Depression is becoming an increasingly common mental health disorder, with an estimated 17.3 million adults across the united states experiencing at least one major depressive episode, which is 7.1% of all adults according to the National Institute of Mental Health. To answer, “what does depression feel like?” first we should understand what depression is. 

The World Health Organization describes depression as a highly common mental health disorder that affects over 264 million people worldwide and affects females more severely than males

Depression does not favor any particular circumstances or individual, explains Endeavour Wellness Psychology, Sutherland Shire (https://endeavourwellness.com.au/).  It can affect any single one of us and it comes in many different forms (please see the NIMH or WHO sites for more information on the many forms of depression).

You may be pleased to hear that depression is curable as a disease and medical, psychotherapeutic and brain stimulation therapies exist to help people overcome their depression. 

So now we have a better idea of what depression is, but you want to know what it feels like, right? Well, that is unfortunately easier said than done.

There are many different ways in which depression may present itself and affect you. Symptoms need to be present for two weeks at a minimum before a doctor will diagnose you with depression, some common symptoms include: persistent sadness, heightened anxiety, feelings of emptiness and extreme helplessness.

The symptoms of depression:

The symptoms of depression and how you may experience them can be broken down into mental and physical symptoms.

Mental symptoms of depression can include:

  • Persistent low moods and sadness
  • Hopelessness and helplessness 
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Feeling irritable and impatient with others
  • A decreased motivation or interest in your usual activities
  • A decrease in your enjoyment of your usual activities
  • In extreme cases, suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm 

Physical symptoms of depression can include: 

  • Lethargic actions and movements
  • A change in appetite 
  • Increased experience of aches or pains
  • A loss of libido
  • In women, changes to your menstrual cycle
  • And a disrupted sleep pattern or cycle. 

Whilst reading through this list, you may identify with some of these symptoms, but as I said previously, these symptoms must be present for at least two weeks before a doctor will diagnose you with depression.

How these symptoms are experienced:

To better understand how these symptoms can be experienced, it may be useful for you to listen to the experiences of others who have gone through depression. Fortunately for you, there are many accounts presented online which offer an in-depth understanding of the feelings that depression may bring. 

Some quotes from Psycom.net provide a harrowing insight into the hold that depression can take on your life.

For many, depression is an isolating mental health disease that has been quoted as “feeling like you’re drowning but everyone else around you is breathing” and “the only thing more exhausting than being depressed is pretending that you’re not”. 

These insights allow us to see how overbearing depression can be in your life, not only controlling your headspace but interfering with your personal and professional relationships, as your thoughts, feelings and daily actions are seriously hindered by this disease we call depression. 

Writing for the Guardian UK, Tim Lott shared his own experiences with depression, highlighting how to the outside world, someone with depression may just seem more angry or irritable than usual but within, there is an implosion of the self that leads to side effects similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s disease such as forgetfulness, disorientation, and trouble when making decisions. 

Tim also discusses the inner battle that a depressive may face, wanting the illness to be acknowledged by us the wider society, but wanting to deny any links with the disease due to the negative stigma that society has placed upon those battling depression.

It is easy for us to see how simple it is for someone with depression to spiral into a state of helplessness and despair feeling ashamed and guilt ridden for having this mental disorder that they are unable to understand. 

The light at the end of the tunnel: 

Whilst depression is a controlling and destructive mental disease it is also curable. It may not be obvious to those with depression how to reach out and seek support for their disorder, but there are ways of recovering if you are suffering from depression or if someone you know, or love is suffering from depression.

Statistics show that a combination of antidepressants and psychological counseling is the most effective treatment of depression, but there are also so many resources online that you can tap into to further your understanding of what depression feels like, which can be seen below.


A great video to improve your understanding of how depression may feel: 

A book I personally recommend that helped me better understand my depression:

Two amazing charities you can reach out to for support or to offer your own support in the USA and the UK

A great podcast to hear more about those struggling with mental health: 

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