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.

Note: I wrote this a few years ago, and it has made its way around the Internet uncredited. If you want to reproduce it in any way, please contact me.

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.
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