Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
Do animals get depressed? © Getty Images

Do animals get depressed?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Existential worries or mid-life crises, animals can show symptoms of depression – but accurate diagnosis is more complex than for humans.

Asked by: Focus

Advertisement

Questions regarding the mental state of animals inevitably run onto a philosophical sandbank because we cannot be sure how self-aware animals are. We assume that other people think more or less the same way we do because language allows us to describe our thoughts. We don’t have enough of a shared vocabulary with animals to apply this test and humans are notoriously prone to projecting their own emotions and feelings onto animals. Having said that, many mammals have been observed exhibiting the symptoms of clinical depression (including lethargy, compulsive behaviours, disrupted appetite and sexual interest and even self harm). Zoo animals in particular are prone to this.


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.

Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content