What Does Depression Feel Like?


Sadness and disappointment is a natural part of life. But, when feelings of sadness and hopelessness last for a long time, it takes on a new nature. Often, it doesn’t even feel like sadness anymore. Depression can be difficult to truly recognize in our own lives because it often turns into a new “normal.” It can be a hindrance to our lives, bring on physical symptoms, damage our relationships, hijack our eating, and cause insomnia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports:

  • 8.1% of adults older than 20 have depression
  • Women are twice as likely to have depression as men.
  • Depression increased with the increase in family income levels.
  • 80% of those with depression report it impacting their work, home, and social activities

An estimated 16.2 million American adults have at least one major depressive episode in a given year. These numbers have skyrocketed during COVID-19, with nearly a third of Americans reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety since April.

Depression takes different forms and has different levels of severity. People with depression feel:

  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sense of gloom
  • Feeling like you are in a rut or dark hole
  • Fatigue and exhaustion

I have a lot of personal experience with depression. My own story is rooted in a difficult childhood that created trauma, resulting in a number of obstacles and poor mental health in my life. But, I am better for my journey and I want you to heal too! This post can help you identify the symptoms of depression and move towards healing.

How Depression Feels

Depression isn’t just a momentary emotion. We feel sad when we lose someone we love, end a relationship, or lose something we care about. These things can spark depression, but the sad response isn’t depression.

Depression happens when those feelings don’t go away and there is no way to get away from the feelings. The feelings of sadness morph into something bigger and more consuming. There is a weight to daily life that could cause you to feel hopeless, or maybe just extremely tired.

If you hit a busy time in life, you might get behind on the dishes occasionally. Perhaps you’ve always hated social gatherings and avoided them as much as possible. But, when things change suddenly and aren’t because of something explainable, like your schedule, you may need to check your mental well-being. Depression has a number of signs of unexplained changed behaviors that last for months, including:

  • Lack of self-care and hygiene (even showering or brushing teeth)
  • Abnormal avoidance of housework (usually with the feeling there is no point to get back on track)
  • Sudden weight gain or eating increased levels of junk food
  • Sudden weight loss or feeling no appetite
  • Disruption in relationships and career
  • Avoiding social gatherings
  • Loss of interest in your favorite activities or hobbies
  • Low mood for long periods of time without feeling unprovoked happiness
  • Incredible tiredness

Thoughts of Depression

There are also common thought patterns that could signal a struggle with depression. If you feel any of these things for longer than two weeks, you may be struggling with depression:

“I can’t find joy in life.” Someone who has depression may not even find joy in the things they once loved. They may find it hard to feel more than just “okay” (which isn’t really okay, but is that new “norm” we talked about).

“It’s hard to make decisions.” Whenever depression is fogging the brain, there will typically be an inability to make choices and feel good about them. Feeling unusually indecisive through depression might take on the form of anxiety (concern you will make the wrong decision) or apathy (feeling like you just don’t care that much about the decision).

“I don’t feel like focusing.” Reading a book, watching a show, or even participating in a conversation might be incredibly difficult with depression. You may feel completely uninterested or you might want to pay attention and just can’t follow what’s happening.

“This is hopeless—I’m not sure I’ll ever feel better.” Often, depression feels like the “norm,” so it doesn’t seem like things will ever change for the better. You might not realize better is possible, or you may know things could be better, but don’t believe that will be true for you.

“I’m worthless. I can’t do even this small thing right.” Being hard on yourself or low self-esteem are often signs you are depressed. You may feel like you fail at everything or like the people you care about don’t care about you. You might feel like you are letting people down and a burden to them.

“I just want to sleep.” You may struggle to fall asleep or you might fall asleep easily. With depression, the body often wants to just shut off. This leads to responses of being in overdrive (insomnia) or being in underdrive (sluggishness and oversleeping).

“I’m too tired.” Feeling like you just don’t have the energy to go to the grocery store, see a friend, text a loved one, or do something you enjoy are signs something is wrong on a deeper level. You might even feel too tired to do your hair, take a shower, brush your teeth, eat or get out of bed at all.

“Food sounds gross.” A loss of appetite is a sign of depression.

“They are just my comfort foods.” Overeating or turning to unhealthy “comfort foods” is another sign of depression.

“Why do I feel so terrible?” Physical symptoms, like headaches, body aches, nausea, and other pains can be experienced due to depression. Sometimes it is exacerbated by poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and poor self-care that is also brought on by depression.

Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Those thoughts above are pretty heavy, aren’t they? I personally know how those thoughts feel because I had a long and dark battle with depression in my own life. The deep despair of depression can be all-encompassing. It can take over every part of life and suck the joy from even the relationships you cherish and the activities you love most. It can even take away your desire to live.

Do not stay in that place comfortably—get help if you are having those feelings. We are wired to survive, so no matter what your mind says, it is not normal to have thoughts of suicide. That is a lie. It is a very real result of your depression and you can get help to work through it. If you have these thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or visit the website. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Do not brush it off if you experience these signs:

  • Talking about hurting yourself
  • Thinking about death by choice or making plans (even if you don’t really plan on following through)
  • Preoccupation with death or dying
  • Expressing feelings of being trapped or feeling hopeless
  • Feeling disassociation or apathy towards death
  • Saying you “want out” or “can’t do it anymore”
  • Feeling like others would be better off without you
  • Acting recklessly like you are daring harm to occur
  • A change from feeling extremely depressed to feeling extremely happy (without healing or cause)

Again. If you are feeling those things, call the hotline (1-800-273-8255) to talk to someone right now. I do not want you to wait another minute. Your life is valuable, even if you are struggling to see it right now. Talking openly about these thoughts and feelings can save your life. Support groups or talking to a close friend can also be a huge help.

Common Causes and Risk Factors of Depression

There are so many reasons you could be facing depression. Sometimes it is because of a specific thing that has occurred, but sometimes it is just a natural progression of your genetics. No matter what causes it, there are ways to treat and heal even the most severe depression. Here are some common things responsible for increasing your risk of depression:

Life Events

Loss of your job, divorce, financial problems, and the death of a loved one are all reasons that can trigger depression. Stressful events or deep grief can cause a strong reaction that goes beyond a typical emotional response.

Genetics

The makeup of your being can be prone to depression. It can run in families, though family history doesn’t absolutely mean you will get it.

Hormonal Changes

Menopause, pregnancy, birth, and menstrual cycles can all shift how the body processes moods and can cause chemical depression.

Illness

Certain medical conditions and illnesses, like diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, and other health issues can cause depression. Mood disorders, like Bipolar disorder, or mental health conditions can also be causes of depression.

Chronic Pain

Feeling in pain can lead to feelings of hopelessness that turns into depression. Chronic pain does not have to lead to depression, so it will vary by person and circumstance.

Substance Abuse

The abuse of drugs and alcohol can lead to depression or could be started as the result of someone trying to avoid their depression.

Medications

Certain medications can cause chemical depression and often have warning labels noting it as a possible side-effect. This might include high blood pressure medicine, cancer drugs, steroids, and many others.

Blocked Crown Chakra

When your crown chakra is blocked, the results can be a lack of focus, struggle to find inspiration and feelings of depression. This can make you feel disconnected, unbalanced, and unmotivated. Here are a few of my favorite articles on chakra healing:

Past Trauma

My doctor felt sure my depression came from past trauma and I believe he was right. So many of us deal with traumatic experiences we don’t even realize. Sometimes they are caused by unfit parents or toxic environments. But sometimes they are completely unavoidable and accidental.

There are so many unknowns here, but I help people work through past traumas all the time at my Healing Center.

If You are Dealing with Depression

I want you to know that there is a path toward healing and joy. I know you feel frustrated and stuck right now. I know you don’t think it will really get better and you might even still be questioning if it’s really “that bad.”

No matter what occurred to get you here, you can heal from it and move past it.

The first step of healing is recognizing something is wrong. If the signs and symptoms apply, then you need to consult a doctor. Your doctor will help you with possible treatment options that will manage your depression and improve your quality of life. Depression can hit no matter your situation and it can worsen if ignored. I would also love to be part of the solution and can help you work through the thoughts and deep pains that are keeping you stuck. You will get through this and be better for it.

Join my course Healing Plan for Depression at my Healing Center.

Help is also available from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or visiting the helpline’s website.

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