Young Adults’ Experiences of Depression in the U.S.

Depression and everyday tasks

Fatigue and low energy are common symptoms of depression. Everyone we spoke with described struggles with tiredness and/or loss of motivation. Many people also talked about the specific impact depression had on their ability to complete everyday tasks -- things like housework, personal hygiene, or going outside. Many people also had trouble getting out of bed.
People who found daily life hard to manage while depressed said they “struggled with daily things,” or found it hard to “just wake up and approach the day-to-day things.” Specific tasks people described as difficult include taking a shower, brushing teeth, doing laundry, cleaning, paying bills, and shopping. A few people also talked about having problems making or getting food: as Casey put it, sometimes “what I would have to do to get myself food and to physically eat it feels like too much to accomplish.”
Some people said that when their lives had little or no structure and few external demands such as work or school, everyday tasks became increasingly difficult. Ben, for example, felt most depressed when he had nothing to do and didn’t feel like a “productive member of society.” At such times he says he “… wasn’t taking showers” and “…wasn’t taking care of myself.” Other people talked about how the pressure of many responsibilities interacted with their depression, creating a “cascade of… obligations” that in the end could grind everything - including basic everyday functioning -- to a halt.
Cycles of struggle with everyday tasks

For many people, depression comes in cycles: sometimes it is very acute, and other times it recedes. This can mean capacity to accomplish day to day tasks also fluctuates. Colin, for example, talks about periods of functioning fine, followed by times when he would “… just have another pit fall and just not be able to get out of bed.” Sierra Rose says that after a period of intense depression her “main job, if you can call it that, has been attempting to keep my apartment clean… cooking, cleaning, and watching TV.”
(To learn more about cycles of depression, see ‘Cycles of depression and maintaining hope’.)

Staying in bed

Many people we talked to said that at one point or another, depression made the everyday task of getting out of bed hard or impossible. As Mara put it, depression “… just ruins your motivation and makes it really hard to get out of bed and to want to stay up.” For some people, bed exerts an irresistible pull: it’s a safe haven in which to numb out watching TV or avoid overwhelming responsibilities. Joey said that when he is depressed he yearns to go back to bed right after he has woken up and had his coffee. Whitney noted “… I’d rather stay in bed and sleep than to have to deal with my problems.” Others described being so immobilized by depression, it felt impossible to get out of bed in the first place, even when expected at school or work.
See also ‘Depression and strategies for everyday life’ and ‘How depression feels’.
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