08/05/2024 by Therapy For You

Understanding depression: What does it feel like & how can I recognise it?

Understanding depression: What does it feel like & how can I recognise it?

Whether it’s pressure from work, friction with family or friends, or a single unpleasant experience, everyone encounters unhappiness from time to time.


For many, these low moods will naturally pass on their own. But for 1 in 6 adults in the UK, depression can persist for weeks, months or even years at a time, and stand in the way of their careers, relationships and family lives.


Yet, despite the prevalence and impact of depression, its signs and symptoms aren’t always obvious. 


If you or someone you love appears to be struggling with their low mood, this blog post will help you understand what depression is, how it feels, and give you some simple tips to reduce its influence.


What is depression?


Like asthma or diabetes, depression is a real health condition with real implications for those living with it, affecting people of all genders, ages and walks of life differently. 


For example, someone might have suddenly lost interest in hobbies and interests they used to enjoy, while others may experience constant feelings of guilt, sadness and helplessness.


In more severe cases, depression can even lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you or someone you know is at this low point, our crisis page can help.


Similar to other mental health problems, depression can range in severity. The most common types of depression include:

  • Major depressive disorder, which is characterised by overwhelming feelings of sadness and the debilitating impact it can have on day-to-day life
  • Persistent depressive disorder (PDD), which tends to be a longer, milder form of depression that can make it hard to function at home, at work and beyond
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which tends to make it hard for people to cope during the colder, shorter and gloomier autumn and winter months
  • Antenatal depression, which occurs during pregnancy alongside the heightened emotions that are typical during this period  
  • Postnatal depression (PND), which can cause a persistent low mood to emerge in the first year after giving birth
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is responsible for causing emotional and physical symptoms in the weeks before a period

If you or a loved one is finding it difficult to manage your mood, it’s important to know that depression isn’t a condition someone can simply “snap out of”.


Through continual support and growth, people can learn how to manage their mental health long-term and begin their path to feeling better.


What does depression feel like?


Other than feeling continuously low, it can be hard to assess if you or someone in your life is dealing with depression. Emotions can manifest themselves differently from person to person, and affect how they behave in various ways. 


To get a better understanding of depression and help you determine if it’s influencing your mood, do any of these phrases sound familiar?

  • “I feel a constant weight on my chest that I can never lift”
  • “I feel hollow and numb inside, even through my smiles and laughs”
  • “Everything feels hopeless, why should I bother?”
  • “I feel lost, as though I don’t understand myself or what I like anymore”
  • “I feel unable to make any decisions, even small ones”

Can I be depressed even if I don't feel sad all the time?


Yes. Although persistent feelings of sadness are often associated with depression, you can still suffer if your low mood comes and goes. In fact, some people are diagnosed with depression without feeling sad at all


Am I depressed?


Are you unsure whether your or your loved one’s low mood is a sign of something more long-term?


To better understand if you could benefit from depression treatments and support, consider the following:


Have you experienced a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy?


A common symptom of depression is a persistent numbness or emptiness. As you can imagine, this can sap the enjoyment and achievement of tasks you used to enjoy.


So if you have found yourself losing interest in old hobbies or noticed a decrease in your sex drive, this could indicate that depression is impacting your life.


Do you feel continually low or sad?


If your low mood has persisted for longer than two weeks, this is one of the most noticeable signs you may be living with depression.


This could mean you find it hard to see the positive in any situation, notice your mind constantly brimming with negative thoughts, or feel generally out of sorts in your daily life.


Have your sleep patterns changed?


In the midst of a depressive episode, you might notice that your sleep patterns have changed.


You may not feel very energetic, causing you to sleep longer. Alternatively, you may not be able to fall asleep as easily as you used to, or get up frequently in the night.


Are you always exhausted?


Many people with depression also report an overwhelming sense of tiredness, even after getting a full night of quality sleep.


If your experience of depression lines up with this, you might also notice that completing tasks has become slower, and that you feel tired in your limbs and bones.


It can be easy to attribute these physical symptoms to another condition. And while this is possible, depression can affect both your mental and physical health. 


Has your appetite changed?


Also consider whether your relationship with food has changed.


If you’re eating more than usual, noticed a change in the kinds of foods you eat, or have seen an overall loss in your appetite, this is another common sign of depression.


Are you overly anxious?


Although they are two separate emotional challenges, anxiety and depression tend to appear together in many cases.


So if you’ve started to feel anxious, uneasy and worried regularly throughout your day – and this is making it hard to concentrate on your tasks – it might be time to get help.


Have you had thoughts about suicide or self-harming?


In the most severe cases, depression can lead people to think about death, suicide or self-harm. If this is something you’ve experienced, it’s important to get support right away.


Although these questions cover some of the most common signs of depression, everyone’s experience is unique.


To get a clearer understanding of your symptoms and what is causing them to persist, structured support can help you work through your challenges – speak to a mental health service that can help today.


What steps can I take to manage depression?


Depression can pass by itself, but it can also make life tough while it's around, affecting how you feel, your relationships with loved ones, and how you perform at work.


Thankfully, you don’t have to live this way forever, no matter what you're experiencing right now:

  1. Establish a consistent daily routine
  2. Get more active where you can
  3. Limit your alcohol intake
  4. Spend time in nature
  5. Talk to a mental health professional

Need support with depression today?


If you’re one of the millions of people in the UK struggling to carry the weight of depression on your own, help is here to lighten the load. 


By working with our mental health team at Therapy For You, your local NHS Talking Therapies provider in North East and South East Essex, we can get you on the path to feeling better.


Through our free, first-of-its-kind online CBT course for depression, and our wider range of mental health treatment options, we can help you develop valuable techniques to improve your outlook – all in a way that suits your preferences and routine. 

For more about Therapy For You and the treatment for depression we can provide, get in touch with our helpful team today.

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