What does depression feel like?

Image: Dolce Far Niente by John William Godward

Dolce Far Niente by John William Godward

“It was not really alarming at first, since the change was subtle, but I did notice that my surroundings took on a different tone at certain times: the shadows of nightfall seemed more somber, my mornings were less buoyant, walks in the woods became less zestful, and there was a moment during my working hours in the late afternoon when a kind of panic and anxiety overtook me…” – William Styron, Darkness Visible

Sometimes the Depression Self-Screening Tests are just too clinical, and the symptoms don’t really “click” with you. Some of the criteria are general, and if you’re suffering from depression, specifics are easier to understand.

I know that I might not have diagnosed myself with depression just on the basis of those symptoms. I had no change in appetite, and no sleep problems (getting out of bed was what was difficult). Below are some un-clinical symptoms.

    • Things just seem “off” or “wrong.”
    • You don’t feel hopeful or happy about anything in your life.
    • You’re crying a lot for no apparent reason, either at nothing, or something that normally would be insignificant.
    • You feel like you’re moving (and thinking) in slow motion.
    • Getting up in the morning requires a lot of effort.
    • Carrying on a normal conversation is a struggle. You can’t seem to express yourself.

  • You’re having trouble making simple decisions.
  • Your friends and family really irritate you.
  • You’re not sure if you still love your spouse/significant other.
  • Smiling feels stiff and awkward. It’s like your smiling muscles are frozen.
  • It seems like there’s a glass wall between you and the rest of the world.
  • You’re forgetful, and it’s very difficult to concentrate on anything.
  • You’re anxious and worried a lot.
  • Everything seems hopeless.
  • You feel like you can’t do anything right.
  • You have recurring thoughts of death and/or suicidal impulses. Suicide seems like a welcome relief.
  • You have a feeling of impending doom – you think something bad is going to happen, although you may not be sure what, and/or…
  • …You have a very specific fear that torments you constantly.
  • In your perception of the world around you, it’s always cloudy. Even on sunny days, it seems cloudy and gray.
  • You feel as though you’re drowning or suffocating.
  • You’re agitated, jumpy and and anxious much of the time.
  • Your senses seem dulled; food tastes bland and uninteresting, music doesn’t seem to affect you, you don’t bother smelling flowers anymore.
  • Incessantly and uncontrollably into your mind comes the memory of every failure, every bad or uncomfortable experience, interview or date, like a torrent of negativity.

You may also be interested in:

How Depression May Affect Your Life
What is Depression (and What is it Not)?
Reflections on Depression
You Can’t Fight Depression on Your Own
My Experience with Depression

Please feel free to post your comment about what depression feels like. Please do not post:

  • Questions about depression and how to handle it. Go here for that.
  • Comments on how you think it should be managed, including finding God.
  • Requests for other people to email you. Your email will be edited out of the post.

Also, please do not include “triggers” in your comment. In other words, do not include specifics of self-harm or suicidal plans, as this might trigger someone reading your comment.

Please note that comments are moderated – if you post a comment, it will not show up until it is approved, and this can take a few days. Comments asking for responses will be edited accordingly.

Archived comments in response to this article can be found here.

1,705 thoughts on “What does depression feel like?

  1. I feel like no one loves me. I feel like tears is d only option to communication. I just wanna be alone. I just feel life isn’t treating me right! it makes me more sad when I see people happy. I have dreams and aspirations Buh my depression is killing it little by little till I am l left with nothing.

  2. I’ve had depression and anxiety since I was a teenager; I’m 45. I made bad decisions by resorting to drugs and alcohol for relief. I managed to become outwardly successful with a professional career and financial security. The fact that I was so unhappy despite all of that baffled my family and friends. I felt like I faked my way to any accomplishment. I envied every person I saw at a store or any place, because I felt that they were happier than me; I still do. In these comments, there is a theme of loss, because that’s all depression will allow me to see…loss. I feel it viscerally. Dull ache in my head, tightness in my chest, a fullness in my throat, and a dull pain in my stomach; none so bad to indicate a real ailment, but enough to make me aware that I don’t feel “right.” I used substances, even those I didn’t enjoy, because I wanted to feel anything else than depressed. Of course that just put me on an endless cycle of more grief, guilt, and shame. In 3 years, I’ve lost my job,marriage,home, and most of my financial security. Truth be told, depression clouds my thoughts at recovering some of those losses, because I feel that all that awaits me is more depression. I’m on meds and they help to an extent, but I certainly feel no joy and excitement. I’m clean and sober for 2 years and today, have no desire to go back. No matter how much I change the outside, my insides feel sad and empty much of the time. If I didn’t have 2 great kids, I would have already jumped off the nearest tall bridge
    I relate to some if not all the feelings expressed here, no matter the differences in age and circumstance. I just go on minute to minute, day to day, hoping things my mood improves. Thanks for reading and I hope for better things for you…and myself.

  3. Hi,
    I am in love with a guy who is my collage friend. He is very nice,caring and loving person. I recently told my parenta about my love. They told me that he is a very nice guy but they will not agree for our wedding as he belongs to a different caste.my father also told me that I will have to choose between my parents or my love as he cannot face the society if I marry a person from a different caste person. I am in love from past four years and cannot leave him and also cannot leave my parents as I like them very much and also they are old. I cannot even imagine a different person as my husband. I feel do depressed and lost interst in life. Started crying for all small things. Please help me.

  4. It’s like being really numb. I’ve been in and out of self diagnosed depression for about 5 years now, with some stable years in the middle, which now when I think about weren’t necessarily “stable” but just better tHan a depressive state which is making me wonder if maybe it’s manic depression.

    But then.. ive been on a downward spiral since about 10months. I was holding on by a last thread, but when I lost that relationship, it became a lot harder to hold on and I hit sudden crash. It feels like nothing is right. Nothing can become right because there are no options left. I feel numb to everything. I wake up too early but can’t leave bed because. .. what then? Everything hurts. All the time. There is either too mcuh fear in life or no fear at all, neither of which feels okay but then nothing has felt okay. It’s only felt less and less okay with time.
    I don’t feel as hopeless this time because I was saved last time, by love. And I rembr that. And I hope I never forget. That this is just temporary. And we must wait it out.

  5. I connect most strongly with what Chelle said, and borrowed some of her words.
    I have felt depressed for as long as I can remember – it’s the norm. I’m functional for the most part, its more routine than anything. I have a good job, and have had promotions over the years, I make a good living (double the median income for my city) and have my own house but beyond that my life is empty. I accomplish those things primarily because otherwise I would live on the street – never married, no kids, nowhere else to land but what I provide for myself. That’s all that gets me out of bed and out the door in the morning. On weekends sometimes I can’t even get myself to leave the house.
    I’m very good at what I do but I have hit a glass ceiling because I sabotage myself. People tell me how good I am but I always feel like they are saying that just so I will continue to take care of things for them and go beyond. I’m a workhorse. I’m overweight, and I’m starving all the time, and I totally “get” that it’s not food I’m hungry for, but hormonally I can’t resist. Now my weight has become part of my shield to keep me invisible and “safe” from scary attention. I haven’t dated in over 20 years. I’m sometimes terribly lonely, but I don’t do anything about it and most of the time I tell myself I don’t want others around because I need “down time” but I’ve had 30 years of down time. When I do go out with others, I feel so uncomfortable and like a 3rd wheel. I have no stories to tell about good things going on in my life. People say nice things about me, but I can’t internalize any of that, I shrug it off. Most of the time I just don’t show up to things I’m invited to because I can’t get myself to go or I get so sad or teary about going or how awful I look and that I have nothing to contribute.
    I have no goals and no drive to change things, and I am scared that things will never get better. I keep saying that I can’t live like this anymore, but I’m more afraid of the truth, which is that I could very well go on and on like this for the rest of my life. I frequently think of the expression “keep on doing what you always do and you’ll keep on getting what you always get” but I don’t know how to break the cycle. Even writing this, there were a couple of times I got teary-eyed but mostly I feel nothing.

  6. hi their its` very deprested with nothing to do dureing the day time as liverpool is not avery good council at all and does c`ater at all for people who have asberges syn drome as people and their are 95 oooo people in the uk with out any support at all just l left at home to do \all day and does not help\you at all \and not good if you do nt meet the critria for servces and under the white paper evauling peoople 21st century at all \as they have cut all the day care servces down and its niot good with nothing to do all day at all and when you have hjad acommnity care asement off your jneeds dione you dont qualify fior acommnitry care assement off your needs at all as well iot does causze you to have deprestion and very un well from dave 5 walton breck road walton l40rb

  7. “finding God” ?? that is your advice ??? honestly, you have no idea how much I want to fucking hate you right now …

  8. i used to be full of energy. i used to be bright and i’d always pride myself on how much hope i had. i used to dance around my room blasting music at 3 am and i used to love drawing and writing. i was the most confident person i knew and my self-esteem was through the roof.

    i now feel like doing art is pointless – a waste of time. i can no longer write as i hate everything that i come up with and doubt my work far too often. i’m always tired and i go to sleep at around 4-6 am and do not get up until well into the afternoon.

    eating my favourite meal feels boring. i still listen to music, but end up turning it off out of some irrational frustration i always get while it’s on. leaving the house, let alone my bedroom is rare. all my thoughts consist of things i’ve done to embarress myself. i worry constantly, and bury myself in the negative aspects of my past. i try force myself onto a happy train of thought and five minutes later i’m back to loathing myself and every choice i’ve ever made. sometimes i’ll have moments of clarity – and i feel like my old self, but it only crumbles around me hours later as i cry myself to sleep.

    i no longer care about my appearence. i’m an attractive girl but i couldn’t care less, and i never make an effort to get dressed or to put make-up on. i’m losing an unhealthy amount of weight because it’s impossible for me to eat.

    i feel like a burden to everybody, and keep cutting myself off from people i care about. sometimes i’ll be feeling fine, even confident – but if someone says something to me that hurts even the slightest bit then i’ll have to try my hardest not to tear up and all i will be able to do for the rest of the day is think about it.

    i used to daydream about my future and all my the things i want to accomplish but now i just dread having to waste another day of my life unable to do anything. suicide is not something i think about often, but when i do my mind falls into a hole that i feel i’ll never escape.

    i have not been diagnosed with depression, but from what i believe – it is something i have fallen victim to. forcing myself to feel happy while having a particularly bad episode is the hardest thing i’ve ever tried to do.

    i think the worst symptom i have is feeling guilty about everything. even existing.

  9. Imagine your drowning. You can’t breathe. You’re swimming to the top just to get a breathe of fresh air, but you can’t. You look at your feet and there’s and anchor tied around your ankle, as it pulls you deeper with every negative thought. The deeper you go the darker it get’s, until you are completely surrounded by the dark depths of the nothingness. You can’t move. You can’t breathe. You don’t even know how you ended up there. You feel so alone. You try so hard to swim to the top but it feels like the weight of the world is on you. The only that keeps you going is the memories of when life was good, when it felt like you had no worries.

    I’ve been depressed for 3 years now, but this year feels different. I feel so hopeless. Like a fish trying to clime a tree. I have no interest in doing anything that use to make me happy. Everything just seems so dull. I sometimes wonder why i was even born if it was just to suffer. I constantly get into fights with my loved ones and it makes me so sad.

    I’m happy to at least say that these past couple weeks i have really been trying and i feel as if it’s working. I talk to people more about my feelings even if i feel like they are annoyed. Music sounds better. Food taste better. Everything seems better. It’s so hard but I’m making progress. I’m so grateful that i have my mom in my life. I don’t know what i would do without her. She stays by side all the time. It makes me want to do better for myself. Some days i still feel very depressed, but i won’t give in. Not ever. I’m going to fight this demon inside me, even if i die trying. There’s so much better things in life to do then being sad all the time. I don’t want to be the person i was before. I want to be better. No, I will be better.

  10. First I want to say sorry to all of you. Im sorry for those of you depressed. Im sorry life hurts good people. Im sorry there is so much ugliness and hate in the world. I wish I could help all of you and make you all feel better and happy again..I also have problems with anxiety and depression I think I’m possibly bipolar. I dont like going anywhere so people wont look at me. I feel ignored within my family . I grew up with drug addicts for parents. I grew up not learning self esteem and how to love myself.. I think I need to work on those things but, some days its just hard …sometimes it feels easier if I gave up on everything. I can’t let my daughter get hurt by my depression though. I try to hide it from everyone. It hurts .I feel alone.

  11. I am comforted that I found this website. I had no idea that so many other people feel the same way I do, some of the comments list things exactly how I feel. I am sad that so many other people feel as bad as I do. But misery loves company I suppose. I realized that I was depressed when I woke up at 3PM one day. I never get up past the “crack of noon” on most days because I work evenings. I used to love working the evening shift (for me it’s 3pm to 1:30am) but now I hate it and I get nothing accomplished on my days off and then feel totally guilty and then wind up going back to sleep in front of the tv, on the couch, with all the blinds drawn, on a sunny beautiful day when I normally I would be walking the dog or going on a road trip. I have lost interest in everything. I used to devour books. Now it takes me months to read a 200 page novel that should have taken me hours. The other night I ordered a pizza from my favorite pizzeria, normally I would have devoured half of it, but this time, after two slices, I found it tasteless and gross. I used to love hanging out with family and friends but now I just want to be left alone and cringe at the thought of being around other people and totally dread going to work. I’ve also developed a horrible case of “road rage” where I scream and rage inside my car when another driver does some stupid but innocuous move. I’m a Leo and shouldn’t be this way but I just feel so awful. I don’t want to take pills and I fear doctors because I don’t think those things really do any good. I feel that my life is falling apart and I am helpless to stop it.

  12. I don’t know if I’m depressed or not. I’m not happy, but I don’t know if its my mind or I’m just…living my life wrong.

    I suppose it can’t be, I mean, I just graduated with a first class honours degree, I live in a nice house with a family who loves me and I love them, plus my two dogs who I adore. I’ve got a boyfriend, a part-time job and an internship at a magazine that I got into as soon as I left university.

    I just find it so hard to get out of bed in the morning when all I want to do is curl up underneath it and hide from the world. I keep thinking about how I want to run away to some remote place where I don’t have to deal with life anymore. Sometimes, at the start of the day I think to myself “just get today over with and you’ll be one more day closer to the day you die.”

    I hate these thoughts. I hate my attitude. I hate how every morning feels like a hand closed around my throat.

    I don’t feel like I’m living. I feel like I’m waiting to be saved from having to live.

  13. I’m not really sure if it could be classified as actual depression but some of those symptoms do apply to my situation, and sometimes I do cry for no reason and things that are very small, such as maybe a commercial, make me cry and bawl my eyes out. Sometimes I feel and question all the decisions I have made my entire life and wonder wether it was the wrong one or not and sometimes there’s periods when,out of nowhere, I just think that everything and everyone will be better off if I wasn’t there. Of course I think of my family and how they would feel but that thought just takes over sometimes and there’s no stopping it. I do not cry every night, but when I do cry I feel like it will never end and recently I do feel very empty as if I was just a body filled with nothing but air and I am just a wasting space that could be taken by someone who feels and knows that they have a purpose. I am not sad all the time, I am happy a lot of days but nonetheless that hint of doubt and anxiety and sadness are always there on the corners of my mind waiting for the perfect time to take over.

  14. My dad cheated on my mother and they are now divorced. My dad is married to yhe woman as of about 2 weeks ago. It’s been very hard for me. Usually I am a very happy person! I always smile and im always joking and laughing. But here lately it’s been hard to even smile. I can’t control my thoughts about these awful things and almost every night I have these horrible panic attacks where I can’t breathe or talk I just cry. My mom (who struggles with anxity) does not know what to do. I’ve asked to get help but she always says just take a IV prophen or Motrin. They don’t help. I don’t know what to do anymore. And Heaven looks better and better each day.

  15. I’m sad, I don’t know what to do. Sometimes im extremely happy and in an instant im extremely sad. i’m not good enough. I suck. I can’t do anything right in my life. I can’t be who im expected to be in my head and that just hurts. My expectations get higher as I achive stuff only on mere luck. I never stop pushing myself. I try to be social and outgoing and positive but it never happens, and when it does i find a reason for it to be sad. When something happy happens I think back and reflect on the sad things. I never flip out at anyone, it’s not their fault. Im the only one that’s doing this to myself. It’s not their fault. It’s nobodys fault. It’s my fault.
    I can’t get out of bed in the morning. After a 12 hour nap im still tired.
    everyday its like holding a knife to my throught. I shouldent be feeling this at my age. But I am. And so are you. I’ve never had any suicidle thoughts. I can’t have those.. It would hurt the people that love me too much. I take fault for other people’s mistakes because I feel bad.
    When I try to tell people how I feel they ignore me and say it’s just a 1 day thing and you just have to “be happy”. But yknow what. It’s not that easy… It’s not their fault for saying that, they don’t know how I feel. I can’t blame something on someone else. It’s mentally impossible. It’s my fault.

  16. Im 13 years old. Far to young to be feeling this way about life. I suck. I suck. I get happy suddenly then I get sad an instant later. Why can’t I stay happy? Why can’t I be normal. It’s not anybody’s fault but mine. My standards for myself are set so high, as soon as I achive something just by mere luck, I set them
    Higher. And it hurts that I can’t achive anything with skill or just with brainpower. Luck, luck, luck. Nobody believes me. Everyone hates me. I hate myself. I hate the world. It’s not anyone but my fault. Im not going to go off blaming other people. I can’t, if someone feels sad it’s my responsibility to help them. If someone did something bad, I step up in their place. Why let people that matter suffer. When a person that doesn’t matter is standing right there.
    When people say “just be happy” it ticks me off.. You can’t just “be happy” you can’t just forget everything and let it slide. It’s not their fault for saying that, they don’t have what I do. It’s my fault for being so selfish to even blame them. Im not good enough, im not good enough, im not good enough, I can’t do anything right.

    What made
    Me the target?

  17. I lose I very big amount of my bestest friend it started out when I lose one fine then two okay but when I lose my BFF forever I loved it hurt me very bad. It start just today and I’m crying about everything bad to worst. I feel like I’m lost in world I cried for 4 hrs staright listening to very sad music and I’m still I’m just looking at are photos together. she unfriended me on everything she idk I think I got to her cause I got her mad cause I was mad and sad. I rub my skin for punishment and scratching at my skin with a pencil saying bad. I’m very sad idk if I going to lose her or everyone forever I feel broken like I can do better but can’t. I need help.

  18. I’m 23 years old and My depression has gotten worse and worse.. I use to be able to some what control it by thinking about positive things and keeping my mind busy with friends.. But for about 8 months now I have felt like everyday is a struggle. I have no motivation to do anything, I have no confidence in myself, and I constantly feel like I’m digging a deeper and deeper hole and slowly not being able to breath.. I feel so worthless.. I can’t ever finish anything that I start.. I always think people are constantly judging me and even with my family members I feel insecure.. I know I need to seek for help, because no one deserves to feel this way.. I hope all of us who deal with this can one day overcome it.. Because it does SUCK. It’s eating me alive.

  19. I am 14 and I think I might be depressed. One if the main problems I have is that I feel like there is no reason to go on but I know that their is so much I can do with do with my life but at the same time it seems useless. I cry myself to sleep and fake being sick most days to get out of going to school as I feel like there is no reason. It takes so much effort just to get up and get through the day and usually I just lie in bed and don’t get up. I don’t know if I am over reacting and just seeking attention or if I really should get help. I feel like I’m separated from my life by a bubble and I feel like I don’t belong.

    Maybe I am just over reacting, maybe it is just what teenagers go through or maybe there really is something wrong with me. I don’t know.

  20. im 15 and ive been suffering from depression for almost two years now. Im untreated because my parents believe that mental illness is not a “thing”. I’ve lost my passion for a lot of things, and i never feel like anythings worth being happy for. Like let’s say someone got me a gift, id feel “happy” for like ten minutes and then ill think back at that moment and feel like it was just a stupid meaningless thing. therefore i never ever experience real happiness. when i make plans with my friends, i never end up going because i wouldnt feel like seeing or meeting or talking to anyone. im always mad and my family pisses me off so much, the smallest things they do make me see red..I selfharmed twice, last year and this year and still, my mom did not feel the need to seek for help. I never feel good enough for anyone like i feel unable to do anything right, even the stupidest things

  21. I’m nothing but a burden to everyone, I try to make my self believe thag I’m loved, but I know Im not. I know there is no one out there for me. Im broken. Im teared. I lost hope in what’s coming next..
    I found peace in studying, in getting lost in science.. Now that it’s summer, I barely laugh, everyday seems dull.. the sky seems sad.. I’m the type that always appears happy, but what’s the point if i cry my self to sleep atleast 3 times aweek. . My family, they hate me i know it. My mother prays for my death out loud, and so do I. I never had anyone that would love me completely as a human being. People always point out my flaws, always making me feel anxious. I didn’t know I suffer from depression until just now. I read about feeling like in a black hole few minutes, funny part is that I write when I’m extremly sad and I’ve mentioned this hole every single time I held a pen to write. I do not want to see a professional, I don’t want to seem weak even if its the right thing to do.

  22. Ive self diagnosed myself with depression for the past few years. I used to be so happy and bubbly and enjoyed all the little things in life. I used to make plans with friends and felt like life was so great! In high school, i thought i was depressed and usually cried or cut for attention. Now that im in college, its a much different feeling i have. I have a bad alcohol abuse problem that only feeds into my depression and i feel like its a continuous cycle of feel bad, drink about it, feel even worse. Ive been suicidal almost all of college and it more than anything scares me. When i get really upset, i blame everything on myself and often think of all my past mistakes. This makes me feel as though theres nothing else to do but kill myself. I feel as though everyone around me hates me, and that is by far the worst feeling in the world. I had to drop an entire semester of college because i couldnt function or focus enough on my schoolwork and everything brought me down. Ive told my family only an extent of my depression, but i feel the need to tell them everything. Ive gone to multiple counselors up at school, but they didnt really help much. My best remedy was being home with my family. I really hope that one day i could officially be over all this pain, but i dont see day that happening anytime soon. If anyone has any advice or words of jnspiration i would really appreciate it.

  23. I’ve been suffering from depression for awhile but lately it has gotten worse,my mind and thoughts or filled with nothing but worry and fear,I’m scared all the time or aggravated always having some kind of emotions don’t really know how to level them out,I have a fiancee and kids but my relationship is rough with them because of me,I cant get my fiancée to understand how I feel so we argue everyday to the point that I feel like I’m going crazy and my blood pressure stays up,I hate my job and I’m bout to embark in a new career which I’m scared because I don’t want to fail I just want peace,and happiness in my life and to be able to live my life stress free life is to short and precious to not enjoy it

  24. I’m 49 and in at least my third bout of major depression which started when I was 37. I will turn 50 in September and feel that my life is over. Partly because of the age thing, knowing that society and employers worship youth, leaving me feeling worthless. I am in a dead end career with no chances for advancement or growth at my current employer, a struggling nonprofit where we’ve received pay raises in only 2 of the past 11 years, and where our retirement company matches were taken away in 2009 and likely never will be restored. I’m struggling to get by and meet my bills let alone save any money. At my age I don’t want a roommate. My aging divorced parents both live here in this city: dad is in public housing, aged 81 and starting to fail. Mom is 71, on Medicaid and food stamps, barely survives on $600 a month SS and her house is hoarded full. My married sister is on SSDI and out of the picture to be able to help. I’m paralyzed from fear because I cannot do anything to fix these situations and when crap hits the fan it will all fall on me to deal with–health problems if the parents, cleaning out mom’s house once she dies if it’s not lost to medicaid first and therefore no inheritance to me or my sister. This is not living-this is dying a slow death from situations that are too overwhelming, and a career path where there are just not enough opportunities to move on and have the financial peace I need so I don’t end up like my parents in my old age. I guess I’ve made so many bad decisions it seems and my depression isn’t helping me try to find solutions. All I do is go in circles or sleep most weekends to avoid being awake and thinking about all this stuff. I have no friends or family members to help me deal with any of this. It truly sucks. Life is not worth living if this is what it’s like.

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