What does depression feel like? A description of the disorder

In the morning one can hardly get out of bed, at night one can hardly sleep. Everything feels so terribly strenuous, nothing feels enticing. Emptiness, exhaustion, feelings of worthlessness. All these things are signs of depression.

Depression is a real disorder

Almost everything feels meaningless – even the things you used to enjoy most. Emptiness and self-doubts take over. Even everyday tasks like shopping or showering become seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Nothing seems to make sense anymore. It’s like the world has been covered in a gray layer. Many people struggling with depression describe their experiences this way. Sometimes people feel like they won’t ever get back out from that hole again.

We all know what it feels like to be very deeply sad. However, there are essential differences between sadness and depression. For example, unlike acute sadness, depression often does not have a clear or apparent cause for the negative mood. The complaints are there, and they are real, but the reason for them is unclear. Depressive episodes manifest themselves in the form of specific symptoms.

The 10 symptoms of depression

But what exactly are the symptoms of depression? To diagnose depression, psychotherapists and doctors usually use the ICD-10, a classification system for diseases published by the World Health Organization (WHO). In the US a different manual is used, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It works the same way. Both manuals distinguish between so-called core and additional symptoms of depression, which can exhibit themselves in different combinations.

Depression in two different people can look very different because not every depressive episode exhibits the same combination of symptoms. These many individual variations are one of the reasons why depression often goes unrecognized.

There are three core symptoms characteristic of depression:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest and joy in things
  • Loss of drive, lack of energy

This dejection, very common to depression, can go so far that the mood of those affected by it does not even brighten up with positive events. Attempts of friends and family to comfort or cheer up people with depression often only create more tension and feelings of guilt. This can also burden relationships quite a bit. Some feel like they can’t cry anymore, others cry a lot more than usual.

There are also so-called ‘additional symptoms’ of depression: Reduced self-esteem, sometimes accompanied by feelings of worthlessness or feelings of guilt that are inexplicable to outsiders. Depressive people are often afraid of the future or imagine pessimistic scenarios. Concentration and memory problems are common. Loss of appetite is also common (in rare cases also increased appetite). Sleep disorders form part of the additional symptoms of depression as well. In turn, a lack of sleep fuels negative thoughts and thus, triggers a vicious circle. Sometimes these negative thoughts become so strong that they lead to suicidal thoughts or even suicidal acts. For this reason, indications of depression are to be taken very seriously.

Physical symptoms often accompany psychological ones

There is hardly a disease that has a greater impact on a person’s overall well-being than depression. In fact, the level of stress for those affected and their relatives is enormously high. This is because depression can affect the experience, thinking, behavior and even the body itself.

A head filled with the four aspects of symptoms: Emotional, cognitive, physical, and behavioral

There are complaints that are often accompanied by a depressive episode, although they are not directly related to the symptoms of depression. For example, experiencing severe exhaustion for two weeks doesn’t just pass the body by unnoticed. Physical symptoms can even include cardiac or gastrointestinal complaints. As a result of sleep disorders, many people experience a worsening of their depressive symptoms in the morning, compared to this midday or evening. Due to their exhaustion, those affected often avoid social interaction and also withdraw from friends. Movements can become noticeably slower or accelerated to numbness or nervousness. In addition, for some, the libido can be reduced: they no longer feel a desire for sex.

In extreme cases, psychotic symptoms can occur. These can manifest themselves as delusional feelings of guilt, ideas of catastrophe, or in the form of hallucinations. When a severely depressed person seems to be frozen and is extremely slow in speaking, thinking and movements, experts also speak of “depressive stupor”.

The taboo behind depression

Interestingly, physical symptoms seem to occur a bit more often in men. There is evidence to suggest that some men experience depression very differently: the so-called “male depression” which is filled with very different challenges. One of the essential challenges is that men feel they face a taboo. Accepting help and admitting vulnerability can feel overwhelming.

However, depression is regarded as an official disorder which health insurances cover therapy for. It is important to take depression symptoms seriously and to consider professional help – especially if the mood does not improve even after a long time or if there is no apparent reason for the deep sadness. You feel like you are experiencing some of these symptoms but don’t know where to start? Try out our App Moodpath for free!

How did you like the article? On a scale of 1 (not so good) to 5 (very good).

1 2 3 4 5

Get started with Moodpath

Download Moodpath for free and start your depression screening. Or try one of many exercises.