A quick post about depression and software development

I have depression. Sorry if you know me personally and you have to find out about it via a blog post, but as you can imagine it isn’t the most fun thing for me to talk about and it isn’t the easiest thing to bring up in conversation. In fact if you know me very well you will likely appreciate how little I enjoy most conversation that doesn’t interest me (and my mental health doesn’t particularly interest me).

I am not going to go into too many details, because again, boring, but I did want to share some resources that have helped me at various times.

I also wanted to talk about how I have found it effects my software development.

  • I am incredibly critical of my work, and have self-diagnosed myself with having Impostor Syndrome, this general means that I have entire projects that I have created and then deleted because it is not good enough and I am constantly paranoid that any team I am part of see me as the dummy of the group.
  • I sometimes can’t bring myself to perform work outside of my 9 – 5, I have emails that sometimes sit for days because I can’t physically bring myself to write the one line reply that is needed, yet other tasks I could take on without a bother. I am sure this is pretty frustrating for people that can’t see work happening on their project but see me working on other stuff.
  • I don’t enjoy coding for large periods of the time, I need to force myself to remember it is the illness that is stopping me from enjoying anything and not the coding (when I am ‘up’ I enjoy the hell out of it).
  • When I am ‘up’ I feel like I could take on anything, and as a result I will often over-commit to stuff, the challenge is to say no.

Finally, and it should go without saying – if you think you might be depressed, go to your doctor. One trip and I was put on drugs that have been incredibly positive.


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  • Ian

    If any mails need answering that you can’t get to then just forward them to me, mate.

  • http://www.tosbourn.com/ Toby Osbourn

    Cheers man! I normally keep the TFT ones fairly up-to-date!

  • Carlos A. B. S.

    Try Yoga buddy, it helps me a lot.

  • Ash

    Note that it is generally the meditative component of yoga that helps, so any yoga practice that excludes the meditation and philosophy sides is not likely to be more effective than other slow exercises.
    Also, there is quite a lot of research into mindfulness based therapies (and mindfulness-cbt hybrid therapies) for depression as being particularly effective.

  • minus Seven

    You didn’t mention anything about whether you like what you do or not. Do you like the work you do or do you just do it because you have to? What are the things in your work that you dislike and have trouble finishing ? These things are important.

  • http://www.tosbourn.com/ Toby Osbourn

    I love the work I do, and if money were no object I would do it for free.

    When I have trouble finishing stuff it isn’t because I don’t like it and it isn’t always the same thing, it is hard to explain sorry.

  • Gary

    I also am a developer, and I also have depression, and your situations models mine exactly. You are not alone, my friend.

  • Richard Watson

    HI Toby, nice one for writing this. The more people are open about this issue that affects us all directly or indirectly, the better. My company, Engine Yard, are sponsoring an initiative called prompt (prompt.engineyard.com), to further the conversation about mental health in tech. We hope there’s useful resources in there, and that other organizations like us that are in a position to help, will help.

  • azntaiji

    I feel you on this. I was clinically diagnosed with Chronic Depression and Mild Anxiety – I can relate to a lot of what you said: delayed emails, lack of commitment, over commitment when I’m “up”, hard time saying no, etc.

    Overall, most I learned was to cope with yourself, it’s all been a learning experience (and not an easy one).