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.

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

  • Renee

    My dear fellow strugglers, thank you so much.I know very well that sharing these feelings is not easy, mostly because it feels like a enormous although useless effort..but reading your comments made me cry very hard, and suddenly the deep sadness came to the surface, where only feelings of numbness and tiredness were.Perhaps I cried more out of self pity than compassion for this deep pain we all share, but nonetheless I feel less alone, wich might as well be called a miracle,because amongst the self loathing and selfish thoughts of death has arisen a slight feeling of gratefulness, and so of light in the dark nothingness that is my constant compagnon. I sincerely wish you luck in battling this demon that is depression, and that love may find it s way back to you 🙂

  • Nothing Nguyen

    It just started a few days ago, somehow everytime I think of something,I just start crying, for no reason, it’s not sad or anything I just cried. I watch sad drama everytime and I don’t really cry when I watch them but now somehow it just make me cry so much. I don’t know what is wrong with me I just feel sad all of a sudden.

  • Dylan

    I was with a girl for 2 years deeply and madly in love with her but she had trust issues and previous abuse issues that constantly got in our way and it started making me feel like I wasnt good enough or worth her full love anyways that idea made me trapped in making her happy removing people from life cutting friends off very toxic relationship due to the trust issues either way we finally decided to try therapy for her and take a small break before moving back in together she stated she loved me and a few days later she blocked me and I found out she had been going to bars with men and had let me go me being deep in love real love I was gullible and let her string me along on the idea that she loved me and things would work out a week after she left to america and got into a relationship with another man a few days before she left she met in secret with me and told me she loved me and held me and ect ect then I find out 4 or 5 days later her true intent and the depression kicked in majorly she wanted to move away and had been stating she wanted space and not to be with anyone that she needed to learn to love herself but it was all lies to soften the inevitable blow she was giving me, now I can barely sleep there is a constant aching weight in my chest and an obsessive mind still somehow attached to our connection that feels like its bleeding. I want to die but I want to live, when im alone with my thoughts they dont stop thinking about her and the pain everything sucked I tried making myself laugh but for weeks Its been faked like im numb yet invisible fighting an unseen battle under my skin my head feels heavy and its hard to breath sometimes im doing my best now to forgive accept and move on but the memories and how we wanted to marry and have kids just to be lead on and left so quickly realizing the love wasn’t real for her destroys my emotions and the chemicals in my head making me feel this are evil I crave happiness again it makes me feel so worthless even when others point out what they like about me im constantly reminded of how I wasnt enough and that my anger got the best of me I forgave a lot but what she did to me I can only try my best to forgive and move on and grow and love myself once again like I used too

  • kevin

    Hi I am an older male and this is how depression affects me. I used to feel happy, excited over many things, the coming of spring, a nice sunny day, planning for a trip, seeing my grandchildren working on my hobbies. then my life changed dramatically I know longer felt excitement the seasons came and went (no real feelings), now I have to push myself to go to work I have no feelings except for sadness and anger, I keep doing things that used to make me feel excited but now theres nothing, no tv programs i like to watch nothing pleasurable to fill my day, I am existing only, its hard to describe this to others, I would much rather have a physical injury or illness. I tried medication the last one was effexor but it took away my only two emotions of sadness and angry it made me an emotional eunuch. My wife does not understand, doctors really do not understand and they feel uncomfortable talking to me about depression and are quick to prescribe medications and do no follow-ups. people say that there more tolerance and they are more open minded but many still feel that you can just snap out of it. I found it very difficult and embarrassing to get help and still feel there a stigma associated with mental illness.

  • Joel

    Some times it feels like I don’t make a mark in this world let alone anyone I know. I always feel like if I don’t shine or do something amazing I will be forgotten. I always try and keep my self from losing my grip on things. But, I keep it all bottled up only letting out small trickles of sadness to my significant other.

    I just feel like i’m alone and no one will hear me no matter what I say or do. That is why I get easily angered when I am brushed off or told, “You’re overreacting”

    My family is poor and whenever I hear that we won’t have utilities or groceries and worse rent not being paid I want to cry but I can’t I have to “suck it up” It’s in my nature to worry and I am doing my best to get through college and not be poor. I just feel like nothing will change and I will remain poor.

    All these worries and feelings I have are unnerving and I never know if I can tell anyone because I don’t want to feel like a burden to anyone. But I feel like I die a little inside each time I have to withhold things.

    Thanks for listening.



  • Filia Neptuno

    Where do I start? I’ve tried to explain I before, I can really only describe it a few ways though…

    It’s like your drowning and people are talking to you under the water and you can’t really hear them and they annoy you because you can’t hear them. And you can’t seem to learn how to swim or even float no matter how hard you try and you feel like a failure and you come to the conclusion you can’t do anything yourself and that you are horrible- it continues until the waters embrace feels so good you just want to let go…

    But someone is holding a hand out underneath the surface now, and they’re offering it to you. “Grab it!” They seem to say “I’ll pull you out”

    And you reach for it only to find your A little to far to grab it and you struggle forward because you want to be normal and you want to be like everyone else- to not have to wear a mask with a fake smile.

    And you grab their hand some how and they pull you above for the first taste of air you’ve had since you can remember and you continue to constantly want more, so you fight until you have all the air you could want.

    Only to slip and fall back beneath the water. Feet no longer on solid ground…

    My friend once described it as;

    “Depression sucks. Its just this never ending sadness that follows you everywhere. Its like this big, dark demon that holds you by the edges of your lips and refuses to let you truly smile. And it’s like you’re trying so hard to get that demon to let go so you can ask for someone to help, its like it’s drowning you and your struggling for air and he’s just pushing you further and further down into this dark body of water until you suffocate. And if you’re lucky, you can hold your breath long enough to float back up and breathe, but some people aren’t lucky enough to swim up from those demons. ”

    I have a bit of advice now, I know it says no advice above but I think it’s ok… cause it’s more poetic advice that I hope aspires hope within all who read this…

    “You can make it through this, your stronger than you know yourself- I know you don’t want to believe me right now- but you can do this.

    You have just found your demons and they all have taken on the appearance of dragons. You know exactly how to banish them, but you need a sword to banish them… But you don’t yet have the materials to build that sword.

    Take these words I give you and begin to craft your sword. You may only need a few months to craft that sword or you may need a few years. Either way every compliment, every gift, every achievement, is put into that sword until it’s strong enough to fight those dragons

    But for now I want you to march down to the kitchen like the princely-soldier/knight you are and I want you to collect some snacks for your journey.. and you must eat some now for strength…

    And then you take all of the compliments you can think of, all the happy memories, everything good. And you write them out and build your sword.

    And when your sword begins to fall apart, and you think you can no longer ward off the demons you read through the book. The book that now holds the description of your siblings innocent smiles, your pride in graduating kindergarten, the taste of the chocolate cake at your best friends party…

    Leave all the bad things behind, you siblings now smile sadly? The book DOSENT want to know leave that out and write the way the smile looked and maybe even why it was there. So you fell down and scrapped your knee the day before graduation and couldn’t wear the dress you’d wanted? No, tell about INSTEAD the pride you felt in your accomplishment, did you get something special because of it? You aren’t best friends with them anymore? Don’t bring it up, relish in the good times and the party games you played then

    Write another book composed of the story’s of pent up anger and sadness. But you lock that book away and only bring it out when you have more to write that book is the one you confine your fears and tears in.

    This is where your demons go.

    My words may have only given you a knife to slay your dragons, but allow the words of others and the happiest memories to build it into a sword.”

    So you need to make that sword, and you need to build it sturdy… I have faith in you- even if you don’t have it in yourself…

  • Ashley

    I recently traveled to Turkey on a vacation with my family. I had such a good week there, but on the flight back home this empty feeling just took over. There was this guy working on the hotel, that I never had a conversation with, but the only thing I want with my life is to go back, and meet him for real. When I think of my future it is grey and to me it will end up as a black hole. I go to a school where I was so happy to be – before. Now the thought of starting my old life again is so hard to process, simply because it’s something I really don’t want to. Right now I’m stuck in my room, watching this cooking series, and doing NOTHING. When my parents tell me there’s dinner, all i want to do is, to bring it to my room, because I just want to be alone. I have never had a depression, so I don’t know if that is what this is, or if I’m just sad for leasing a vacation, trying to start up my old life. But I’ve never been so sad, and never cried so mich about my situation as i do now 🙁

  • Makayla

    so lately i’ve been worried about myself. i’d say the last 6 months i’ve been worried about myself deeply. i’ve had all of the symptoms stated ever since I was 14, but like I said lately i’ve been noticing that i’m not ok, I want to get help but I know I will face criticism, & that will make things worse & I don’t want things to get worse. I have 0 emotion, yet i’m always gloomy. I can’t smile, I can’t be happy or laugh, idk what is wrong, so I finally looked it up & have all of these symptoms. I listen to music constantly though, it seems to help me alot. it is a relief to know I possibly have depression, but it sucks. I never knew i’d get like this

  • Bryan

    now that i have read some of these posts, i feel like i now understand what am going through.Am always hopeless,lonely, tired, moody, angry, feeling worthless in front of anyone as they even don’t wanna see me, i don’t even have the exact words to describe how I feel. just so tired og everything around me. I’ve been murstarbating every day for the last 10 years if i can remember, I don’t know, it’s the only thing I feel like doing to cater for my emotions and thoughts.I don’t even remember having a friend/s for the last decade,I have poor memory,concentration and just to lazy to work on anything. I overeat and sometimes just experience complete loss of appetite and right now,i don’t even see myself anywhere in the next couple of years.

  • Sarah

    This has helped me realise I AM depressed. I had a bad episode of dep last year- profound sadness especially Sunday afternoons,frequent anxiety attacks that left me sweating, and a world covered in shimmering grey… I did not want to see anyone. Mixing with people was painful- I felt like an outsider all the time. Then I was better,( with help of Ginsormin),but now I just feel helpless, nothing to hope for, bouts of low grade anxiety… that’s depression, too of another kind… Been reading a bit about reliefs.. going to try cod liver oil. I do not want to stay in this state for the rest of my life

  • hannah

    To me it feels like constant drowning into nothing and I always feel to drained of energy to live life and have any emotions whatsoever.At the end of the day its always easier for me to not feel anything than feeling all the pain inside me.I have felt so numb for months now.I feel isolated from the world and completely lonely even if I´m with people…I have nobody to talk to about this, which ,at this point, is all I ask for.All I want is one real friend who I can trust and talk to without them screwing me over and judging me. But I don’t have that friend that I so desperately need and my anxiety of talking to anyone surely doesn’t help me make friends. There is no-one I can talk to about my problems and I don’t see another way out unless…well…death…but I couldn’t go that far, even if I want to.Its not like I haven’t tried cutting but I don’t want anyone to see my scars and ask me about it, because I simply can’t talk about it.

  • Chloe

    I’ve been dealing with these feelings for years now. I am not diagnosed with depression although I have been experiencing these symptoms for a while now. Some days I have absolutely no motivation to get out of my bed, I feel sad, irritated with just about everyone, I have this constant worry that no one actually likes me and that none of my friends ever want to hang out with me, not to mention that I just get so mad at myself that I start to hate myself. Some days it’s just too hard for me to get out of bed, I usually will just lay there, feeling empty. I just feel like I have nothing good to offer in this world sometimes and I just don’t know what to do.