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Dr Donna Grant

Page medically reviewed by Dr Donna Grant (BSc, MBBS, MRCPsych) Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford.

Depression is a complex and often misunderstood mental health condition that, according to statistics on depression, affects 280 million people worldwide. It can manifest in various ways, making it challenging for those who have not experienced it to understand what it truly feels like.

In this article, we explore what depression feels like, including quotes from those who suffer with it. By gaining a deeper understanding of this condition, we can better support people who struggle with depression to improve their mental health.

What depression may feel like

One common misconception about depression is that it's simply about feeling sad or down. While sadness can be a part of depression, it's crucial to recognise that the experience goes far beyond that. Depression affects people differently, but there are some common feelings and emotions that many individuals with depression report experiencing.

It's essential to remember that each person's experience with depression is unique. The intensity, duration, and combination of these feelings may vary from one person to another.

Here are some examples of what depression may feel like:

Guilt and shame

Depression can cause feelings of guilt or shame, especially if it’s associated with an event like divorce or job loss. You might feel that other people have it worse than you, and therefore you have no right to be depressed. If you’re struggling to commit to daily tasks, like caring for a child, this might also bring feelings of shame or guilt.

A lack of enjoyment or pleasure

People with depression often don’t feel fulfilled or take pleasure from things they once enjoyed. Hobbies are no longer exciting, and even socialising with friends can leave you feeling empty. You might think that nothing you do will be able to bring you joy again.

Hopelessness and worthlessness

Depression can rob people of their self-worth, leading them to struggle to motivate themselves or even get out of bed in the morning. You might also feel hopeless, like there’s nothing worth living for, or that the way you feel now is something you’ll experience for life. In the most extreme cases, these things can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Difficulty focusing

Those who suffer from depression sometimes describe a brain fog that clouds their mind. It might leave you feeling demotivated, unable to process the things going on around you and as though you have no direction. You might also find it difficult to focus on things, which can reduce your productivity at work and in daily tasks.

Sadness and tearfulness

Sadness is a fundamental feeling associated with depression. Everyone with the condition will feel sad or low at some time or another. Other feelings, like anxiety and irritability, may build inside you, leaving you feeling upset and overwhelmed. People with depression may also be more tearful than usual, sometimes crying over things that other people might consider to be small or insignificant.

what does depression feel like?

How people with depression describe it

There’s no better way to understand what depression feels like than hearing directly from people who have experienced it. Here are some quotes from real-life depression recovery stories.

Patrick: fatigue and inability to focus

“I started to have some issues at work, with fatigue. I was falling asleep in the day even when I wasn’t tired. I ultimately ended up with disciplinary action being taken at work, which caused some friction at home.”

Peter: rumination, dread and suicidal thoughts

“I was waking up in the early hours unable to sleep; my mind racing with thoughts about work. I would wake up each day feeling full of dread, like a huge weight pressing down on me.

“I didn’t want to go on and I began thinking of ways in which I might take my own life.”

Martina: disturbed sleep and negative thoughts

“I couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights. I had really bad thoughts. I just couldn’t cope anymore.”

Common signs and symptoms of depression

Depression can manifest in various ways, and the signs and symptoms may differ from person to person. Some common signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or ‘empty’ mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you once enjoyed
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Sexual dysfunction and loss of libido
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Chronic aches, pains or digestive problems that don’t have a clear physical cause and/or that don’t ease even with treatment

It's important to remember that not everyone with depression will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity, frequency, and duration may vary depending on the individual and their specific type of depression.

Treatment options for depression

There are a number of effective treatment options available for depression, and the best approach often involves a combination of therapies tailored to your needs. Some common treatment options include:

  • Psychotherapy: also known as talking therapy, psychotherapy involves working with a mental health professional to explore thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that contribute to depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are common forms of psychotherapy used to treat depression.
  • Medication: antidepressant medications can help regulate brain chemistry and reduce symptoms of depression. It may take several weeks for the medication to take full effect, and it's essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to find the right medication and dosage.
  • Lifestyle changes: incorporating healthy habits into your daily life, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep, can help improve mood and overall wellbeing. Additionally, relaxation techniques and building a strong support network can also play a significant role in recovery.

When to seek support

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, it's crucial to seek professional help as soon as possible. Early intervention can lead to better treatment outcomes and help to prevent your symptoms getting worse. It's important that you don’t ignore the signs of depression. Untreated depression can have serious consequences, including a negative impact on relationships, work and your overall quality of life.

Consulting with a doctor, therapist, or mental health professional is the first step in addressing depression. At Priory, our depression treatment experts can design a treatment programme that fits your needs, delivered throughout our network of UK mental health hospitals and wellbeing centres.

Remember, depression is a treatable condition, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Don't hesitate to reach out for the support you or your loved one needs. Use the information below to take the first step.

Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0330 056 6020  or submit an online enquiry form here. 

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