Depression and low mood

What does depression feel like: social & physical experiences

Here young people talk about the social and physical side of experiencing depression; how they experienced depression in relation to social situations and people, and the various physical symptoms they had.

Some people may find the experiences discussed here upsetting or unsettling.

Social experiences
Almost all people described depression as manifest in relation to other people. Loneliness - feeling totally alone in the world - was very common. Many said they’d felt that “the whole world was against” them, they felt rejected and that everyone just wanted to “hurt” them. They felt “isolated” or “separated” from everyone and everything else. A few described feeling claustrophobic and avoided crowds. Some said they were paranoid and always felt that people were talking about them.
Commonly, people felt unable to trust other people. Although they suffered loneliness and feelings of rejection, at the same time they wanted to be just left alone.
Difficulties in relating to the “rest of the world” commonly affected people’s view of themselves. Most described having very poor self-esteem, feeling “worthless” and lacking confidence. Feelings of guilt were very common; they blamed themselves for anything that went wrong and felt that they deserved to be punished. Some said this led to them seeking attention and approval, for example at home or school, to validate themselves. Many even felt that they didn’t deserve help for their problems and that they’d just be wasting the doctors’ time.  For more see our section on ‘Dealing with health professionals’.
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Physical experiences
Many described physical signs and symptoms including aches and pains, distorted visual perception of the world, tiredness, too much or too little sleep, shakes and tremors, dizziness and increased heart rate. A couple of people described a sensation of physical and mental “pain” or “pressure” in their heads.

“When I feel really ill with depression, like I feel shaky and I could wake up in the morning feeling it, I could feel shaky and dizzy and my temples will really hurt.”

A few people had noticed they were more susceptible to getting ill and said they always had a cold or an infection. For a couple, their weakened immune system was connected to an eating disorder and not eating well. One man experienced overheating and said it’s likely to be caused by both depression and the medication he was on.

Some explained their experience of depression in terms of functions - difficulty sleeping, needing to sleep too much, being unable to eat, work or get out of bed.

Many people had had severe sleep problems. Some struggled to get to sleep, or kept waking up during the night, others said they could’ve slept all the time. Their sleeping rhythm was messed up and one young man said he’s “almost nocturnal”. Disrupted sleep also meant they always felt tired during the day which made going to school or work very hard or, for some, impossible.
A few people pointed out though that sleeping really helped them and it was one of the few things they could do to feel a bit better. 
Experience of depression all encompassing
A few people said it was hard for them to describe what experiencing depression feels like through “meaningful words” which hadn’t been used before. The experience of depression was all encompassing, affecting their whole being and every aspect of their life.
“It’s like one of them games, where you get the hammer and you get the caterpillars on air, where they pop up. There was always one up; you can’t always have them all down, never. It doesn’t work”

Depression couldn’t be cut out and separated from the complexity of their lives. Depression could also “manifest itself randomly”, in ways that some people didn’t always think were linked to low mood. Very commonly, people said that during times when they’d felt really low, they hadn’t been able to see any hope or even a slightest chance of a positive change. 

For helplines and other resources please see our ‘Resources’ section.

Last reviewed June 2017.


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