Posted on July 09, 2019
Depression is a mental health condition that can be serious and debilitating. Depression looks and feels different for everyone, so it can be challenging to diagnose. There are some common symptoms of depression that are shared by those who are suffering from this mental illness.
Whether you’re asking the question “what does depression feel like?” because you’re wondering if you’re depressed or because you suspect a loved one might be, this article will help you recognize if depression is present.
How Does Depression Feel?
Depression feels different for everyone. A lot of people who have never been depressed think that it’s just another word for feeling sad for a long period of time. Everyone can relate to feeling sad, but clinical depression is much more than just sadness.
Depression affects the brain in a number of ways and can last for months or even years. Some people never recover, while others recover quickly. Therapy can help you recover from a depressive state. When diagnosing moderate to severe depression, a therapist will usually look for mental or physical symptoms that have been going on for at least two weeks.
Here are some of the ways that you might experience depression:
- Life feels hopeless. Someone with depression may have a very bleak outlook on life. You may feel that there is no way for you to get better and that you’ll always be unhappy.
- Joy, pleasure, and happiness are gone. A depressed person might not feel joy like they used to. Even activities that once made you happy may no longer produce the same pleasurable feelings.
- Focusing is difficult. People who are depressed often struggle with work and school. Focusing on one task, such as reading or watching T.V., feels difficult.
- Low energy. Lower energy levels or a low mood are some of the most common symptoms of depression. You might have trouble getting out of bed or not feel motivated to engage in activities or work.
- Appetite changes. Weight gain and weight loss are both common depressive symptoms commonly incurred by a person dealing with depression. You might use food as a coping mechanism to deal with your difficult feelings. Or, you might feel no appetite or motivation to eat.
- Sleep issues. Sleep issues are a big part of what it feels like to be depressed. While some people with moderate to severe depression might suffer from insomnia, others might oversleep. We commonly think of depressed people as those who stay in bed all day. Sometimes, this is true. But other times, depressed people have trouble sleeping. Issues with sleep only fuel the other feelings produced by being depressed. Physical symptoms such as a lack of sleep significantly contribute to additional irritability and stress for a depressed person.
- Low confidence. Depressed people usually don’t feel very good about their life, the world around them, or themselves. Part of being depressed is often having low self-esteem. You might experience a sense of worthlessness or feel like a failure.
- Aches, pains, and other physical discomforts. Many people wonder “what does depression feel like physically?” Even though depression is a mental health condition, it can affect the physical body, too. Often, people who are depressed report feeling physical symptoms such as bodily aches and pains in addition to the changes in digestion and appetite.
Some people incorrectly believe that depression is a choice. It’s a serious mental health condition that’s much more complex. You can’t simply snap out of it. You often need treatment, support, and in some cases, antidepressant medication to get back to feeling like yourself.
What Causes Depression?
It can help to understand both what depression feels like and what causes these changes in your mood. Below is a list of some of the most common causes of depression:
- An unfortunate life event. Stressful and traumatic events can trigger or contribute to developing depression. This includes deaths of family members or loved ones, abuse, and major stress at work.
- Genetics. Genetics can play a big role in how likely someone is to become depressed. Knowing if you have relatives with moderate to severe depression can help you understand how at-risk you are.
- Hormones. Hormonal changes can trigger depression, especially in women. Pregnancy, menstrual disorders, and menopause can all lead to depression. Some women even develop postpartum depression, another form of depressive disorder incurred following pregnancy and birth.
- Substance abuse. Substance abuse commonly leads to depression. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. People who are depressed might turn to drugs or alcohol to try and make themselves feel better. Depression and substance abuse fuel each other. People with both depression and a substance use disorder have what’s called a co-occurring disorder.
If you’re suffering from moderate to severe depression, please know you’re not alone. Just remember that seeking help for depression is important if you want to improve your mental health and stability. No one deserves to feel the pain and loneliness that often comes with depression by themselves. Find the right match for a therapist and learn more about our therapy matching services at Advekit.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.