For generations, men and women have passed down tips and myths about avoiding the dreaded dark circles under the eyes.  It may feel as though it is an unavoidable part of the aging 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! If you’re worried about your symptoms, take our High Functioning Depression Test to determine the likelihood of diagnosis.

If you are concerned about your mental health, please seek medical advice from your GP.

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 sunken eye bags are rarely the result of serious medical concern, but, cosmetically, many understandably dread them.

People have always thought that bags under the eyes were a sign of not getting enough sleep or of getting older. These two associations are the main reasons why so many people want to avoid them. In essence, the problem is related to skin health. Though our largest organ requires a great deal of respect, many neglect the health of our skin.

Photo example of depression and the dark circles under eyes

What can cause dark circles under eyes?

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

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. This is the symptom, but there are many different causes. As for the culprits, the main ones to 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. In addition to depression, insomnia may be an issue. In fact, among those with depression, 75% of them also have trouble sleeping. 


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. 


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.

Can depression cause those dark circles?

In short, yes, depression can cause the dark circles under your eyes.

Depression manifests itself in different ways for different people. For many, depression leads to or includes the many factors listed above. Depression and anxiety, sleep deprivation, and 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 much more likely to do dangerous things that hurt ourselves than to work out 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 under 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. 

Healing the dark circles under eyes

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

Practical 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.

Can medication help heal dark circles under the eyes?

In some cases, yes, taking medication for depression may help to reduce or eliminate dark circles under the eyes. This is because medication can help to address the underlying factors that contribute to the appearance of dark circles (such as sleep disturbances and stress). However, it’s important to note that everyone’s experience with medication is different, and some people may not see an improvement in their dark circles even with treatment for depression.


Nobody likes discovering that they have bags under their eyes. Many factors can contribute to this, many of which are linked to depression. This is an extremely apparent version of the simple truth that we must work on the inside before we consider the outside. Circles appear underneath our eyes to inform us of something that is going on inside. 

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 raccoon eyes, take a moment to reflect on your recent activity. It’s possible that a pattern will emerge that will lead you to the real cause of your depression.