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.

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1,751 thoughts on “What does depression feel like?

  1. I get on and off depression no matter how good or bad life is, its become part of whom I become. I’ve given up on most of my dreams and accepted that I’ll never be happy in a relationship or with any work that comes my way(which pays too little) or with anyone i meet I’ve just accepted my fate about being sad alone and never ever financially stable. So bring it on dull depressing life! Its a shame really, all i ever wanted was to be so successful that i got depression because “enough is never enough” and pass away in a house full of drugs and alcohol. But after spell checking all this i think the depression is making me go like “oh why me” instead of “I’m gonna fix it”. I’m gonna fix this thanks article.

  2. I get annoyed with EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. The smallest things will set me off and I get upset over things I never used to. If I didn’t have a child to take care of, I’d lie in bed all day and avoid everything. I stress and worry about everything. Again if I didn’t have a child, I’d probably drink all day. I never thought I’d be like this. I used to be happy all the time. I think my depression is circumstantial but my circumstances aren’t changing any time soon and this feeling is just getting worse.

  3. I’ve felt lonely all of my life I can remember being maybe 7 or 8 singing to myself about how I wouldn’t be lonely all my life & how I’d fine people who really cared about me what I’ve noticed in myself my depression started from simply always feeling alone and I can remember always feeling left out of everything Im not a loner but I feel as one I usually don’t talk or hang out with others unless I’m the one calling or reaching out first but most days I talk myself out of it knowing no one cares & that I’m not good enough or enough for others I’m filled with self doubt I stay confined to myself even though I try to stay busy & around people I feel alone & hopeless as if I cant do anything right no one who’s in my life knows what its like to never have someone because I’m always there but I can’t say the same I’m always sad but I smile & laugh but most times there forced I want help but because of how my family is instead of help they’ll probably just tell me to pray & God will fix it I believe he can & will but I can’t keep holding everything in I need someone who can truly listen to me & help sort of my feelings I’ve tried & got no where its like I’m battling myself but I’m also the only person who cares for as well as about me I don’t know what to do

  4. I feel like I’m in a whirlpool. I’m 26 and I am constantly ripped between the feeling of wanting to be someone and everything and wanting everything to stop to be nothing. It is a constant circle with no path except the one you just visited. You run and go right back into it. You are paralyzed by fear, constrained by sadness and loneliness, and frustrated by feeling the way you do. Nothing works, feelings don’t go away, and you are stuck in this whirlpool in your head that always moves and sucks you in and while it moves you remain stationary.

  5. I don’t know what it could possibly be, but it is almost routine that I feel sad and desolate on a Tuesday night leading into a Wednesday, this is all the time in college at home now it is summer, I am 17, I have no job, having to put up with constant put downs, I have no job, I am sick of constant rejection I just want one, it’s all my mum moans about and my girlfriend being ‘ugly’ and the little spiteful things as she had a kidney transplant, sometimes I feel even I don’t love her yetI want to live with her because she’s the only person who makes me happy but I don’t know, I’m not HAPPY, not SAD but I’m hanging in there just existing, I want to watch Come Dine with Me all the time, my mum thinks I shouldn’t moan because my life is rosy sitting in my room all day and going out with my girlfriend yet she isn’t approachable at all, I am really irritated by them all and I just want to win the lottery and/or move away, it has been like this for 3 years yet the parents are oblivious, with my life ‘having no reason to be sad’ I have a counsellor at college and I just zone out to be honest I do a lot I don’t care for anyone’s advice, all they do is nag nag nag, I need to get away yet can’t, evrything is effort and that’s not laziness I just want to sleep. I would come home from school and cry, get a berating off my parents over not having a job and CRY and look at how everyone’s growing up and I am just standing still, evenings after college were spent in my room doing nothing of note and that was fine for me, 3 years I have felt secluded but I have just got on with it in all aspects of life and shown no signs of discomfort emotionally, but my girlfriend and I have been through lots like this in our short what was originally a friendship, and now relationship and I never want to lose her and she feels the same, I just need a break, no one understands, no one appreciates me.

  6. I don’t know if I have depression but I just want these feelings to go away, I feel like I have nothing to be depressed about and I’m just weak which makes me feel worse, sometimes I am really down and everyday it’s hard to get up and do things I don’t want to see people or talk to people and I don’t want to do anything I used to do, but then other times I just laugh at absolutely everything to a point I feel I’ve just lost it and then I do really crazy things that I usually regret the next day when I wake up and again just feel like I should be dead

  7. I am a 42 year old man who had led a pretty good life. I love my wife and kids. I have enjoyed my career for the most part for 20 some years. Just recently, I was put on a new project, not by my choice. It was complete beyond my skill level and way beyond the acope of anything i had dealt with. I felt like I had been dropped in the middle of a dark ocean on a tiny raft with the knowledge that a storm is coming. Since then, I haven’t felt like doing much. I spend off days not doing much beyond what I absolutely must do. It feels like I can’t catch my breath. Nothing seems to make me happy. I turned down a chance to hang out with friends in order to be by myself the whole day. Sleep has happened but I frequently wake in the middle of the night and then I can’t get back to sleep, which makes me feel more hazy during the day. The notion of suicide has crossed my mind before in life. I guess the only thing holding me back is my family. Seriously thinking that quitting my job is the best option, but I am also scared that if I do, it may not be enough to shake this feeling.

  8. My depression is me, sitting on my couch at 1:00 in the afternoon, and thinking “holy shit…..I don’t feel like doing ANYTHING…..NOTHING but sitting around or sleeping. Sure we all feel a little lazy sometimes, but this far surpasses laziness. This is “even cooking a pack of Ramen noodles feels like too monumental of a task”. (so I opt to just not eat anything at all). This is sometimes 2 or more solid weeks that I want to do nothing. Everyone annoys me. Especially my boyfriend who just wants to spend time with me. And I want to scream at him and say “CAN’T YOU SEE HOW I’M FEELING? DO i REALLY SEEM TO WANT TO DO ANYTHING???” So I force myself to hang out with him and pretend I’m enjoying what little, sporadic sex I’m giving him, which leads to me feeling resentful of him, which leads to both of us feeling like shit. Then I’m ok for a little while. I feel active….I’m hyper. The girls at work love me. They say I’m the most fun person they’ve ever worked with. But when I cycle down, I am like a completely different person to them. And I have to listen to them ask me “what’s wrong?” for a week straight. It’s maddening. I feel like I’ve been cheated out of a real life. I don’t see any light at the end of this tunnel. My meds don’t help much yet i’m afraid to go off of them because the withdrawals are so horrific. So that’s me. That’s my depression. And I hate it. And I hate myself.

  9. Hi…I’m not sure if i do have depression for sure, but after reading all of these signs, i can relate to more than 7 of them, and now i am wondering if i do or not, i have a reason for thinking it and right now i don’t think i should talk about this reason. my question is that how do you tell ur parents ((or caregiver)) that you may be depressed?

  10. IT is a fog that descends. It is like a seperate entity – I am aware of it – yet I cannot fix it – I can see joy, but I cannot reach it. I have so much in my reach, but I cannot do it. It is an insidious state

    • Ian,
      I swear to you; there is no battle we cannot fight together. You will overcome and you are deserving of happiness. You are worth the space you occupy in this world because you are a person with a beating heart, a perceptive mind.
      Ultimately, the world is kind, I am sincere, and I care about how you feel- as do many.
      I don’t need to know you, I just want you to know that there was a place specially created in this world for you to flourish in, for you to smile again. It may take some time to get there, but you will.

  11. I’m a 12 year old girl and I can be very happy during the day. My friends even say I’m always happy. But when I’m at home usually in the evening or night I can start to feel very sad and I start focusing on all the bad in my life but I just can’t help it and then I start to find myself crying and once I start it’s hard to stop. Usually I start crying because of unfairness with my sister like she goes to the beach with a friend and I stay home and do chores. My mom really helps to comfort me when I’m sad but I’d like to know why I’m sometimes happy or sad. Am I depressed or not?

  12. I’ve been suffering and living with depression on and off since my teens. It comes and goes like an old faithful ‘friend’. The one thing I have found with depression is that it feels completely and utterly self absorbing. I feel a sense of sado masochism about the whole thing. The feeling is like a sea of vulnerability that washes over me wave after miserable wave, then the tide goes out and I am fine, I have swum to shore which I find to be a desert island that is slowly being eroded away until I am swimming again in this ocean of dull, heavy pain. That being said there is an underlying guilty pleasure that I am being completely self indulgent and am freely expressing my pain and damn the rest of the world. I find that I am my most self expressive when I have my low moods but the catch being that when I stop being creative I am still left with that wretched feeling. Keep breathing. That’s all that can be done in those times. Keep breathing.

  13. Pingback: When Does Clinical Depression Starts | Depression Blog

  14. I just feel like my life is useless; that I don’t need to exist.. Everyone around me looks so genuinely happy, and it sometimes pisses me off that they rub their joy in my face. I know they don’t know what I feel inside, because I usually just force a smile across my face. do you ever feel alone, even when you’re around other people?
    I had a best friend who was just like me; abusive parents and strict households. We would sneak out of our houses at night just to see each other and escape for just a little while. We always sat down by our neighborhood creek and sit next to the water, and forget about everything. We didn’t care if we got caught, just as long as we were together, everything would be alright. We would “kick the sky and call it our bitch.” ..geez that sounds so stupid now. I thought that was what we were going to do, I really did, but I guess she thought different…because she decided to go ahead and “kick the sky” without me. I guess she just couldn’t wait to say goodbye before she left forever. My heart was broken for so long and it still is, because my other half is missing. I tried hurting myself more just to forget about the pain, but it was always too strong. I have resorted to eating food and then throwing it up and then eating more and more.
    I keep thinking that eating will fill that dark empty void in my soul, but I keep eating and eating so how come I feel so empty? She’s gone forever, and I know I’m in denial I just can’t stop thinking about her all the time she was my best friend the other half of me. Food isn’t filling the empty space, neither is pain or anything else! I just miss her so much I’m so useless like I was before I met her and I can’t help but feel angry and sad. The world is grey all the time. There is no color or happiness for me on this Earth, but I want to still live for my friend and make the sky my bitch forever. ha that’s really dumb sounding, but I want to do it for her. It’s just…I don’t think I can do this anymore. I can still smell her in the air and feel the touch of her skin. I still even dream about her sometimes; She just keeps whispering funny things in my ears when I sleep. “Live for me,” she says, “look into the water,” she says. I don’t know what it means… but I’ll get it someday, I just hope that I’ll still be around to figure it out.

    • “Kick the sky and call it our bitch” – you write so well, your post moved me (and written on my birthday).

      I feel things – and I have a STRONG feeling you will meet someone new to kick the shit out of the sky and call it your bitch forever.

      Keep the passion (your writing reveals it).

      David

  15. I feel like im suffocating. There is a constant feeling of doom. My mind races, my body aches, stomach hurts. I can not sleep bc of one bad thought after another. I know i was not always like this. I think about days from the past when my children where younger and it seems my marriage and raising my kids were surrounded in sunlight and laughter. I don’t know when my days went from volunteering at my kids school, cleaning my home up, making love and spending time with my hubby. Now my days just seem like im going though the motions.I see my husband and kids happy and smiling as well as the rest of my family.I miss really been apart of life. I dont want to go on like this i want the sunshine back. I like others have dark thoughts especially in the dark of night when my kids are sleeping and my hubby is cuddling next to me i just cry and my mind races but i learned long ago death is easy and living is hard. I still look 4 the day when the sunshines again. I am not so selfish that i will make my hubby, kids, and family wonder if they could have done more or if they did something. I know its all me and i will continue 2 look 4 the sun to rise though my pain and tears.

  16. School starts tomorrow and I just don’t want to. I’m real quiet at school. Not good at conversation. No friends because of those things. I don’t care about school work I don’t want to get a job I don’t want to do anything because anything Is just pointless. I need to finish summer reading. But I don’t give a fuck. I don’t really need to. Everything is optional. I wanna be homeschooled. My parents say no. They don’t understand that I need to be homeschooled or else I’ll .. I don’t know . I don’t have the guts to OD and I fucked up my life from the start. And I just stayed that way. I’m a completely different person outside of school. But I change back into that person when someone I don’t know tries talking to me. The advice I get is to be confident. But that seems very impossible. Even if I seem confident, if someone tries to talk to me I’ll be extremely me. The different quiet awkward me.I fucking hate that. Please don’t make me cuz I don’t care about it because it’s just pointless

  17. I don’t know if I’m depressed or not, I feel sad all the time and I never smile. Before I used to laugh and smile everyday and have some days when I’m down but now, it seems like everyday I’m sad and not excited about anything and there are just some days where I laugh and smile. And the worst part is there is absolutely no reason, I know my family loves me, my friends too, I even have a boyfriend that I really love but when we go on dates I’m also down and force myself to laugh and smile. I don’t feel like I should be like this, I should have a reason, people live so much worst and I’m the stupid one just crying for no reason. I’m so confused, I feel happyness sometimes inside of me and like my feelings want me to smile but I just can’t, I feel tired and hopeless. I want to be a strong girl, who doesn’t cry for no reason. I want a talk to somebody but I know the only response they’ll have is that its a teenager phase, but it’s not…

  18. What depression is to me.
    My mind is the darkest, deepest hole. I can hear my thoughts crying and screaming in the distance. I feel the tendrels of foggy memories creep around me and tighten. I feel the oppression of darkness surround me. Empty. Alone. Tired.
    I reach out and find no one who understands. I feel like I’m drowning in my own brain. I am lost and alone, a prisoner to my darkest thoughts.
    Honestly I am tired of the fight, but long ago my mother told me I was selfish to think of ending, that it is the easy way out. That the only people I would hurt are the ones that love me. If they love me why do they never ask? Or even talk to me.
    I am always quick to anger, my patience is thin. I am tired and my body always hurts. I have lost interest in so many things I loved. I miss art, and reading. I miss going outside just to breath the fresh air.
    I will always miss me, who I was before depression, I was 16 when it really hit in bad. Since then I have self medicated many ways. Now even they have lost my interest. I am at a loss, what am I to do now. Burden a stranger with my never ending story of woe? How many times can I say it before I lose my voice.

  19. i feel so empty. music affects me too much. lana del rey songs devastate me. i can’t stop crying. everything looks so meanless. i got no reason to cry but suddently all the sad/bad memories i have come and hit me hard.

  20. I have been depressed for about two years now… Quite recently it’s gotten really bad… A friend killed herself and now another friend wants to kill herself and I am trying to help her but all along I am wanting to kill myself… I have anxiety attacks and loneliness… Most days I wish I didn’t wake up. I’ve really lost faith in people and myself and I don’t know how long I can keep this up. I am dead inside… Just a shell of a person I knew a long time ago… I am alone. I get so angry sometimes that I even want to hurt myself… I just wish it would all go away. I wish it would all stop. I fucking hate myself

  21. Someone else posted here about “worshipping” the few rare days on which they feel fine. That really chimes with me. I spend most of my life in a fog, almost overwhelmed with despair and self-loathing, and frustration – but somehow still functioning, still dragging myself to work, still earning. Then, just once in a while, maybe every six months or so I will go through a period when things don’t seem so bad, when I feel ‘up’ and properly capable of communicating with other people. I wish I could bottle that feeling (actually, come to think of it – drinking is the only way I can get something like it on demand), or hold on to it in some way, but it goes soon enough. It occurs to me that this feeling which I interpret as ‘up” is actually just how normal people feel most of the time – I envy them horribly.

  22. Ian on 10th august. Your words match me right now. I can see the joy it’s right there yet I cannot touch it. The world and my daughter still look beautiful and I still overwhelming want to do and be what I was. I’ve always beaten myself up been sleep deprived but in march I was starting to take care and feel the most immense joy. But signs were there I was going to descend I just didn’t truly recognise them. To top it off I now have melasma triggered by bc pills and I feel disgusting and have to shield away from the sun all summer. I’ve wasted a fortune on natural therapies and have fallen hard. Diagnosed with major deoression prominent anxiety it’s worse now. I’m in a room on fire running around and can’t get out. The panic doesn’t cease until I take a sleeping tablet when I wake it’s back to it. I have a wonderful beautiful daughter and I just want to care for her by myself and share joy. It’s killing me. Sending caring loving thoughts to you all suffering out there

  23. Hi, I’m now 13 and I possibly suffered small depression for the past 3-4 years. I never opened up. I am afraid of doing it and being seen as weak. Even though I have common sense of knowing I’m not alone, it still doesn’t allow me. I am a geek-nerd introvert who would rather lock up in their room for the whole dayr reading Candice and watching anime. Ocasionaly go out to eat, butsometimes I can have just a couple of rice crackers forthe whole day. I don’t feel hunger . When I feel stuffed, I feel fat. By the way I am 1.75m tall and I weigh about 89kg so you can day im chubby. I have been trying to loose some weight for the past year and I haven’t changed. My friends annoy me by complaining that’d why I don’t want to be one of them. Being alone with a book and music feels like im finally free from the cruel world that we call Earth. I tried religion, it worked … For a week. Then I came back to the hopeless person I am. I always seem to break stuff, not even touching it. I am useless. I tries Manu hobbies. Only reading helped a bit. It helped tozone out and forget the mischievous things that have happened and tried to think about the present and future. No use.Throughout, I have developed a rollercoaster of in and out of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. It began after the first year. Not long ago, I was on like a thread in the sky close to self harm. I learnt a lot of things . I always told myself that with every bad thing there is a good thing. Ha… I was stupid. I don’t belive if because why belibe something when it hasn’t beencclose to be proven real. That I’d say I’d just a waste of time. Think about anything. Think of stranget things like ‘what if we’re actually in a coma and the sun I’d the flashlight and if we die because of ourselves, we die all together. ‘ that’d all from me. I’m happy to at least post this publically and is no more inside my dark, souless soul which deserves death. -Peace ,stay strong!

  24. “… it is no the eléctrica light my friend, it is your vision going dim…” Leonard Cohen, Dress rehearsal rag

    I’m 34 now, I’m om meds since i was 19, and I have depression, since 12, or younger. I feel very tired, sleep a lot, eat too much and feeling of numbness and of being disconnected from the world: the whole day thinking about myself. I can’t concentrate.Even the easiest task seems requiring lot of effort, or imposible. It get worse un winter, exercise and sunlight helped. It taked time to get with the correct medication.

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