What does depression feel like? 2153


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. Also, please note that I reserve the right to edit comments, in terms of removing anything that I feel is inappropriate. Don’t bother to give me grief about freedom of speech – this is a privately funded and managed website.

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


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2,153 thoughts on “What does depression feel like?

  • Lydia

    Don’t give up. Wait it out. Call out to God and in the midst of darkness he does hear.

    I cried until I cried enough, until all i could coax out of me was a whisper… I ran as if I could run away from all my troubles and responsibilities.
    The murky darkness seeps into your veins, and cripples you, sucking you into this black void, swallowing you whole, leaving you nothing but endless hopelessness. The feeling of being unable to breathe, that you’re drowning in a deep ocean, looking up at the sun above the water… longing to BREATHE!! to be UP there, but your feet are shackled to the depths.

    for me, praying helped. and writing. I could not get out of bed if i did not pray. i talked to God and myself and pushed myself to go to work. to get up! one baby step at a time. i decided if i could not concentrate at work, i will concentrate on ONE task a day and if possible TWO. I was underperforming, but i had no choice. I prayed to a God i wasn’t sure existed. but i prayed about everything i did. and convinced myself to step forward. it has been 2 years. and finally i see some improvement in my life. I still pray over everything. to say, i found God, i’m not sure. But i draw strength from him now. where once i had no confidence in myself, i now tell myself i am doing this for him. and he knows i tried my best, even if it was terrible. I was at a place where i had nothing to lose. If he did not exist, my life was ruined anyway. people around me who never knew any better put me down and said nasty and discouraging things. it made me feel worthless and ashamed to be who i am. i prayed everyday that i will get through this day. one day at a time. i also prayed that God would heal me of emotional scars of the past, and am learning to LOVE MYSELF again so that i can love people again. slowly, i am picking myself up again.

  • Feeling Terrible

    “Terrible” is a word I often use (mostly in my head) to define how I feel. My boyfriend is amazing beyond belief. More supportive & caring than any man I’ve ever been with. I am so far into depression that I feel like my love for him, as well as my love for my daughter, is waning. Not because of them, but because it feels so hard to love. Like a chore to fake/muster up those feelings. He’s got 2 beautiful kids & I have to force myself to smile at them. The good happy loving feelings are leaving me & I hate it so bad. At my best (when I’m NOT depressed) I light up a room & give & give & give my heart to those I love (family & friends). Good god I want this so stop plaguing me. I used to write poetry as a teenager. Angsty crap, but I do remember describing my depression as a metaphor. It crawled up my back, whispered i.to my ear, sunk its clawst into me & dragged me down into depths no one else could see. I am there again, this time deeper than it ever has been. I’ve a fear I’m ruining my relationship with my man & I cant have that. We are so deeply in love thaf its like we are the same person. Like we share the same skin. But right now I’m so depressed I can barely muster the energy to smile, and now sometimes I dont. And my daughter….. Thats another story. I cry inside constantly for her, my heart aches. She lives with her other parent. I gave birth to her, fed her from my own body (breastfed for 1 year), was a GOOD stay at home mom (not lazy, we did all kinds of fun, healthy things), I chose her preschool, made every me she ate, etc. And now shes gone. And not for any good reaso., I’ve never been arrested, didnt abuse her or my ex, nothing. I had an affair (man I’m with now) & allowed my ex to handle the divorce when he learned I’d had an affair. I was so ignorant & naive that I actually believed my ex was being fair in the divorce. My daughter is a beautiful, amazi.g perso. & doesn’t deserve an idiot like me. My poor child… My poor man… My heart used to swell every day when I simply thlught of their smiles. Depression has eroded that down. I want so badly to be back to normal. It is killing me. For months I thought of dying every day. All kimds of ways. Peeling my skin off with a knife. Blowing my brains out with a rifle. My scraps of skull & brain stuck on the wall behind my corpse. But those thoughts dont occur nearly as often, wbicb is a relief but also scary, like a calm before a storm. Those thoughts have been replaced lately with thoughts/acts of self mutilation. I’ve only physically hurt myself 3 seperate occasions, the 3rd being a few minutes ago. Nails shoved hard into my arm. Slight bruising & scabs. Just tonight I was asked by my boyfriend what those marks are. I hesitated to answer, a.d then I said softly, “My nails, theyre from my nails” but I dont think he heard me because he gave no reaction. I so have lack of sleep, sex drive is signifigantly lowered, even super happy fun times are not as fun & the happiness is shortlived. I feel awkward, out of place… Absolutely not myself. I need help so bad.

  • christine

    i don’t know if i am experiencing depression but i am experiencing some of the signs.it is affecting my relationship with my boyfriend already. i am always crying without reason. i wanted to fight depression because i know its just starting.

  • Pixie

    I feel like I am on heavy narcotics. I move and talk extremely slow- on the off chance that I do. (My thoughts are rapid, due to my anxiety. This leads to erratic irritability.)
    Thankfully, because I don’t leave my bed or computer often, I don’t have to move or talk too much.

    Anti-depressants don’t help, as they intensify the zombie-like state, so I’m pretty much screwed. :3

    Oh and I don’t sleep. I just can’t.

  • Mar

    For me depression feels like there is a hole in my chest right where my heart should be. A physical ache that sometimes makes it hard to breathe.

    There are days when the numbness sets in and you are walking around like you are invisible, and you are not part of the living world, just observing.

    Then there are the days when you feel like you are painted red and all eyes are on you, the paranoia kicks in which just feeds into the negative thoughts. It can feel like everything is heightened, and just having a mundane conversation is too much.

    Depression is horrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I think that unless you have had it, you cannot understand the constancy of it. That you might feel fine for 23 hours in the day, but have one bad hour, and this then defines the day.

    That can’t possibly think that you have ever felt better, and you cannot see a way out, even if you were feeling fine 10 minutes ago.

    I just hope anyone reading this knows that there are ways to make the days better. Medication has helped me some, and therapy and CBT really helped me to change my thought processes, and I would urge anyone who feels depressed to seek help.

  • Justin

    I’m 26 and have been suffering from depression since I was about 12. Initially I felt withdrawn from everybody, as if I was an oddball and that everyone was staring at me. Gradually paranoia set in. my parents didn’t seem to understand. I didn’t try medications until I was 20, which had a miraculous effect on me but eventually wore off. I have no motivation, no desire, sexual or otherwise, it’s as if my lifeforce has been taken from me and I have to pretend all the time. Eventually I hate myself for pretending or imagining that I have a life. Life seems to not want to let me forget that I feel this bad, and it seems to be getting worse, though at this point I really can’t tell because I honestly don’t remember what it’s like not to feel depressed.

  • Scott

    I stay awake for days. Can’t talk to anyone because they don’t understand.I constantly worry about the future but can’t do anything about it. Can’t laugh at jokes. Fake a smile when necessary. Hate my inlaws. Have flashbacks of the war. If it wasn’t for my son I would be dead as a brick. Got on zoloft and that just made it worse.

  • D

    Depression had a snowball effect on me. I abandoned exercise and health, couldn’t get out of bed. Slept for endless hours or had trouble getting to sleep at night and was exhausted during the daytime. Physically started breaking down because of body’s inactivity. Gained weight and physical appearance further deteriorated. Lost confidence, didn’t want to be around others, negative attitude make it harder to meet people. Isolation, loneliness is magnified. With no relationships, masturbation became almost an addiction. Excessive masturbation brings more feelings of shame, feel pitiful…and that’s where I find myself

  • Alicia

    I often feel like nothing can go right in my life tht it doesn’t matter to anyone I have watched people that mean the most to me die. I have just turned 14 and I have no one who cares to live with I wish I didn’t feel like this but to watch so many loved ones die at such a young age it hurts to be who I use to be I was forded to grow up at such a young age and now tht I want to be normal wand have friends and do things they call it acting out and I get in trubble

  • Jess

    I am often anxious about specific things, usually regarding my own health. I have been feeling depressed on and off for much of my life (bearing in mind I’m only 23). My mum has a terminal brain tumour and this affects the way I think. I am often convinced I have one. If I keep myself busy during the day I don’t tend to think about it too much. The problem is when I get home and sit down, I often wonder what the point of life is and why we are here. Although I have and would never even dream of ending things.

  • Alex K.

    Sitting in my chair, I’ve come to re-realize the actuality of my depression. For years, my anxiety and post traumatic stress has been the shallowest and easiest to detect of my mental illnesses. Now that I have both of them treated through medication and psychotherapy, I have been becoming more and more aware of the true state of my mind without anxiety. Anxiety makes everything scary ever-present. It assumes the shape of fear and pounds constantly on the metaphoric door that is your mind. So, when you are always focusing on fear, it is easy to miss the sad and lonely experience that is your life. Without anxiety pulling me towards the future hell that may or will exist (based upon the irrationality of the fear), I have been focusing much more on the here and now, which is to say, aware of my present mental state, which is depression. I feel this unending pulling throughout my body that shrouds me in a numbing veil of gray, unfeeling, and distancing nothingness. This veil protects me from feeling happiness, intimacy, and normality. I feel distant from friends, relying only on my imaginative vision of our friendship, sometimes embellishing their acts and words with more emotion than are really behind them, hoping that it will fool me into feeling anything positive. I’m at a point where I could be embraced and told that another person actually and whole-heartedly loved me and it would not affect me. My life could end tomorrow, and it could be a total relief. Now, I’m not one to be suicidal, I’m too OCD to think about that, but, I’m saying that IF I would die tomorrow, and IF some remnant of the life that was me woud remain, I would not feel remorseful in the least. That being said, I think I should talk to somebody, and if you feel the same way as I do, the so should you.

  • Michelle

    When I TRY to go to bed, as soon as I’m surrounded by dark, I feel insane. I rock and cry myself to sleep. I’m followed by a constant nausea. I have horrible anxiety. My stomach feels like a black hole. Nothing I eat tastes good. Nothing I read seems interesting. This isn’t a phase. It’s a real illness/disease/sickness. There’s so many names, but not enough ways to describe it. I ALWAYS feel sick. I’m constantly vomiting, I break out crying in completely random moments, my eyelids suddenly feel extremely heavy, and it feels so pointless to move. This is hard to get through. It’s NOT a phase. It’s painful.

  • Jim

    Sometimes I think I’ve been depressed all my life and knowing no difference, think this normal. I have no feelings. I fabricate reasons to be hopeful to keep myself from giving up. I fake feeling and caring so that I can function in society, at my job. It all feels vain and absurd, everything. I have trouble believing anyone is sincere, perhaps due to my own insincerity. I feel like a clear vessel that everybody can see through, but overflowing with guilt and inadequacy. I am unable to maintain friendships or family relationships and nobody wants to be around me anymore. I have become alone in the world. But I will not give in to self pity. I suffer solitude in silence and when the time comes I’ll end it. That is all. That’s life. It isn’t for the weak and everybody dies in the end anyway.

  • Alison

    My depression feels like, I am going out for a swim and I venture out a little bit further and further and then I realize that I cannot swim. I suddenly become immersed in the water and I am sinking and then I eventually drown. I am in a constant state of alert – anxious and worried. I think negatively as coping mechanism – I have losted the purpose of me. There are times when I just want to run as fast as I can, and not look behind me, I want to leave everyone and everything behind me. But it is not that simple, I am not in a position to run away, get a way from it all and save myself……………..and that’s what makes me really depressed.

  • Xamitas

    It feels like i’m alive only when i’m not ddoing something that isnt real or possible. like reading a book or playing games

  • nobody

    i turned 16 a month ago. for 3 years ive felt nothing but emptyness, ive have anxiety attacks all the time but i never tell anyone. when i first became “depressed” i use to have to take pill to sleep because id be up all night and sometimes wouldnt sleep for days, id never cry or make my feelings noticable, i just simply sat alone in my room thinking of every bad memory at once. how my parents got a divorce, and my dad had 3 kid with another woman within 2 years after the divorce. my mom left and became a crack addict. when i was 10 i didnt see her for 3 months strait. no call or nothing. it didnt bother me at that age. i just kept telling myself she’d come home. and when she finaly did i was truly happy. for a couples. then she left again. in 2008 my house caught on fire. me my sister my 2 cousins and my grandma were all in the house. it still bothers me. alot. it bothered me so much i had to move with my aunty. but that only made things worse. i was soo lonely for my grandma so i moved back with her. but when i moved back with her i was lonely for my aunty. i was confused because i pretty much broke both theyre hearts when i left. i regreated it for 2 years and slowly its fading away. back in november 2010 i was sleeping. i think it was a tuesday. i woke to my sisters screaming . mom my tried to hang herself in the basement. she has 6 kids. and she was just going to kill herself. her reason was because “you dont love me. my kids my ex my mom nobody cares” . after that i became friend with this girl and i told her my deepest darkest secret (at the time) and she told the boy i liked my secret. i know that sounds childish but at the time i hated her. ive never trusted anyone with a secret and when i finaly did, they go and tell. i thought of killing myself all the time but i felt i didnt have a big enough reason to die. in april my oldest sister moved out and got her own house and thats when i started to visit her. just to get away from everything back at home. then in may the most important person in my whole life, died. my grandma died. i blame the doctors in my town. theyre stupid. 11 months and all i feel is anger, loneliness. and just like shit. in september my grandpa got bumped right infront of my house. and school, well its just a waste of time right now. i know i need it but i cant get myself to sleep at a normal time. i could wake up at 7 in the morning and wont fall asleep till 6 am the next day. i have many problems. but its just stuff every 16 year old goes through. its not important enough to tell…to tell you the truth i dont even know why i wrote this whole note. especially to strangers.
    life. why do you have to be so hard? when my grandma died i didnt feel pain, happiness, anger, excitement and i only cried say 5 or 6 times since she died. but now 11 months later and all my feelings are coming back to me at once. oh forgot to mention both my parents have cancer. and my great aunty does too. life sucks. and i have noone to tell it to. not 1 single friend. and i dont feel comforable enough to tell my sisters my dad, or anyone. im just idontknow. lost. btw way ive been to 14 different schools since grade 3. ive dropped out evern year in april since grade 6. but somehow i am in my normal grade.
    i always pretend to be happy just to avoid the conversation but i want help i just dont know how to get it.
    a couple months ago i was happy for a week. for no reason but i felt like it wasnt me. i think im too use to the feeling now.

  • Jonathan

    It feels really defeating to read that bulleted list and feel as if every part of it consummately describes your life. It also feels hopeful in a way…This list made me realize that my depression is a disease. This site made me start to look for answers again after years. To everyone else…I’m sorry it has to be this way, but I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like this.

  • Becky

    Having a chronic illness that is M.S and now having seizures. Over a year now I would wake up and feel this over powering feeling like a swoosh of ill fate and would say go away, go away. Most of the time it would go away during the day. At this moment the “depress feeling” is not lifting very well. The nerve and muscle and medical has lifted up. Always come back. Now this. When I had the worse episode of suffering this disease I thought I was going to commit suicide. My family thoughts kept me from doing it. Wow that was hard. The nerves in my head drive my body absolutely crazy. Falling over and can’t feel my legs sometimes and fall among multiple other things.Depression comes with M.S. I take a medicine for the depression but it is not doing well. My son has been suffering with depression and doesn’t have medical insurance. Calls tomorrow to try to find a clinic. I feel for him. This over whelming feeling can be too much for any one. It is a horrible disease of it owns.

  • lisa

    feel like your drowning hard to breath at times,that there is no end ,you get through one bout only to start another not long after,,dont want to die just want to disappear, theres just no end.always covering thoughts of being a failure as a mother,wife, person. felt like a misfit all my life.been treated now for 3 years although doing alot better all these feelings are still always there,feels like a constant fight,its extremely hard work .

  • tony

    Hi. I came here not as a sufferer but as a helper of someone with this horrible illness. My gf lives in the us and I live in the UK and I’ve been trying to educate myself on depression and be able to help and be a better partner for her. I’ve read all the posts with my mouth open in shock. Such a lot of what I’ve seen in my gf I’ve also read here and its heartbreaking but its made me more determined to help her and unconditionally love her. Thank you.