What Does Living With Depression Feel Like?

Patient Expert

Almost everyone has experienced what they believe to be depression. While many people are aware that depression is more than run-of-the-mill sadness, others truly believe that, for instance, grief and depression are equivalents.

They’re not.

Depression is much more than extreme sadness

My family doesn’t understand depression very well. This is partly my fault, because when trying to describe my depression I sometimes use analogies like, "How you feel after the death of a loved one?” While it is certainly possible for depression to develop because of something as traumatic as someone’s death, what the typical person in that scenario is experiencing is grief, not depression.

It’s true that grief and depression have similarities, but so does taking a shower and standing in the rain. Sharing common traits does not make two things -- or experiences -- the same.

Depression erodes a person’s self-worth and makes them feel insignificant. Feelings of lethargy and a sense of their bodies feeling physically heavy are common. All of this can crush a person's will to live and make completing everyday tasks, like showering and getting dressed, seemingly impossible. It’s as if a giant weight is strapped to your back -- a weight that also whispers insults in your ear.

Depression affects every area of life. No thought is untouched by it. Favorite activities become uninteresting, or even physically painful to experience. People with depression often feel they are a burden to friends and family.

How does depression make you feel?

I’ve heard -- and used -- a hundred adjectives to describe how depression makes someone feel and most of them aren’t wrong. They're just incomplete. I have described depression as soul-sucking, physically painful, and horrific. But if I had to choose one way to put it, I’d say my depression makes me feel utterly empty.

But, here’s the thing. As awful as feeling empty is, it’s still a feeling. When I feel empty inside, I recognize that I’m not supposed to feel empty. Something is supposed to fill that emptiness.

The difficult part in describing depression is that you can’t actually feel nothing. And I’m left wondering if I need to find a new way to describe depression. But for now, "empty" truly feels like the right word, even if "numb" might, in fact, be a more clinically accurate adjective.

For me, though, "numb" feels like a word that implies hope. "Empty" feels like a word devoid of anything positive. In the end, that is what depression feels like to me.