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. 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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2,139 thoughts on “What does depression feel like?

  1. Feel completely hopeless. Im 18 and i feel like my life is already over. I cant get out of bed in the mornings and when i am awake im soooo exhausted i cant function. All of my thoughts are negative and scary. I worry about everything and what people think of me. I hate people looking at me as it can bring on panic attacks.Sometimes i dont eat.I cry at really silly things like not getting the dinner i would like. I feel like im dreaming, like im just watching people live there lives. Ive ruined my long term relationship because of this and im so heartbroken about that. I have head aches and stomach aches everyday.

    I hate myself

    • Girl you’re not the only one, I just turned 18 a few months ago I thought things were gonna be better for me I’ll be happier ha nope 🙂 getting out of bed is soo soo hard its crazy how every time I wake up The first thing that comes to mind is SO SO MUCH SADNESS & emptyness because I know today is gonna be nothing but sadness or numbness I get so angry & just wanna lay in bed for like 8 months lol… there’s so much more a person with depression goes through on a daily Basis everyone is different they all experience it different , I just wish I wasn’t this person

  2. I have come to know the feelings that come with the onset of depression. Days before I feel really irritable and can’t figure out why, which makes me feel worse. The next day I have to drag myself out of bed and force myself in the shower, not hungry for food or I wake up at 4 am and have to get up because my mind is racing. Everything is grey and things that usually improve my mood just piss me off instead. Seems like a viscous circle which never ends it just comes and goes, sometimes its easier sometimes it gets harder.

  3. My depression has been with me my entire life, it’s the oldest and only friend I have. I describe these feeling like sharp thorns moving down life’s stem. I see the rest of the world living life in perpetual blossoms while I find myself here in the dark sharp stem. I know everything from the internet and I see the world through filter protecting myself from any and all pain, my depression has evolved to addiction numbness. I’ve tried drugs, they only exaggerate your expressions and create something very artificial. I’ve spent countless hours in the gym trying to catch a high from the workout, and then I simply go get high. But I believe that love is the solution it may be the cure we’ve all been searching for. I dream every day of falling in love and like magic my depression will simply vanish. Maybe it’s a fools errand at this point but it’s all I got th keep me going.

  4. i have never imagined myself succeeding nor have i succeeded. i am mentally weak, and i became everything that i didn’t want. i want to kill myself but i don’t want to be remembered like that. kill others would suffice until i die. i want answers from others but i don’t to give them myself. that is my life start to end.

  5. Sometimes I just feel really bad but other times I feel completely fine. I think its my parents.

    They make me feel worthless and I feel like I can’t do anything right. They always yell even at the tiniest thing. I am scared to tell them anything.

    Yesterday we had a fight over something I thought was okay for me to do but they thought I had misused their trust. I don’t understand what I did wrong.

    I couldn’t stop crying and I cut myself. I have never done anything like this before. What is wrong with me?

  6. The intensity of feeling sad progresses to just wanting to die. It undulates throughout the day. Some days are worse than others. I’ve seen death happen to loved ones. I wish for pain. I don’t disrespect my relatively good health and am appreciative of it because I don’t want to have added problems in my life like the pain and suffering involved with cancer. I have lost so many to cancer. But instead of feeling joyful to have life, I just see how I’m not progressing enough. I try so hard, have accomplished so much, and yet it isn’t good enough to even find a steady job to support myself. Meanwhile, I see others, who are not driven, who are not smart…who are doing well. It is so depressing. I’ve been abused in past relationships and this haunts me regularly. I just don’t know how to keep going. I feel like I’m done. I’ve just come to terms with it all. I don’t want to do this anymore. If dead at least my organs could help people and in that I would have some value.

  7. Everyday I feel as if my soul is dying inside, i look at all these happy couples at school and i have this agonizing pain that i won’t find anybody, my friends who are with someone, i cant hardly be around them, i feel lost and like the third wheel each time i’m around them, and i am constantly having dreams of my mother dying, i am having dreams of myself dying slowly in front of everyone i know…and tears coming out of my eyes as i die. it’s scary, and it feels as if it will happen, me being shot or something and slowly dying in front of everyone i know. i’m not myself anymore, i dont even know who i am at all. i have lost meaning in my life, and i cant remeber if i ever did have any meaning. it’s so much pain i feel, i’ve gotten to the point that i can no longer cry hardly, i’ve cried all my tears away, and i’m left with intense agonizing pain, and i cant fully explain why i feel this way sometimes, but nothing ever lets up, and i am tired of hearing, ” stop giving me this woe is me.” well it’s not like that, it’s the truth. and no one in my family even cares, they say they do, but actions speak louder than words and i just cant do this anymore, i cant commit suicicde because i know i will go to hell, but i’m slowly fading aay, and im falling deeper into despair…

  8. Neverending pain for yrs now.tried every med and ect.cant feel pleasure.feel separate from my environment.suicidal thoughts daily.fear myself more than anything else.what’s the point?….sorry so morbid….hate being like that…try to fight it…get so tired of it sometimes…it never ends.

  9. Im in 8th grade.
    I’m often thinking about bad things without realising.
    I’m always tearing up over the littlest things.
    I’m obsessed with the idea that suicide will make things better.
    I’ve self harmed but no one has ever found out and I would never tell my loved ones.
    I often cry myself to sleep.
    I believe I am a failure and my friends and family get on my nerves very easily.
    Hate this.

  10. I use to be really happy and laughed a lot but sometimes I still felt down because my happiness was hurting people around me. So I stopped hanging with friends to hang with family and it was fine for awhile but now I just feel empty. I cry at almost anything anyone says to me I just like being alone but hate when people leave me alone. I feel like everyone is attacking me. And I ask for help from them help to make me happier but when I start crying or something they just say I’m over reacting or I need to be less sensitive and it makes me more upset so none of it really helps. I’m just tired of feeling like there is something wrong with me.

  11. some days i feel ok but other days i just want to punch something until i can punch no more, but at the same time i just feel like i’m worthless or anything i do is pointless and i feel like i can’t physically push myself to do easy tasks in my day to day and after considering the options i’m starting to think i might have a little bit of depression just thought i’d comment my thoughts anyways,

  12. Depression (not “the blues”) is like standing in the middle of a waist deep river and fighting the current which ever so gradually grows stronger and stronger. Their will come a point when the current is so strong and I am so exhausted it eventually just knocks me off my feet and takes me wherever it chooses to take me. As always it has no level of intensity or longetivity that can be predicted because it has a life of it’s own. I didn’t tough it out or ride out the storm. At any given time suicide just required too much strength and will to act. I just washed back on shore . The current losts its strength before I went under for good. That is the only reason I am here. Should I be grateful ? I used to be but I have learned IT ALWAYS COMES BACK. and my common sense tells me there will come a time when the current last’s just a little too long.

  13. I Feel like I have no hope of getting to the end of this hell hole and everyday is a struggle. My arms ache and constantly go to the toilet. I am withdrawing from Methadone and thought I had OCD as I would continually clean and put things in order. Then I was diagnosed, I was put on Mirtazapine and at the start nothing was different, then it felt a bit better but as time goes on I feel like its making me worse. I cant sit at peace and constantly figit. I listen to music all day very loud and sing along its the only thing that stops me from thinking. IO used to be the life and soul of the party everybody loved me My best friends were all girls as they said I had a heart of gold and a gold personality. Now I cant sit and listen to people talk and just want to punch hell out of them and tell them to shut up. Ive lost interest in everything but I have a lot of thing I like just cant get it together to pursue anything. When its time to go to bed I don’t want to Im to scared as I lie in my bed My breathing goes all funny and uncontrollable and start shaking and then comes the Panic attacks As I think that my family can hear my uncontrollable breathing. I sometimes close my blinds as to stop people seeing me act this way(It is normal for us to act like this isn’t it) Icant be in company no more to scared of what people see me as and I now have a trapped nerve in my neck which makes my arm numb which makes me even more figity. cant look people in the eyes either and when listening to someone after their fist sentence I lose interest and just want them to hurry up and finish their convo. but as Im trying to better my life I need to fight this and be the person I know I am but think will I ever be that fun sweet friendly careing Person that I once was. Be strong People just remember this isn’t real its just your mind trying to fool you into doing thigs u know “U” wouldn’t do stay strong and God Bless All of us

  14. i can function.. the body works but there is a disconnect like i am watching myself from another place.. i can work, i can even laugh with a sympathetic chatter going on in my head at the same time.. that i really should not be so false.. but it is expected. i do what is expected i say what others need me to say and when i bow to my feeling of crushedness it feels like my body is breaking through the centre and breathe is difficult.. not caring if that function continues but it seems to always keep on working.. most days this makes me feel frustrated that i just can’t stop living.

  15. I’m living in my own hell. I have always been a pretty unhappy person and at a young age of 17+ I let myself smoke and hangout with people that I wasn’t too interested in and didnt have the same common interest. But the drugs were always there. So I let myself become apart of it. I finally find someone who loves me and wants to separate me from that life and instead of wanting that I pushed him away and hurt him. Luckily I realized I did want to be with him took me 3 months to realize it. So we got back together and he pushed me awy from that life and has helped me to stay away from drugs and useless people. But our relationship wasn’t perfect he was still hurt still resentful and in a way has always hated me from what I put him through. His anger towards me is scary and to this day we are much better but he does have his moments that his hate towards me returns. I lied to him a lot and destroyed him. But he says he loves me and continues to be with me. I have thanked him for helping me when it came to going the wrong path. But now he has no patience for me and anything little that I do annoys him and he does talk to me down whenever he wants too. And I know Im the one to blame but I love him and I believe that if I can stay by his side he’ll realize that we should just love eachother and be together. We have been together for almost 2 years now and we both are 20. Recently I became pregnant and became attached to my baby but for my family and mostly my boyfriend. I got an abortion that has destroyed me. I miss my baby every single day and I wish I could have been stronger. I shouldn’t have done it, I should have kept my unborn baby and I regret it more every day that passes. I have no motivation to get off from my bed. I feel so alone that it kills me. He’s not affectionate towards me how he used to be before I first hurt him. He doesn’t really hold me or hug me unless it’s when we say hello. During my pregnancy I would cry because I knew at some point I would lose my baby, he would understand to a certain point. But once that point was crossed I was called a child, dramatic, immature and annoying. He calls me stupid every chance he gets. I am at times dramatic when we argue, but then again he has no patience with me anymore that I feel as if in his mind he has told himself I’m the only female who would react this way. When in reality all women tend to show more emotion. But I try my hardest to make him happy. Im not the best at loving someone but I try so hard with him. Still it is not enough for him. We are going to move into a room together in a few weeks and I’m fucking scared. And that is because my love for him is fading. I don’t see him as the same man I loved after the Abortion and that’s because I know he doesn’t fully love me and that is my fault. But now it’s starting to kill me. I feel physically declining I don’t want to move from my bed, eat, or even drink water! When I’m out I think of what it would be to die, or have him cheat on me. I think of him leaving me and I think of him finally finding the woman he deserves. Because to him I am just a child who will never be what he wants because of my mistakes. I hate myself constantly and knowing I couldn’t care for my first child and I allowed someone to destroy their little body is just drowning me. I want to remove myself from all of this, But I love him. Lately him being on his phone more than usual is driving me crazy. I can’t be close to him when he’s on his phone because he makes a comment tht I’m spying. I don’t feel beautiful anymore to be honest I don’t even feel decent to look at because I fucking hate myself. And because I know he doesn’t see me as tht. He sees me as someone who he had gotten used to being with but he’s not fully happy and he’s not in love. I don’t know what todo with myself, I want him to be happy but I feel as if I’m better off dead. I need help but
    I’m scared that he’ll see me as bein dramatic or that I want attention. Because I do want attention but the attention I want that I don’t deserve is his. I want his love again I want him to need me and to want to see me and to smile when he thinks of me but I know none of that exist anymore. He fucking hates me and I feel the same way towards myself.

  16. I just stopped caring.. about everything. I feel like I need to fake living. It takes such an effort to pretend I’m fine for the sake of my kids and I do.. Its the only thing I’m willing to put any effort into. I don’t want anyone to see how bad I am. I stopped going out. I stopped going to work(been calling in sick for over a week now). I stopped talking to people. I don’t even use social media (facebook, texting email etc)anymore. I’ve become a complete hermit. That’s my lot. I’ve never really fit in anywhere and I’ve been emotionally hurt in ways that heal as well as a burn scar.

  17. After reading this, I realized that I am depressed man. I thought it was nothing, but everything that is listed there happened or happening to me. I really need to do something about it. Thanks for this.

  18. I am super insecure and jealous and take it out on my boyfriend I now live with. I feel so unattractive and overweight and I resent myself for spending so much money on things to fill me that I don’t even use or need. It was a struggle to get dressed for Thanksgiving yesterday and even though I have a closet full of clothes, I couldn’t find anything to wear and hated the way I looked when I was ready. I couldn’t carry on any conversations with my family without coming off as awkward, and I felt like I had nothing to contribute or say. I caused a fight with my boyfriend about cheerleaders during the Thanksgiving football game, and people could notice we were fighting. My car was recently totaled, so all I do is work and sit in my apartment with my boyfriend and fight and wonder what the point of my life is. He was laid off and I’m basically responsible for the majority of the rent and its really getting to me. I’ve had alcohol and drug problems in the past and as soon as I moved in to this apt I relapsed after almost having a year sober. I feel so alone and empty. I feel like my life is truly pointless. I don’t have the balls to end it, but I wish I could.

  19. I remember a very specific moment that led me to where I am right now.I’m married and two months at from having my first kid and I’m not sure that I want this life. I’ve never been sure of it but now I’m stuck.

    There was a girl I could have chosen over my wife and the result would have been a much different life and note after six years I’m starting to think that I made the wrong decision.
    I’m a disappointment to my wife and myself and I have ruined everything.
    I’m going to spend the rest of my life pretending.

    I’m going to get drunk.

  20. Many of these symptoms are considered atypical features of depression. Many times, people with atypical depression are unknowingly type 2 bipolar. People experiencing atypical features should be on the look out for hypomania. It’s hard to experience any symptoms of depression…atypical is especially difficult in my opinion because people don’t understand and/or can’t relate.

  21. Depression is not fun. I suffer from severe depression, and I have been for 1 year and 4 months.
    Depression is so painful.
    Not like the kind of pain when you are punched or poked..
    But it is emotional.. Mental, even.
    It slowly destroys you on the inside, then begins to show on the outside.
    Everything feels so slow..
    You begin to feel worthless.
    You don’t want to do anything.
    You cry a lot.
    You’re very sensitive.
    Nothing about depression is pleasing.
    You do t get attention from it, because it’s likely you are similar to me… You don’t want to tell anyone, because you’re afraid of what they will say or think..
    I would love to say more, and tell you how it is.. But I am done for now.

    -Payton xx

  22. Depression is when your inner light goes out. It’s hell. I’ve dealt with depression from a very young age to now, entering senior years, but to read the responses from the young ones just breaks my heart. I hope this illness becomes better understood and accepted so they don’t have to live with the shadows overtaking them their entire lives. To all of you, know that you are so much more than the darkness that surrounds you. And also know, that when someone tries to help, or offers a smile or some kind of connection, that they are carrying the embers of your light until you see it again for yourself.

    Big hugs to all of you.

  23. This is so comprehensive and accurate, I feel a bit better knowing there are others out there whi feel the same too. Who even though you don’t know personally, are people you can identify yourself with. Thank you so much for weiting this.

  24. its like a never ending nightmare the fear pain anger never leaves ..I have suffered this from child hood then in my teens I took drugs then alcohol to try numb the feelings drugs made it worse then I almost lost my mind through alcohol for the last few years ive been coping with out these posions because I come to realize there is no escape from this , but I tell you this is so hard and yes death seems like a relief that is if you could do it and not care about the other people in your life . so for me there is no end only suffering . Also its the loneliest place in the world to me trapped by your own mind and no one around really ever understands the pain you have inside . What makes it worse is when you allow peple to hurt you and bring you down you feel even your own family is againts you , every one is against you ..like one big plot .. then you have ask your self is it every one or me thats the problem . But the problem persits .. whats wrong with me . I need help but who can help how can this fix theres is no cure . this desiese is tormenting and sickening . Im sorry to have nothing but doom and gloom but im just giving my honest experience of this and I would like it to end because it has spoiled my whole life.

  25. I’m what it feels like under so much pressure I want to run away and I always feel like everyone around me irritate me so much. I’d rather be alone! I some deserted island with nothing there to bother me. I can’t take it anymore I don’t feel understood by my partner and my kids well that’s another story in feel so down and tired all the time! And on too of that I’be gained weight! I hate how I feel but I can’t help it! I do feel like prayer helps but then I don’t even feel like praying ! I don’t know what to do :,(