Describing What Depression Feels Like To Someone Who’s Never Had It
Depression runs much deeper than that. It is a mental health condition that can last for months or years and affect your physical wellbeing as well as your ability to carry out your normal day-to-day activities.
People think depression is sadness. People think depression is crying. People think depression is dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is a constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to life. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again. – Anonymous
What depression feels like.
Depression is a very personal experience. Not everyone experiences it the same way, but the following are some common examples of what depression feels like for some people.
Nothing makes you happy. You no longer feel any pleasure in life or enjoy the things you used to like doing.
Intense sadness you can’t shake off. You are constantly on the verge of tears and have bouts of crying throughout the day that you can’t explain.
Hopelessness. You feel stuck in a dark tunnel with no light at the end of it. Just existing is a struggle, and you despair of ever feeling good about anything again.
Numbness. Depression can weigh you down and dull your senses, preventing you from feeling the things other people seem to feel, or from doing the things you would like to do. You feel numb to emotions and everything around you, and feel like a zombie sleepwalking through life.
Feeling like a worthless, empty shell of yourself. You question why you are here and fixate on past failures. You can’t see your positive qualities, even when loved ones point them out to you.
Trouble concentrating. Everyday activities such as reading or following a conversation may be difficult because you have a hard time staying focused or thinking clearly.
Loneliness. You isolate out of fear of being labeled, and feel as though no one can possibly understand what you are going through.
You withdraw from family and friends. You detach yourself from others because you feel like you’re an inconvenience to your loved ones and are bringing others down.
Trouble making decisions. Making decisions is a challenge because of your inability to stay focused, remember things, or think clearly.
Constantly exhausted. Depression tends to drain your energy, both physically and mentally. Even when you manage to get enough sleep you feel too tired to do anything.
You crave sleep. Sleep provides you with an escape from the pain of being awake. As you drag yourself throughout your day, you may count down the hours until you can go back to bed and shut the world out again.
Eating patterns change. You may either experience a significant loss of appetite resulting in weight loss, or cravings for comfort foods that lead to binge eating and weight gain.
Feeling overwhelmed. Normal tasks take longer to accomplish, and little things that didn’t stress you before now seem like a big deal. Everything feels hard, and even just trying to think is exhausting.
Irritability. You get irritated at little things that didn’t bother you before and may be prone to angry outbursts over minor matters.
No longer care what you look like. Things like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or thinking about what to wear feel too burdensome to handle.
Trying to escape your thoughts. You may have a need to constantly be out and about so you don’t have to be alone with your thoughts.
Feeling useless. You may feel as though you can’t get anything right, so why even try.
Trouble putting what you are feeling into words. It is hard for you to express your thoughts or connect with others, which can lead to isolation.
Unexplained aches or pains. Back, joint, or chest pain; headaches; stomach cramps; or more general physical discomfort, are all common symptoms of depression, and may make you think that you have something physically wrong with you.
Thoughts of self-harm. You may feel life isn’t worth living anymore and wish you could just give up and end it all by going to sleep and not waking up, or by taking your life.
Exercise. Exercising helps release endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals produced by the nervous system to relieve stress and pain. They act like opioids to create a sense of euphoria that can improve your mood and enhance your sense of wellbeing.
Adequate sleep. A healthy sleep schedule can lessen the effects of depression by helping improve your concentration, as well as your physical and mental wellbeing.
Looking for things for which to be thankful. Start a gratitude journal and keep a list of things that have added a little light to your day.
Having someone with whom you can be real. Pretending you’re not depressed is exhausting and causes you to die a little more inside each time you feel you have to hide your truth and say you feel fine when you don’t. Reach out to a trusted friend or loved one who is a good listener and won’t judge you to receive support and validation of your feelings.
Journaling. Writing down your feelings and challenges can help release repressed emotions.
Engaging in writing practice. Writing practice is a form of therapeutic journaling that grounds you in reality. You write for a specific period of time without stopping to think, and jot things down like what you see, what you smell, and other sensory details you notice as you look around you.
Sticking to a schedule. Sticking to a schedule and setting small, achievable goals can help build confidence and keep you motivated.
What doesn’t help.
Positive catch phrases. Continually being told to cheer up, look at the brighter side of things, and see your glass as half full instead of half empty are dismissive of your condition, and can be frustrating, upsetting, and only serve to make you feel worse.
Being told to get over it. Telling a depressed person to snap out of it, stop feeling sorry for themselves, or suck it up and move on only adds frustration and anxiety. Depression is not a condition that can be turned off like a switch. You cannot will it away. When you are depressed you don’t control your thoughts. Your thoughts control you.
Being told, “I know how you feel.” Unless the person saying this has experienced depression him or herself, it does nothing but minimize your pain.
Being told to count your blessings. This implies that you are depressed because you can’t see the positive things you do have, which is a fallacy that may add to the guilt and shame you already feel about your depression.
Being told, “It could be worse.” Instead of offering empathy and compassion, and the social support you need, this may make you feel ashamed of feeling the way you do.
Being asked why you’re depressed. Depression is not a response to a circumstance. It just is.
If you think you may be suffering from depression, please reach out to us today. We would be happy to answer any questions and set up an appointment to discuss how we can help you. A Christian counselor can help you gain a wider perspective on what depression feels like and help you take steps to reduce depressed feelings.
Jennifer Berry and Hana Ames (July 28, 2002). How do I know I am feeling depressed? MedicalNewsToday, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314071.
Anna Davies, “10 Women Share What Depression Really Feels Like,” Prevention Magazine (December 24, 2015).
“Lightning Storm”, Courtesy of Garth Manthe, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Storm Clouds”, Courtesy of Chandler Cruttenden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Waves”, Courtesy of John Towner, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Farm Road”, Courtesy of Pop and Zebra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License