For generations, men and women have passed down tips and myths around avoiding the dreaded dark circles under the eyes.  In some cases, it feels as though it is an unavoidable part of the ageing process. However, many have correctly noted that there are things we can do to help reverse or slow the process. In this article, we’re going to talk specifically about the effects that symptoms of depression may have on bags under the eyes. The link between the two is undeniable, though not very straightforward, per se.

What are the Bags Under Your Eyes?

The circles that form underneath our eyes are the result of mild swelling of the skin under the eyes. These bags are rarely the result of serious medical concern but, cosmetically, many dread these. As we’ll visit below, many different factors contribute to this effect.

Traditionally, bags underneath a person’s eyelids have been indicative of a lack of sleep or of aging. These two associations are the main reason why so many want to avoid them.

In essence, the problem is one related to skin health. Though our largest organ requires a great amount of respect, many neglect the health of our skin.

What Causes Dark Circles?

Several factors go into the formation of dark circles under the eyes. Mainly, the issue of an increase in blood flow and the thinning of the blood is the main cause. Blood-thinning can be the result of a few different elements.

The skin underneath your eyes is thinner than elsewhere on your body. As the blood thins, it also gets darker, leading to the thin skin barrier over the blood appearing darker as well. While this is the symptom, there are many different causes. As for the culprits, the main ones of note are:

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is one of the better-known reasons for dark circles under our eyes. When we don’t get enough sleep, blood vessels dilate, causing the blood flow to increase. 

Sleep problems can occur on their own but they are more often a co-symptom of something else. Depression being the main such problem insomnia may be a problem. In fact, among those with depression, 75% of them also have trouble sleeping. 

Anxiety

Stress and anxiety cause an elevated heart rate and a redirection of blood from the face. When Stress and anxiety cause an elevated heart rate, increasing blood flow and thinning the blood as referenced above. Anxiety also leads to a redirection of blood from the face to other places in the body. When this happens, it flushes out our faces, making them paler.

This combined with the darkening of the blood makes it far easier for the blood vessels to be easier seen underneath. 

Aging

Unfortunately, this one is unavoidable. As the body ages, the skin loosens, making the blood vessels more visible. With the sagging of the skin under the eyes, they can appear puffy and baggy. While nobody can stop the effects of time, there are some studies showing depression to speed up the aging process.

Hereditary Factors

Some blame on elements of having circles under your eyes can go to hereditary factors. Some families are more prone to it than others genetically. Depression can also have a genetic link, though it’s possible to have a connection to one without the other.

Dietary Factors

Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and diets heavy in salt can also lead to this concern. Each of these activities worsens the issue by dehydrating the body and drying the skin out. The link to depression here is less direct.

Still, there is no denying we take far worse care of our bodies when facing depression. It is hard to bounce back from a point of darkness to a healthy meal or a light jog. It is far easier to eat junk food and drink sodas instead of water.

Does Depression Cause Dark Circles?

Depression manifests itself in many ways. For many, depression leads to or includes the many factors listed above. Depression and anxiety, sleep deprivation, poor diet, go hand in hand in some combination or another. That is because depression is an all-encompassing concern.

When we are experiencing depression, we do not take care of ourselves in the way our bodies need us to. We are far more likely to engage in reckless patterns of self-destruction than we are to exercise and get a good night’s sleep. In this sense, there is a very real connection between depression and the circles underneath our eyes.

This is important because depression doesn’t always make itself known to us. It’s easy to experience depression for long periods of time without even knowing. 

The bags underneath our eyes can serve as a visual warning that we aren’t taking the appropriate care of ourselves. When we realize this, it may be that we also find depression to be the cause of it.

Setting up these kinds of warning signs with yourself can go a long way in ensuring that depressive spells are easier to overcome. 

Reversing Dark Circles

After addressing the root concern of depression, what do we do with these bags? Luckily, there are some home remedies that can help to reduce or eliminate the puffiness underneath our eyes.

Some tips include:

  • Sleep more – Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Dietary Changes – Avoid salty foods specifically.
  • Cool Compress – Take a clean washcloth and wet it with cool water. After wetting it, place it around your eyes with gentle pressure for a few minutes.
  • Quit Smoking
  • Avoid Alcohol
  • Reduce Allergens – If you find yourself frequently rubbing your eyes, you may be dealing with an allergy problem. Try removing the allergen or taking medication for it. 
  • Hydrate – Drink more water throughout the day
  • Don’t drink fluids before bed – While hydration is important, avoid it right before bed.
  • Raise your head while you sleep – Help gravity out by sleeping with your head slightly elevated. 
  • Cucumbers – Remove a cucumber from the fridge and cut a thin slice. Laying down, place the cold cucumber on your eyelids. The dual purpose of this is the cooling nature and the fact that cucumbers are largely water so they can hydrate the skin. As the cucumber heats up, you can flip it to the other side and keep it until it warms there as well.

Of course, if depression is the main problem, you must deal with this before any permanent change is possible. Depression is dangerous because it often removes our desire to grow or evolve in any meaningful way.

It is our responsibility to make sure that we are checking in on ourselves and on our own needs.

Conclusion

Nobody likes discovering that they have bags under their eyes. Many factors can go into causing this and many contain a link with depression. This is an extremely apparent version of the simple truth that we must work on our inside before we consider the outside. Circles for underneath our eyes to inform us of something that is going on inside. 

Often, if we tune ourselves to listen to these signals, we can avoid untold pain and suffering down the line. The next time you look in the mirror and notice some raccooning eyes, take a moment to reflect on your recent activity. It just might be that a pattern emerges, pointing you to the true culprit of depression.

Charlie Penwarden

Former mental health nurse turned consultant with a critical focus on human behaviour research analysis and the optimisation of mental health management to prevent illness and promote life harmony.