Depression is a mental health condition that, according to the World Health Organization, affects 280 million people globally — around 5% of the world’s adult population. What does depression feel like? Those suffering from the disorder report persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness. Living with depression is a challenging and overwhelming experience that impacts every aspect of a person’s life. In this article, we’ll explore the different types and try to explain what depression feels like for those affected by it.
Types of Depression
There are several types of depression. Your mood disorder might be caused by life events, or it can be the result of a chemical imbalance in your brain.
- Major depression or clinical depression. Symptoms include severe and persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities and changes in appetite and sleep patterns. This type of depression affects a person’s ability to function in their daily life.
- Persistent depressive disorder. This type of depression presents as a continuous feeling of sadness, hopelessness and low self-esteem. Low mood can last for 2 years or more, but symptoms are milder than with major depression.
- Seasonal affective disorder. This form of depression is linked with seasonal chances, specifically during the winter months.
- Bipolar disorder. People suffering from this mood disorder alternate between episodes of depression and periods of unusually high activity levels.
- Perinatal depression: Women can be affected by this type of depression during pregnancy or for months, or even years, after giving birth. Symptoms may include feelings of sadness, anxiety and difficulty bonding with the baby.
- PMDD. This manifests as an extreme form of the common premenstrual syndrome most women experience during their cycle.
What Does Depression Feel Like?
Everyone experiences moments of feeling sad; that’s not what depression is. How do you know if you’re depressed or just having a bad day? To be diagnosed with depression, you need to exhibit symptoms for at least 2 weeks.
How does depression feel? Depression feels like you’re trapped in a bottomless pool of negative thoughts and emotions. Things that once brought you joy, such as hobbies, are no longer enjoyable. Simple daily tasks such as eating, taking a shower or running errands are suddenly impossible to accomplish. You notice changes in your sleeping patterns, and you lack the energy for day-to-day activities.
Having depression can make you feel like a failure. You avoid going out and isolate yourself from your loved ones because you’ve already convinced yourself that everyone hates you. You’re sure no one could understand how you’re feeling. You’re constantly tired but can never seem to fall asleep at night. Concentrating at work is impossible, as is making any meaningful decisions. There’s a deep sense of sadness, hopelessness and low self-esteem within you. Suicidal thoughts and ideations are unfortunately very common for those suffering from depression.
Depression symptoms aren’t limited to your mood. You might also experience throbbing headaches, issues with your digestion and muscle aches. In most cases, physical symptoms are caused by depression alone, not an underlying medical condition.
How Do Most People Cope With Depression?
Living with depression is hard, but there are some coping strategies you can use to ease your symptoms. Some people turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as illicit drugs, drinking and fast food to help them manage their feelings. But falling into a dangerous habit can only make your depression worse. Here are some coping strategies that may help ease your symptoms.
- Seek support from loved ones. While opening up to people is hard, talking to a trusted friend, partner or family member can help. Knowing you have someone on your side who’s willing to listen can improve your mood.
- Try holistic techniques. You can try mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga. Self-care activities such as taking a warm bath or engaging in a hobby can also help you feel better.
- Make lifestyle changes. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and avoiding drugs and alcohol are all important tools in recovering from depression.
- Engage in regular exercise. Physical activity has been shown to improve depression symptoms. Sometimes just walking a few minutes each day can help elevate your mood.
- Get help from a professional. Mental health providers can offer support, counseling and, if necessary, medication.
Treatment for Depression
While trying some at-home coping mechanisms is helpful, it doesn’t replace receiving treatment from a qualified professional. There are several evidence-based treatments to help people suffering from depression recover. Your therapist might recommend psychotherapy — cognitive behavioral therapy with a trained counselor can help you identify and address negative thoughts and behaviors.
In some cases, your mental health team might suggest treatment with antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Several medication types are available, but they all work by increasing neurotransmitters in your brain, which affect the way you feel. You’ll feel the benefits of taking medication within weeks of starting treatment, so you must remain patient. Most people can receive outpatient treatment, but for some patients, residential treatment in a mental health facility might be necessary.
There are other lesser-known treatment options including progressive muscle relaxation, music therapy, light therapy and even electroconvulsive therapy. However, some treatment options are more effective than others for each person.
Recovery Is Possible
Depression is treatable, and seeking help from a mental health professional is essential for your recovery. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Your mental health practitioner can help you understand your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to fit your needs. Many people who develop depression recover and go on to live happy and fulfilling lives. Recovery does take time, so committing to a treatment plan and regularly keeping in touch with your mental health professional is an important part of the process.
If depression is affecting your quality of life, contact the Restore Mental Health team today. Our compassionate team members are available at all times to talk about your symptoms and help you move forward with your recovery.