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.

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.


1,611 thoughts on “What does depression feel like?

  1. I didn’t go to work for a month
    I didn’t leave my bed for eight days straight
    I haven’t hung out with anyone
    If I did I’d have nothing to say
    I didn’t feel angery or depressed
    I didn’t feel anything at all
    I didn’t want to go to bed and I didn’t want to say up late
    That’s how I feel

  2. i can totally relate to how all of you feel, i get up every morning and look at myself in the mirror and question wether my reflection is really me, sometimes i can’t even get myself out of bed.
    i make up excuses for why i can’t attend school and when i am at school i hide myself away from the light!
    i don’t really talk to people and especially happy people because i do not understand them,i wear black because thats the way i feel and for some reason i prefer being in the dark!

  3. I can’t cry. And let me tell you, I have tried. I tried hard. I can’t remember last time I had a good cry. I have had extremely suicidal thoughts lately. Nothing is exciting. I go on thriller rides and I don’t scream. I break rules for spite. It is not uncommon to have extreme hatred for everything that exists, esp. family. I realize I need help.

  4. I feel lost, confused, hopeless. All the bad in my life overwhelms while the good seems to fade away. Nothing gives me pleasure anymore and all I want to do is watch tv and sleep. I can see what I want for my future and yet I can’t get myself to do the things to get there. It should be important but I just don’t care anymore.
    I don’t know if I have depression, before it had never seemed like a possibility but now I see the symptoms applying to me. What if I’m just going through a phase? I don’t tell anyone and I act normal because I’m embarrassed and scared but I don’t know what to do but I don’t want to be alone.
    Sometimes I feel like it’s just my problem, that I’m just being lazy and should pull it together. Other times everything feels so unattainable and so far away that I want to give up. The happiness is too far and too hard to reach.

  5. I have been depressed since I was 9 year old. You could say I’m self diagnosing, but I am certain this is the issue. I’m finally 18 and I am seeking help finally. I’ve gone through many phases including suicide, self harm, and lack of personal hygiene.

    This is how I would have to explain Depression:
    It feels like you’re treading through mud with a ball and chain tied to your leg. The mud is the lack of motivation, and the ball and chain is the feeling of hopelessness. They both drag you down but you’re still pushing through. You also have an immense feeling of lethargy. You have no energy, no interests in anything. I lost interests in helping myself. I avoided brushing my teeth because why care? I avoided showering every day because why does it matter if I’m not kept up on? I’m worthless anyways. That is what depression feels like. It’s like a choking mist of darkness that you have to venture through, that you wake up to, and that you fall asleep to. It’s become apart of my daily routine. Imagine the feeling of setting high goals, but the closer you reach that goal, the less motivation you get. “I’m going to pass this year!”, then as months go by, you lose sight of that goal. What’s the point? No matter how hard I try I won’t amount to anything anyways. That’s what depression feels like to me. Maybe I’m not depressed and I’m just some stupid kid self diagnosing, but after taking over 20 online screening tests and hitting major depression each time, I’m pretty sure I am.

  6. So. Today I’m sad again. The last two days I’ve felt just cranky and irritated and I noticed I always felt stressed my whole life. Never could concentrate on school,was always forgetful. I was shy and highly sensitive and emotional inside to others feelings I could feel what others feel , and I was good at seeing what others went through. I have a sad childhood, my mom left me when I was 2 and my dad was always working and he met my step mom quickly after . she was fake . she acted nice until they got married . after that she abused me. She made me fat and cut my long hair to look like a boy, she would make m3 eat so much that I would throw up and then make me eat it and then laugh at me . the only escape I had was my grandma’s but she hated my grandma so she lI ed to my dad about how I was bad girl and my grandma was too. She would tell my dad so many lies about me that were Not true , I was always loving kind and shy and she made my dad think I was a bad girl and my dad would never look at me or hear me when I needed help.my step mom and dad never taught me basic things bbefore starting school.I was always bullied in my own house . I hav. 5 brothers 3 were step brothers that would bully me and made me do sexual things .i got touched sexually wrong and did forced to do sexually things at a young age by them and my step cousin and they made fun of me and shamed me because 9f it and I was ashamed to go to the doctors because of it and his my dirty clowe because of it.i was in special ed in school because no one tought me the basics I needed to know .like abcs and sounding out words and I was behind everyone I. The class every yeyear. I was fat and had boy hair. And my half sister had long hair . I was sad. And my step mom would torment me when I was younger . she would say go hurry up and put your shoes on nona is here to pick you up. (My grandma) .and I was so excited and happy so I would run and put my shoes on so fast and then I’d run out and she her car wasnt there and my step mom would say aww she left because she said you were to slow and thought you didn’t love her so she left you,then she would tell at me to take off my shoes and put them back I would cry the She would laugh at me then scream at me to fix my shoes . then 5 mins later she would do the same thing , I would run out faster for my grandma and she would not be there and my step mom would say oh she left because you were to slow and she doesn’t love you . then laugh at me cry and scream at me, she would pull me and my twin brothers hair and call us crazy and retared.my dad loved aaffection and when we would say good bye to him and kiss him before work and we always did that because we loved it too, but my step mom would c9me in our room and yell at us not to do that anymore and threten is . so we couldn’t do that. She never wanted us to be close to our father or talk to him.when we were grounded it was for a long time ,for months and sometimes it it was for something we Never did. And even when we were not grounded we couldn’t do anything. It was as if we were always punished our whole life.as if I was always treated as a criminal and I would always give her love and kindness everyday and she was always annoyed by my presence . and talked bad about me. I was shy in school and didn’t talk to anyone. I always felt alone. And sad and even to this day I do . my step mom never is there for me or talk to me . my dadvdoesn’t talk to me and it feels like he is a stranger to me. I always struggle with feelings of hopelessness , stupidity , feeling iinsecure and worthless because I am forgetful and I can Never learn good enough for simple things lol getting my bed , I always feel stressed and overwhelmed and I feel like I wwruin everythig and I don’t belong anywere.I feel like I’m too swsitive with my husband and I get easily offended and I fear I will be betrayed and abandoned all the time growing up, that every one will turn there face away from me or regect me or look down apone me or be jelous of me or lie about me because growing all my friends have done that as well. I still get happy but when I’m low I’m really low and I feel more hopelessness and loneliness and worthlessness then ananything.

  7. I relate with your post a lot. I was born into a poor family, sometimes we struggled for food and would go months without electricity, water and heat. On top of that we had an abusive father, he would beat my mother so bad that she had broken ribs, nose and etc. Then he started doing the same to us, we didn’t even know if we were gonna be alive the next morning. I’m the youngest one and my mother told me that the abuse didn’t happen so often before I was born, so unlike my sisters I was exposed to it from day one. When I was around 6 I couldn’t take it anymore, it was hell, so I tried to commit suicide but I couldn’t do it correctly. Then when I was 9 my sister tried to hang herself but my mom stopped her. My sister tied a noose in the toilet above the bathtub, when I went in I tried to do the same but I couldn’t do it. I could never leave my mother. Then a lot of things changed very fast, we were dealing with the threat of being kicked out on the street, that made things even worse. My mom then found a way to get out, remarry and move to another country. As I mentioned previously this happened very fast,too fast for me to deal with it. It was also shocking to me since my wish was for us to be a normal,happy family,with the divorce and remarriage all hope was shattered and I felt empty. My mom left me for a year and this is when the depression started to escalate and I couldn’t hide it anymore. I went in my room and started to cry for hours. Then after a year I moved in with my mom and her new husband and things aren’t better, they are empty. I have no friends, my mom isn’t supportive at all,she’s just making things worse. I’m being insulted and humiliated every single day by her and she just goes around talking shit to everyone about me. I constantly feel shame and fear. My depression is just getting worse every single day, and I can’t seek any help, I can’t even kill myself. I’m trapped and I have no one to help me. I’ve been living in hell too long and now I don’t know how to have a normal life. Is there any advice you or others can give ? It felt good writing about my life, even though this is not even half of it.

  8. Pingback: Cele 22 de Simptome ale Depresiei | Printre Oameni.Ro

  9. lately I’ve had so much going on in my life. I’m the type of person to keep my emotions in and I let them build up. My mom and I don’t have the best relationship at the moment, we just don’t click. Recently, i been crying frequently. I feel like maybe if I go into a deep sleep or something I won’t have to deal with anything anymore. I just feel kinda empty, as if I’m putting on a persona. I still laugh and smile genuinely, but not as much as I used too. In mind I just really want to end things but I just can’t. I’m going off to college next year and I just want to be able to be free and be happy but I don’t know how to get through this now. Help.

  10. I’m feeling the same way. Today I just cried and felt really sad. Work has been A lot of stress lately And I know for sure it is not the Job for me.I just didn’t really have a choice but to stay. this feeling is so wrong because I was an achiever when I was younger. I’m 25 and feels like I’m such a failure and everything and almost everyone irritates me.I need help.

  11. I really don’t know what I’m doing on this page I’ve been sad for a while and I just couldn’t find a way to feel better and I started thinking that maybe it was deeper than just being sad and I didn’t want to jump to conclusions I’ve always felt like depression was something that would never effect me I’ve always been generally happy but reading all these symptoms of what other people feel and what they go through I’ve really felt a connection and I think I can relate to a lot of these ever since my girlfriend left me I’ve just not been the same I was always happy now I just can’t stay happy I try to slightly talk to people about it but they just tell me to brush it off and I try so hard to but I really just feel like I can’t I feel hopeless I feel like no matter what I do I just won’t be able to make myself feel better my family thinks I’m perfectly fine I don’t bother my friends with how I feel I keep most to myself and I just go about my day but every day I feel like it’s just getting harder I feel this weight on my shoulders this pressing feeling on my chest and this sick feeling on my stomach nothing interest me I can’t seem to take my mind off of my ex I try so hard to just think about other things but I just feel the burden on top of me constantly I feel trapped like I can’t breath I want to just go away and not look back nothing really truly cheers me up and everything either bores me or irritates me I feel like I have no patience with anything and I’ve just been a dick lately to everyone I feel like I can’t tell anyone about how I feel and just seeing or thinking about my ex always put me down because I know she’s doing perfectly fine while I’ve been sitting here just dwelling on my thoughts and feelings and its just killing me and I swear I don’t know what to do anymore I’m also a very prideful person which gets in the way on how I express my self I really don’t want pity from anyone I just feel misunderstood I feel like I can’t talk to anyone because they’ll just think I’m crazy I I dont know man I’m just tired everyone always talks about getting help with these type of things but I don’t know what that means my uncle died recently and even though it hurt me I know it hurt my mom even more so I feel like I have to be strong for her So that just makes me push away how I feel most of them time but it’s just such a hassle to work around it and I just wish I didn’t have to feel like this I hate admitting this but sometimes out of nowhere I just break down randomly and cry every small thought of her just makes me anxious and sad I feel like I its all my fault and I shoudnt had done some of the things I did I’ve never been a person of regrets but now I just have so many and I don’t know what to do I feel like problems are small compared to other people’s I feel like j shouldn’t be feeling this way I feel selfish wining about a break up when other people have genuine problems I just don’t want to feel this way I don’t even know anything

    • Man I feel exactly the same way. I’ve experienced more loss than most 21 year olds. I lost my father in high school. I went to college and my gf of 3 years breaks up with me (she attended the same school) shortly after I lost my grandfather to cancer. She was supposed to be there for me(his passing was imenent). Well she wasn’t. I bottled it all up for so long and I have a very hard time deciding who I miss the most. And that’s horrible to think about but I was very close to all 3. Either that or I’m just a mess and can’t rationize anything. I find myself constantly day dreaming about the good times I had with them. But the bad times stick out so much more now. I’ve realized how it was actually my fault that my gf left me. I did things that I will never do again. I have no friends because my best “friend” since 8th grade found pleasure in exploiting my depression to our friend group, as he thought my depression was all my doing. Oh and those friends didn’t have the decency to wish me a happy birthday on my 21st. This led to me staying home and doing nothing on a night where you’re supposed to be with friends celebrating. I think about my ex constantly, always playing scenarios in my head. Two years later and I can honestly say there’s only been a few days where I haven’t gone a day about thinking about her. I am battling extreme depression. Im very unmotivated and really just don’t see the point in going to school, getting a good job. Working everyday. Doing the same thing as everyone else. I’m not over much but my best advice is to just soul search man. Try to find something of meaning. Read books, NOT fiction. I got a German Shepherd a few months ago and she has changed my life. I’m still very depressed but she has saved me. And I mean that in every sense. Maybe get a companion dog? I’ve never posted in a forum like this, ever. But reading your situation makes me think we’ve gone through the same feelings. Family’s important but just remember they weren’t around when there was Facebook, snapchat , or instagram. Point being~~~ society has really changed and not for the better. Professional help is the only fool proof way. I have been seeing a psychologist but he recently moved across state and haven’t picked up on it since. Just know man…you’re not alone. I never thought I’d read something like you wrote. So RELATABLE.

  12. With that being said as irrelevant it may be. Depression feels like you have nobody. Nobody to talk to or relate to. The most simple tasks become difficult. I skipped class all the time. Professors thought oh he’s just another hungover kid who doesn’t care about anything but the next party. Depression makes you feel so weak, after trying to be strong for so long. Little things piss you off and disrupt your whole day. Little things that used to not bother you. Its a feeling of drowing but you’re not underwater. Your on land with everyone else and makes you resentful towards those that seem happy. You literally forget what being excited means. You dread getting out of bed, you dread any type of interaction with people. You’d rather experience physical pain than emotional pain. All in all its the worst feeling in the world.

  13. I feel like nothing makes me happy and nothing ever will !! I feel like everyone is looking at me laughing and judging me. I don’t feel worthy at all of any happiness. I feel guilty that I lay in bed for 20 extra minutes each morning , whilst my young daughter is shouting I’m awake mommy , merry morning and I keep telling her I am coming now princess !! Thank god for her , she is all that keeps me going !! I take her out and buy her new things and it’s all because I feel guilty that sometimes I just sit in silence for half an hour looking at the walls closing in on me!! Why does nobody notice I don’t smile or laugh anymore!!! I feel like I’m screaming for help but nobody can hear me!! I just want to be happy again because although I try my best to hide it from my little girl I know she must be picking up on it and I just feel guilty
    !!

  14. I’m 14 and have been depressed since march 2014. It is now may 2015.
    I’ve been inspired by Dana Scully from the X files.Inspired to the point where just I don’t want to be myself anymore. it’s not jealousy; I respect Scully so much.My greatest fear is that I’ll never be like her.She’s witty,intelligent and beautiful, the exact opposite of me-I’m so ugly,stupid and inarticulate.
    I’m planning to become a forensic pathologist like her. but whenever I tell someone this they look at me as if to say ,”Dream on,kid”
    It’s become so serious I’ve been doing bad things lately.I even have an imaginary friend(Scully).
    I wake up every morning feeling like a complete loser.i procrastinate.im doing that now.i get bad,bad thoughts.
    I’ve begun hating myself.my father has stopped talking to me…I have a smaller brother – he talks to him but not to me. He tells me I’m a ‘quitter, loser and can’t complete anything in life’. Well, he told me that when he WAS talking to me , which seems ages ago, but is really just 3 weeks. I should be an ambitious teen receiving my father’s support.but I’m not.

  15. Really…depression makes a person so badly.now iam facing it.iam unable live in this world.iam trying to hurt myself very badly.i ran in a hot room for an hour without stopping for a minute atleast.now my stomach n chest hurts so badly.i burnt my hands with cigarettes.these pains are giving me relief so that I can forget my inner pain.my legs are not working. Still I need pain.i dont know why am I behaving like this.

  16. I have began to break out in crying spells for no reason at all. I can feel them coming on and cannot control it. It rolls over me like a wave of darkness that envelopes me wholly. I fake happiness at work and with friends while inside I am miserable. Thoughts of past failures and future mistakes constantly come to mind. At times there seems to be no future or reason for going on. Whats the point to being here if I cannot control my mind and not be miserable all the time. On the outside I look normal, inside I am a tangled mess of feelings. I try to express them, but they never come out. I go to the gym to relieve some of the feelings, that helps for a bit, but then they come roaring back. I need to see a psychologist but am so afraid of opening things up. Dunno what to do or where to turn. I know I have friends that would understand but I don’t want them to know how I feel inside.

  17. My depression is an odd one… I feel sort of enclosed in my own negativity. I’ve lost myself somehow..
    Everything is behind a sheet of glass, that I know I’ve put there myself. I try to move it or smash it down but it seems to just make it stronger…and make me more accepting of it. I catch myself sometimes looking off into nothing and I’m very aware of the forced conversation I try to have with other people..

    This is a debilitating illness and anyone who is going through this, just sit tight. I’m on the same ride with you, and I’m sure that with a knock in just the right place, that glass that surrounds us will shatter.

    Just gotta find the right spot x

  18. I know all to well exactly how each and everyone on here feels. I feel vacant as if something from inside is pulling me, I’m drowning and my heart races. I feel so selfish because there is no real reason why I should feel this way but it’s inescaple. The worst feeling is feeling as though you can never escape it as if this is my natural state and i should not try to fight it. I set off on task hoping that by doing so I’ll reach my goals but in the mist of it all I sabotage myself because I feel as though I can’t make. My low sense of worth and self esteem makes me give up right before I’m about to obtain what I most desire. I feel absolutely invisible and undesirable. I made the mistake of using my ex as a way to validate my self worth and when he left I had such severe anxiety attacks and nightmares of him leaving over and over again. All my life I’ve felt as though I didnt matter and when he left he validated the fact that I didnt. No matter how many good things are happening in my life I feel shitty as though I’ll never accomplish anything. Every goal not obtained just feels like life’s feedback telling me I’m worth less then shit. I drown myself in food and alcohol and end up feeling worst. Ive realized that I just really hate myself. I hate who I am and wish to be different. I’m happy on the outside always making someone laugh but I hate myself in the inside. I procrastinate endlessly then end up hating myself things get so overwhelming that I have to give up. Depression is a beast and in many ways I’ve created my own hell. I honestly don’t know how to continue on Sometimes or what the best course of action should be. I wonder will it always be this way or can things change.

  19. Here are some more for the list above:
    –You don’t feel like you have any true friends who really care about you, or who really prioritize your friendship.
    –You focus on the people who have treated you the worst, who have hurt you or rejected you and let them set up a free vacation home in your brain.
    –Everything feels like too much effort.
    –All your activities and things to do feel boring and low-value.
    –You can’t make yourself do anything that you “should” do.

  20. I’ve had deppresion for as long as I can remember … About 15 years ago I was digansosed with anxiety … Medication made adolosenses a nightmare for me and my parents … I turned my back on the doctors .. After pushing through it on my own .. Landing a career as an electrician .. That’s when things went out of control deppresion made me uncontrollably cry in front of employes as well as customers … I lost my job because of deppresion .. I lost almost every positive aspect in my life because of how deppresion feels .. For every good day I have .. There’s 14 bad ones.. I’m sick of feeling empty … Without my family that doesn’t understand btw .. Deppresion would have taken my life .. For anyone who reads this .. Deppresion is lethal.. Do your research and think for yourself .. Don’t let someone make your own decisions

  21. Same here! I tried to kill myself several times but somehow I couldn’t succeed, I don’t know what to do people say that meds are too dangerous for health, but I cant’ live my life like this nor I can handle another year of depression. I feel like I wasn’t supposed to live and my life has no future, what can I do? Every night when I go to bed I keep choking and my heart is being squeezed. Life please, I’m so tired I feel like I’m going to explode, all that I’ve known in my life was sadness and sorrow, I’m afraid I began to lose hope…

  22. It started as severe anxiety with some depression, but as time has gone on i just feel like i am fading away. I don’t know where the anxiety came from but it has never left or if it does it is replaced by other bad feelings. I feel at the moment that i am fading away. I cannot work i slept 15 hours last night. I don’t know what the medication is doing as i tried cutting back and i got akathesia(couldn’t keep still). I am having more trouble concentrating on things and feel that i can not look after myself properly.

  23. I’m currently dealing with depression. I feel almost as its a black hole and I’ve dug myself so deep that I can’t get out of the hole. It’s crazy because you never could see yourself as that depressed sad person because all my life I thought I’ve been pretty happy but always have dealt with problems but I’ve always seem to find a way to get better. I’m very impatient I guess you could say and hope things will go back to normal. Then I suddenly question is our views on normal actually normal. Everyone has struggles and issues in life we are all just too stubborn our self pride to admit it. If you want to know my experience Ive had little to know desire to do anything. I constantly sleep as an escape from reality. I’ve always been known as a popular kid and I’ve gotten over 30 to 40 texts asking me if I’m alright and I’ve yet to answer really anyone for that matter. I go to work but don’t feel like I’m doing my job and see myself getting fired soon. I’m litterally so close to graduating high school but haven’t showed up to school cause I’m worried what people are gonna say. I went to a hospital for a week because I told my mom my thoughts about life and I’m diagnosed with major depression disorder. I’m hoping that things will turn around.

  24. Depression is when you don’t want to leave your bed..and feel like dying everyday. It’s when someone you love tries to help but you just don’t care.You just want to be alone. After a while people seem to think that is your true personality and begin to avoid you. It’s when you feel like you are suffocating trying to get out but no matter what you do….You just sink deeper. I feel death is the only option for me. I will sadden everyone but I will soon be forgotten, I’m insignificant.

  25. I honestly feel like I can’t do anything right. Little things especially, getting a glass of water or brushing my teeth. I can’t carry on a conversation anymore — I stumble over my words, even with close friends, which makes me hesitant to talk to anyone. When I get complimented, I immediately feel like I don’t deserve it. I can’t talk about my feelings, even when I want to. I cry when I think I’ve offended someone. I cry about things that happened months, even years ago. I cry when people irritate me. I cry when I notice that people irritating me. I’m happiest when I’m lonely, and I don’t know how to make anyone understand
    that.

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