where you just couldn’t get up to get ready before leaving the house. You can use it in the bathroom at work or school. Gum, mints, or breath spray can help on those days where you forgot to brush.

Deodorant and Sprays

When using body sprays, make sure to use sparingly so as to not have a super overwhelming scent. Febreeze can be used to lightly mist shirts or pants that you are unable to wash, and there are products designed to give clothes a refresh if you haven’t been able to wash them. Using deodorant at night as well as in the morning can help to contain body odor.

Ask for help

If you have someone who is willing to help you, ask them to run a bath or even brush your hair for you. Not only will it help you relax, but it can be a bonding experience with a loved one.

Invest in a nice hygiene product

Buying fancy bubble bath, lotions, or shampoo can be a way to spoil yourself and give you motivation to try out your new products!  

It’s important to be proud of the small steps you take and to make realistic expectations for yourself. Sometimes just hopping in the shower to let the warm water run over you is enough for that day. Be proud of accomplishing even the simplest of tasks!

Have you ever had any difficulties in doing any “simple” tasks, including maintaining personal hygiene, when you’re going through a particularly hard time or episode? What other tips do you have?

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: We look forward to talking to you!

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